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Permanent Flux:
Olaf Metzel's sculpture Cash Flow at the ibc in Frankfurt

In the Deutsche Bank building on Frankfurt's Theodor-Heuss Allee, the art work that catches the eye most is Olaf Metzel's gigantic sculpture "Cash Flow," a complicated construction installed in the atrium that hovers over the heads of staff and visitors alike. Ulrich Clewing introduces the many-layered work and its creator, who throughout his career has never shied away from scandal and prickly questions.

Olaf Metzel, Cash Flow, Main Hall, ibc Frankfurt
Photo © Bärbel Högner

The perfect wave rolls, but doesn't break. It spins like a curled-up peacock, as though someone had crumpled up a huge sheet of paper. And it emits colorful light, shimmering in yellow, orange, violet, green, and blue. Cash Flow is the title of the sculpture that Olaf Metzel has installed in the entrance hall of the ibc, and some things are indeed in a state of flux here: the forms, the colors, the contours and surfaces - everything seems as though it were in a permanent state of smooth movement, although due to its construction, of course, the sculpture is static.

The work’s title Cashflow suggests a pecuniary interpretation. Yet at the same time the sculpture is also a subtle reflection on "tuning out" at the workplace, calling various notions of "effectivity" into question. The model for the sculpture, which was made as a commissioned piece, was one of the so-called Bézier Curves frequently used as screen savers. "I try to develop images from the time – three-dimensional images," Metzel has said; "whether that’s political or not is something I leave up to the viewer."

Cash Flow, view from below
Photo © Bärbel Högner

From the beginning of his career, Olaf Metzel was concerned that his works refer directly to the location they were created for. He was never interested in the pure aesthetic of l'art pour l'art which, at least in terms of its presentation, always retains an element of randomness.

His works are primarily site-specific, that is, in the best of cases, such as here at the ibc, the art establishes a number of conceptual connections to its surroundings, without all too obviously pushing them in any particular direction.

In terms of their content, Metzel's works are fundamentally ambiguous. They function like a mirror in which the viewer can recognize his or her own tendencies, dispositions, and associations. Thus, a sculpture resembling a screen saver hanging from the ceiling of an office building becomes a kind of Litmus test for the viewer's mood. The Bézier Curve: what does it signalize? A hard-earned rest? Or an unwelcome interruption in one's work? A meeting with the boss, or a gathering with colleagues? In short: loss of time or gain in time? Each new day, everyone arrives at very different answers to questions like these. On the one hand.

Cash Flow, Detail
Photo © Bärbel Högner

On the other, this openness of interpretation was powerless to stop the works from meeting with more resistance than Metzel himself would have cared to experience. For the past twenty-five years, the artist, who was born in 1952 in Berlin and who now lives in Munich, has counted among the leading German artists. For the longest time, however, Metzel was known to a larger public as a troublemaker and scandalmonger who provokes authorities and causes the general population to rise up against him. Yet he never really did anything but reveal what was already latently there - even if this meant probing the regions the painter Neo Rauch once called the "silty layers of the subconscious."

In 1987, Olaf Metzel was invited along with other well-known sculptors to participate in the Sculpture Boulevard, which was to take place on Kurfürstendamm to celebrate Berlin's 750th anniversary. Up until that point, the preparations had proceeded rather slowly; the widely advertised open-air show threatened to sink into cultivated boredom. When he presented his finished work, Berliners could hardly believe their eyes: Metzel had piled up a large number of the typical red and white-striped police barriers into a tower that rose high above the crossing of Kurfürstendamm and Joachimstaler Strasse.

Reise nach Jerusalem, 2002, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, ©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2005

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