Sunday, February 24, 2008

Roman Signer in Hauser & Wirth London Gallery

Walking from the busy Piccadilly Circus Street into the Hauser & Wirth London Gallery space the viewer finds the surprising installation made out of the small automatic lawnmower and fifteen chairs. The lawnmower pushes and knocks the chairs around in a chaotic way, bumps itself between the legs in a constant struggle with the dead objects. The gallery space is interesting itself, or more precisely the way it’s accessed from the main street. Behind the black curtain, which is actually the only element, which separates the chaos of the street from the art products, the little lawnmower can be spotted, which automatically finds its way around the fifteen chairs, constantly pushing and knocking them around. Upstairs three videos can be viewed, “Helicopter on shelf”, “Water” and “Hose”. All three videos document the actions of the objects and mechanism interacting with the flow of the water. The little toy helicopter placed on the shelf drifts on the water surface moving slowly towards the waterfall and as its about to fall it’s suddenly lifted up by someone navigating it from distance and saved from being drawn in the water. Once the shelf is again drifting flat at the bottom of the waterfall the helicopter gently lands up back on it to continue it’s drifting journey. In the lowest level of the gallery the bottle hung on the string is suspended above the electrical fan, which determines it’s spinning movement. In the vault another video can be watched, “Old Shatterhand”, on which artist himself unsuccessfully tries to gun at a target, as the slimming device surrounding his waist, causes the violent vibrations, which unable him to make the correct shoot.

The gallery presents some old and more recent works of Swiss artist Roman Signer, who explores everyday utilized objects and man-made machines in rather intriguing and absurd relation. It is difficult to avoid the smile while watching the chaotic lawnmower or the video works. The functionality of the objects with its relation to our everyday existence is gently laughed at when all those perfectly useful items find their new dimension in rather subverted and ridiculous permutations. The appearance of the objects and through them the appearance of our own everyday life is brought to the level of absurdity and nothingness at the same time, in a rather humorous way. What is even more interesting is the fact that the whole experience could be easily described as pathetic. The boundary between something what represents nothing and something what has a value is very fragile and it is definitely the subject matter of Signers work, however in a less optimistic interpretation it can be argued how successfully the work manifests itself. The question appears; what is the determining factor according to which we are actually able to make a judgment about the work? In terms of Signers work the question is which elements decide about the fact that it is actually as successful as it is pathetic? Aren’t the categories through, which the work is to be decided if it’s successful or not, created by the specific environment, therefore not objective at all? It is difficult to not to think about Fischili and Weiss, when looking at Signers work, it is difficult to not to remember their sophisticated and humorous approach towards the everyday objects. What strength than, in Signers work, makes the viewer to actually stay within the gallery space after being welcomed by the chaotic and ridiculous movement of the lawnmower? Possibly it is the element of surprise, which we often expect when entering any gallery space, the element of surprise in all possible contexts, the ability to notice something what wasn’t pointed at us before, something we wouldn’t get a chance to think of, if not some Swiss crazy guy presenting his absurd within the closed space, called the gallery.

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