In the lavishly indulgent excess of Rococo with its moodily curved, delicate and yet overbearingly sprawling forms, the ornament begins to devour the image, its essential counterpart, replacing it with ruthless ease. Inevitably, the ornament’s emancipation of its host and serving purpose, once making it viable as embellishment, seems to result in its own suspension. At the same time, however, to question its function and ultimately shedding itself of such, may lead the ornament to find its way into a liberated void form, inhabiting potential yet to be realized.
In our presence, though behind glass, said form swells up, casting off the logic of adornment and symbolization. Emptied and sublimated at once, it self-sufficiently seems to merge into the promises of L’art pour l’art on the one hand, and complex ambivalences on the other. While its mannerist carved appearance gracefully pays homage to craftsmanship, in the midst of the collaged eccentricity, one might detect a sense of the cutting austerity with which the act of appropriation sometimes incorporates aesthetic material. Thus, the form oscillates with irritating ambiguity between the assertion of a preserved relic and the appropriation of it.
Employing the graphical method of frottage, the Victorians preserved decoration of tombstones considered particularly beautiful, by rubbing their surface structure on paper with the help of drawing tools. As an appropriation technique, it fetishizes a pre-existing object and its trace, transforming it as aesthetic material. With regard to the pluralism of styles within historicism, and its rhetoric – which, like the ornament’s, fell into disrepute during modernism – tensions between the isolated object before our eyes and the world around it become apparent, relating to value, its transformation and contingency. For an instant, a form, similarly familiar and strange, appears to be freeing itself from determination. Immediately, it is, and always has been, confronted with new wishes and desires, lustfully pushing towards occupation.
— Viktor Hömpler