Introduction To Substanzraum
Video Excerpt
various dimansons


A New Approach To Global Space

You being here, is enough already.

This is the story of the invention of a new spatial concept that is analog to the dialectics of mold and cast. While looking into a vast natural scenery, our gaze is locating landmarks comprised of objects and frames to hold on to, to differentiate areas and to order the larger space with its hard to grasp entirety. Space itself is floating, or streaming between these landmarks. The global space is filled with actual substances traveling around the planet, shaping each other through time and gravity and thus shaping the space we live in. I call this conception of space Substanzraum, the space of substance.

Substanzraum is the idea of a space made of substances, like water, or air. Given examples can be an ocean, the atmosphere, or even a beach as it forms a body by being made of sand. There are big and small spaces of substance depending on the scale you pick for your observations. For instance, a drop of water can be seen as a Substanzraum as well. Substanzraum sees these bodies of substances as they are in constant flux and change. They are mixing, mingling, dissolving freely, without any borders. A river can be seen as a Substanzraum. Supposably crossing several countries its space of substance is indifferent to the abstract human concept of space division. 

Substanzraum asks about space itself.

Furthermore, there is as well exchange between space and surface. This exchange is producing formal expression through movement and friction. This shaping quality is the poetry of Substanzraum.

The term formal expression is here to be understood as not exclusively bound to a fixed medium like a painting, a sculpture, or a rock. It refers to any result of expression through a gesture, performed by any living or non-living thing. That can also be a sound, a light, or a scent. Poetry emerges, when a thing communicates more than it is, through the way how it is. That means that its poetic qualities are strongly connected to its form. This goes as far as the two entities, its formal expression, and its poetic qualities, become inseparable. The problem of choice in terms of a medium for a gesture and its formal expression is a problem exclusive to living entities to create language. This language of formal expression is non-linear since it attracts subjective interpretations of the recipient. Those make the message ambiguous and demand some intellectual work from the recipient to be perceived, interpreted, and re-communicated. The latter is most important for poetic work since the poetics always imply that there is something to discover or invent, which is rather meant to be discussed than understood. By analysing the reasons for a specific form of a thing, poetry can unfold in many ways. The poetic is the directive expression of an idea through a form, and this form can be expressed in any medium. The choice is ours, but what about all the formal expressions around us, not created by the human genius?

It is a sunny autumn morning on the beach. A little dog digs a hole in the soft sand, digging deeper and deeper until his owner calls him to keep up. The work of the little dog is left behind – an abandoned construction site. The golden light of the autumn sun paints strong contrasts on its shape. Later that day it will rain. The first drops start to work the material.
Soon the rising amount of water washes the material towards the bottom of the hole. Whereas concentric steps emerge around the upper part of the hole, the lower part is transformed into a bowl. The rain stops and gives the stage back to the sun to glare. It dries the sand and manifests the shape, which developed a perfectly smooth surface of the most delicate texture.

Beyond the dunes, not far from where these events take place, a small seedling was dropped some 10, maybe 20 years ago. With its tiny roots, it managed to hold on to the sandy ground. Eventually, its sprout stretched out of the sand and grew. With its three tiny leaves, the little plant is dangling in the ocean winds. It is growing and growing, dangling and dangling, hardening and hardening, bending and bending. In one direction; in the other direction. But foremost in the other direction. 20 years later, the tiny little sprout became a tree, and its shape exhibits the predominant wind direction at this location.

Introduction To Substanzraum
Video Excerpt
various dimansons

In music, anything can become an instrument. A spoon, a hammer, a handrail can be played or used to play another object. The challenge is, as with the classical instruments, to get to know your instrument. It is the same with tools. The masterly application of a chisel, a scalpel or even a powered drill has to be practiced in order to reach the level of precision in the action performed, namely the gesture, which eventually leads to the desired formal expression. Imagine the planet as a machine, imagine it as a tool or an instrument. An Instrument with endless strings to pull, hit or bow. A tool so powerful that it can move whole continents, build mountains and heat up lush meadows and turn them into vast deserts. A wild and powerful mean machine.

Journey To Mars, Initiated Form.
Video collage, generated environmental sounds.
Various dimensions

Architecture and engineering are concepts for the domination of nature. Structures are being erected with immense effort to withstand its forces, instead of excepting and using them to produce what we want. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful utopia, if a single controlled intervention could cause all the following natural processes to fall into place as planned, so that eventually and over time, structures emerge in which people could live in?

Do you see the vast landscape in front of you? Do you see the massive bodies of material being shifted around effortlessly? Do you see the initiators standing tall? Do you see the fragile structures emerging timidly, a little bit further away, some of them are already slowly moving in the wind? Do you see the water of that stream, flowing viciously endlessly into the plane to the far right? You and I will long be gone when these processes are completed. It’s the year 3001.

A process leads to a result. At least that is the most fashionable idea amongst humans. The rubbing of a string results in the vibration of a string and in turn causes the air around it to move, causing changes in space, the space of substance -Substanzraum. Moving through the air, the change, which is commonly envisioned as a wave, hits the surface of a glass bowl, penetrates the material, enters the water, and is perceived by joe, the goldfish, and he moves, causing changes, which are commonly envisioned as waves, a change in space, the space of substance – Substanzraum. The movement raises the temperature of the water, not detectable by any means of measuring. It also causes the water to dissolve into the air a tiny fraction faster, compared to the time when joe is just floating in the glass bowl. An eruption of water vapour, unseen, unheard, undetectable by any means of measuring.

Spatial intervention 
3000 l water

Put some hand cream on your hand. Rub it in. Where did it go? It is inside of you! It is invasive! Your skin is permeable. It does not differentiate your body and the world into the inside and the outside. Here at the transition zone, substances are merging with you, as well as you are dissolving.

I am emitting material from my body.

    Everywhere I stand,
    everywhere I go,
    everywhere I sit or lay down,
    I leave traces of real physical material,
    evidence of me being here.

    I am you!

    Everywhere you stand,
    everywhere you go,
    everywhere you sit or lay down,
    my material is touching you,
    sticking to you,
    invading you,
    through your skin,
    your nose,
    your mouth.

    You are me!

Duration: 0.59min.
Textfragment: Reiner Maria Rilke
Narrator: Mabel Calver Verbruggen
Footage: Project Sedan atomic test

Cold, pointy drizzle is touching your face, drying on your skin, penetrating your skin, while you are kissing your lover after leaving the restaurant. You had Argentinean steak and Italian wine. Some vegetables came from Italy as well, others from The Netherlands and the potatoes were German, for sure. Several histories combined on one plate. All the waters which originate from glaciers, rainfalls into lakes and rivers, flushing the green meadows where the vegetables grow, and the cattle are grazing. They take in the waters which traveled so far, through the air, through soils, through rock and even millions of other organisms before, microscopic as well as macroscopic ones. Slaughtered and harvested, wrapped and transported, taking in more substances migrating from the packaging, the immediate environment, and the soft vapour spray of the cooling systems, to join the concert of vibrating molecules and particles not to mention the atoms and electrons. All these substances and fractals of substances. They are mixing, mingling, dissolving freely, without any borders, now, once again, in your partner’s mouth after this amazing kiss, which made you so happy.
It is it, he is she, she is he, I am you, you are me.

Eventually they went home and they went to bed.

The next day a new kitchen table has to be built. You never build something in your life, but you learned how it is done. You take a tape measure and start to take measurements. And this is the first time you take measurements. It is the first time of you violating space itself.

I recently heard about an urban myth going around in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. It is connected to the story of how Japan colonised parts of Asia. A story from the past. In order to deploy infrastructure, the land had to be measured and mapped. Wooden poles were stuck into the ground to mark measure points where later railways, streets, and roads were built. The actions performed by the Japanese invaders were necessary for them in order to achieve their goal of making the lands of their desire accessible and were in that sense simply of practical nature. From the perspective of the Korean people whatsoever, these interventions were perceived as of higher meaning. Their suspicion was that the Japanese were using these poles to intentionally change the qi of the landscape. For them, it must have appeared as if an invading force is applying methods of higher powers to their lands, of which no one knows the consequences.

Whether we believe if the story is true or not, whether we believe in qi or not, whether we believe in psychology or not, the effectiveness of a pole penetrating the soft soil of a land is immanent. It is the ultimate declaration executed by somebody or a group of somebodies to claim this point in space as to be projected towards a future of human will.

Tidal Oscillation Wave
Performative presentation
Duration: ca. 10:00min.

The violation of space itself through the act of measuring and the application of any geometrical system based on a purely intellectual and abstract art of rendering space onto land, in order to map it, can always have only one purpose: appropriation. Why measuring space, if not to conquer it? To conquer? Let’s think for a moment about this word. What is there to conquer? We can conquer territory, an enemy but as well a mountain or our fear. The meaning is not at all clear. Its meaning is ambiguous and even though it probably origins from the very military action we despise and connote it with the most easily, it is a word of great poetic power. Demanded from each one of us every day, used in various ways in ordinary language and deeply rooted in our very being, one might even wonder if we are able not to conquer? Any action we perform with our bodies in space is simultaneously the act of, as well as the demand for the conquest of that space, received through our bodies, processed by our minds and again applied onto that space through our bodies, its conquest is necessity and result at the same time. The three states of the feedback loop which we call conquest are receiving space, processing space and applying an action onto space. The latter triggers the process anew.
You can conquer space in many ways. Whatsoever, you have to measure. Lucky you, that measuring can be understood and performed in a colourful variation of possible ways. You can take a ruler or the scales, you can roll from one side of the room to the other and count the rolls, half rolls, and quarter rolls. You can measure in jumps, speed of sound, by cleaning the space, lie down on its floor and sense it. But you can’t avoid that all methods of measuring fulfilling one final purpose: the appropriation of that very space for a future yet to arrive, imagined by you. Two stories about experiences with LSD came to my ears. They can be confirmed easily by many other acid-admirers by browsing the web. It is the story of experiencing a visual phenomenon that manifests itself as a homogeneous grid, either made of points or lines, covering everything in the visual field of the drug user. This experience usually comes together with the claim for a deep understanding of space by the consumer. I indeed believe that this visual phenomenon reveals something very real. I mean not in the sense that reality is structured and supported by a metaphysical grid, but as a real visual experience of how our mind is processing space. The drug emphasises the deeply rooted system hidden in our unconsciousness – the grid. Look around you, look at your kitchen floor, your bathroom tiles, the windows on the other side of the street, the pavement of the sidewalk you are walking on, the bricks of the building’s wall next to you. One might start to wonder if the whole world is on acid.

The initiators were buried long ago by the processes they have triggered. We don’t know what they looked like nor what material they were made of. They are like a dream to us. There is no way for us to excavate them. We don’t have these so-called tools our ancestors used. It is hard to grasp what people meant when they refer to technology in ancient texts. We will never know what they looked like, and we don’t have to. We live in a space, slowly reshaping over decades, according to our will, following the logic of the planet. We are with it, and it is with us. 
It is the year 4002.

I can’t remember who it was, but somebody told me that even if you would stand completely still, you would still travel through time. Imagine yourself standing at a beach. Your feet are in the water, and your body is in the air. Waves are gently curling between your legs, and a soft breeze is cooling your sun-heated skin. You are standing completely still. The winds, the waters, they traveled far. They experienced all kinds of different physical states. The waters climbed 10 km and higher as vapour in the air. They fell for minutes and hit the surface of the ocean with 25 km per hour. They melted into this massive body and tasted its salty flavour. The winds made mountains sing and ripped trees apart. They supported the gliding flight of a vulture, and by carrying the scent of a dead rabbit, lead it to its next meal. Now, these very substances, originating from everywhere, are moving around your body. Some are old, some are new, some are from far away, and some are from this very bay. They are mixing, mingling, dissolving freely in the cooling breeze and the gentle waves. You are standing completely still, however, transported by them, through deep time space, by the non-linear motion of this spatial entity they create while gathering here, Substanzraum.

I am.

Olympic gods have strong characters and distinctive attributes. The Gods are pure virtues, and in portions, they are all part of each one of us. As a whole, they are general individuality. They represent all flaws and beauty of the human being. White, and shiny they are carved in marble. Every culture has its ideals. Every culture has its representatives of ideals. Attributes are overlapping, images are echoing, throughout time scales in which whole civilisations rise and fall. 
It is the year 0000.

Singularity, Sonic Data Acquisition.
Video projection
4.00 min. 
various dimensions

I am going to the beach every day. At first, I went without any obligations and without any idea what to do here. The sun was dancing on the surface of the water, the clear, but yet hyper continuous transition between atmosphere and ocean. I am coming here for one week now. I don’t stay long, but I take the beach home with me. My apartment is full of sand. It is everywhere, in my pockets, on the floor, and in my bed.
For four months, I am coming to the same place every day. I take my measurements always directly at the shoreline. Therefore, my daily measure point is dictated by the tides of the sea. I collect data. I measure air humidity, air density, air pressure, air temperature, decibel levels in the air, light intensity, wind speed, and direction. Chasing data, in a repetitive exhausting process of collecting and storing, documenting what I see with my Entdeckungsmaschine, the camera, like I always do during my explorations, while simultaneously thinking about Substanzraum, up to an extent which sometimes felt like the soft embrace of madness. I searched to find access, a trace, a hint, a way to make it tangible, this space of substance – Substanzraum.

Eventually, I stopped. To collect data wasn’t necessary and became more of a burden than an enjoyable exercise, but enough of a reason to keep going to the beach every day for a long while. I was actively measuring, but I didn’t notice that on a more subtle level, I measured the space passively, namely with my body, my senses, by me being here. I incorporated the sounds, the lights, the feels, the smells, and the tastes, as well as its formal language and rhythm, the latter started to influence my daily rhythm, and I felt more and more in sync with the world. Mood swings seemed suddenly explainable through the hight of the tide or the pressure in the air. Now since I heightened my awareness, I noticed that even other people I met were unknowingly affected by the constantly changing states of Substanzraum. Some more, some less, probably due to the phenomenon of general individuality and by changes which are happening unseen, unheard, undetectable by any means of measuring.

It was confronting to meet the beach every day, to ask it about Substanzraum, to look for an answer without having a concrete question, chased by winds, waves, and weathers.
Reality challenges us to endure our existence in this space of substance, which is ultimately indifferent to you and your individual consciousness.

I am standing on a mountain. Its sirens have called me. I am gazing out on a landscape covered in an endless ocean of nebula. Mountain peaks luring out of the cloudy mass into the new space, as if they were heads of giants. Soon, I will paint that scenery, and it will become one of the most renowned paintings in human history, and they will praise it a great work of romanticism. It is the year 1818.

ink jet print on paper, two loud speakers
ca. 200 cm x 500 cm x 200cm

And the world is still disinterested in us. And we still try to get its attention like a child from a mother mimicking the strategies of our fathers. We are trapped in the tragic triangle of the nursery. Trying to impress the world with what we know, what we can do, what we can build, what we can manipulate or destroy, driven by the ecstatic enthrallment of the feverish dream of vanquishing one’s own annihilation.

Eventually, Substanzraum is a highly flexible concept, with which I aim to enable us to imagine those aspects of space that are invisible to our bare eyes. A concept to enable us to imagine the concrete physicality of space, with all its ideological and psychological implications which are completely incompatible with everything we think about and do in space. It brutally exposes the paradox of human desire to create space, while space is already reemerging constantly around us. Every intervention in the space, every attempt to change that space can only result in a manifestation of human structures of mind imposed on space itself. The space we live in is not empty but filled with material organic and We are moving; the substances are moving. The space you dwell in today will be another you dwell in tomorrow and will never be the same again.

sLook at the dolphins jumping and spinning, look at the cheetah running. Look!, look at the birds flying and twirling and look at the people constantly walking, swimming, flying from one place to another. It seems to me as if the only thing life can do is to move in space. The movement, the gesture, the formal expression, pure joy of being alive. And the world, through its very nature talks to us, calming us:
“You being here, is enough already!”

Let us conclude this sugar-coated pamphlet with a quote borrowed from an architect and architecture theorist. Gottfried Semper lived at a time of great industrial revolutions. Revolutions, rolling throughout time and space since the first trains left the production halls. And like trains out of control, these revolutions roll unstoppable towards the ends of their lines, which we are desperately extending at any costs, may it be human or non-human, organic or non-organic, alive or not; any resource is harvested extensively to postpone the crash for as long as possible. Semper, a thinker at the time of the emergence of serious mass production, writes: “It is already evident that inventions no longer are, as they had been in earlier times, means for warding off misery and for enjoyment; instead, misery and enjoyment are the means to market the inventions. The order of things has been reversed.” This is the problem to target most. This is the practice that violates space itself, Substanzraum. 
Mass production is squeezing space into a tight corset. It is obstructing its respiratory pathways. Like thick mucus, that solidifies and blocks the free flow of space. Substanzraum changes constantly at any position and every position needs its particular formal response to it. Mass production aims for a global space, which is nothing like Substanzraum. Mass production aims for a global space, which is ideally the same at any location at any time. Every design fits through any door, and even these doors, mass products themselves, are counterproductive to the free flow of space. They disguise the transcendent nature of the borderless and globally interconnected spaces made of substances. They slice up our experience of Substanzraum, suggesting that there are spaces of different value and importance, inside and outside spaces. Have the dialectics of the inside and the outside been reversed as well? Do we as humans stand outside, inside our dwellings, watching through our windows into Substanzraum, from which we have alienated ourselves? It only appears so to us. Let us not conclude too fast. In the reality of Substanzraum, you can go to your house or your apartment and lock the door, but you are still breathing the same air. Substances penetrating the walls and are carried throughout your home while sitting in the sun with the window widely opened. In the philosophy of Substanzraum, there is no inside, only ever outside. Substanzraum doesn’t make a difference between these two prepositions.

    “Substanzraum,… Substanzraum,… Substanzraum,…

      A Mickey Mouse towel,…


      A jellyfish, a shark, a whale, a phytoplankton.

      Hyper object:        ‘The entirety of all the water on this planet.’

      Bruno Latour: “Everything is inside! “…

      …I get that! …

      Another philosophical concept approaching inside of my mind: There is no inside…

      Ever outside?:

      In a forest: outside.
      In a cave: outside.
      In a building: outside.

      … Atmosphere!”


The alienation described before is exclusively mental, caused by the way we build. In grids, with an emphasised notion of the inside and the outside, slicing up space and manifest territory, to create an abstract feeling of safety.

Sometimes you are sitting in your room, working on something very concentrated. You are knitting, writing, reading, watching tv, or are immersed in someone’s Instagram account. You are home alone. Suddenly the door opens, but nobody enters, and a slight shiver runs down your spine. You are starring at the door, and just as you reminded yourself of the in-existence of ghosts, the door slams, and again you have the sensation of a slight horror. There is no evidence for the existence of ghosts. Yet, it is true that something entered, a mixture of substances capable of carrying life-threatening viruses, germs, and pathogens. In past ages of spreading disease and less understanding of these substances and micro-organisms, the presence of a mystic entity of the hostile realm was probably the most obvious explanation. Your shivers are evidence of the deeply rooted myth as well as for the psychological power of the door.

I Forgot My Towel, Door With Moist Towel
Video projection
3.40min. on loop 
ca. 3 x 5,30 m

It is proven that walking through doors is causing forgetting. Think about how disconnected we are, even from our earlier histories. Some have no contact with their grandparents or even their parents. Maybe it is due to the grid, the appropriation, the claim of land, county, plot and site, hedges and fences and eventually the door which cuts our worldly spaces apparat, causing us to forget, causing our brains to un-process space as a whole and a borderless entity in which substances are mixing and mingling freely. Some cave drawings reveal themselves as collective works of art with additions from individuals living thousands of years apart. Nevertheless, the drawings are coherent, as if this practice was the most normal thing. Our ancestors must have had a completely different understanding of time.

Maybe because there were no doors, slicing up their spaces. They did not dwell in huge forgetting machines, like us, in our modern world with our rooms, apartments, houses, plots, and sites, districts, cities, counties, and countries. However, the practices of mass production, space division, and rasterisation of space are violating many people, animals, plants, and all materials living and nonliving. And we, as humans, are pretty much alone with these practices and our approaches to this Substanzraum, this globally interconnected spaces, made of substances traveling around our planet.

Introduction To Substanzraum
Video Excerpt
various dimansons

Mix, mingle, dissolve freely, without any borders.

Substanzraum, The Space of Substance
Alexander Johannes Heil
The Hague 2020