Timo Kahlen introduces his work by describing it “as being involved with the sculptural and conceptual aspects of ‘immaterial’ phenomena and processes. ‘Immaterials’ such as wind, light, time, sound and movement become part of my work resulting in site-specific wind installations, sound sculptures, experimental photography and video.” (Timo Kahlen, Berlin 13.11.00)
Kahlen was born in 1966 and has been based in Berlin since then. It is a city that has seen many (concrete) changes over that time and yet the artist Timo Kahlen is involved in presenting, in a visual way, the unquantifiable, the fourth dimension and, as he puts it, the immaterial. He studied at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, his Professor was Dieter Appelt, and has worked on Wolf Kahlen’s, his father, Ruine der Künste Project since the 1980’s. He is qualified teacher (of Fine Art and English) and has lectured for five years on Visual Media/Video Art at the Humboldt University and the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin.
Kahlen’s work has mainly been shown in Europe although in 1994 he was one of three German artists-in-residence at the DC Arts Center in Washington. His work often combines a technical reliance (however slight) with a witty visual element such as Young Bags, a work from 1990, where five page bags (scrunched into a funnel shape) thronged, danced, floated in the wind of two electrical fans. The bags took on their own personality, crammed up in the corner of a room with a step in sight but no possibility of escape. So simple in many ways but, on viewing it, one began to associate with many other (human) characteristics; jostling for position, unattainable goals, fighting for space etc. And yet the work just consisted of five bags and two electrical fans. In Frogs, 1996, Timo Kahlen placed marmalade jars in a museum type display case (raised on legs) and enclosed within it frog sounds. Reminiscent of collecting pond life as a child – often saved in old jam jars – and a visual prompt to think about the sound still allowed but the freedom (so necessary for the frog to survive) contained. In this work Kahlen gives the viewer a visual springboard for extending ideas and thoughts. He has distilled ideas (ideals) into a few selected components and edited out any extraneous elements. First impressions can lead to a smile, an acknowledgment of pared down juxtapositions and yet then one begins to confront the wider issues.
It is strong work, simply done. In a society that bombards us all with unnecessary information and repetition Kahlen’s work is like an oasis of concentrated thought. It allows us time to think and from the given comment (the completed work) we are able to expand our thoughts beyond the confines of the gallery walls. It is truly ‘immaterial’ in both context, intent and, in fact, reality.