Inside the distance, Galerie Sabine Knust Munich, curated by Ory Dessau, 14.Nov 2017-20. Jan 2018

Lothar Hempel, Olaf Holzapfel

„Inside The Distance“ Munich, November 2017

The title Inside the Distance outlines the exhibition’s frame of thought.

Inside the Distance means the world is inaccessible. It presupposes the impossibility of a direct, unmediated experience, as well as its invalidity as a source of knowledge and meaning.

Inside the Distance means that we are fully and inescapably surrounded by screens, filters, barriers, and obstructions, dictating our worldviews, and therefore our actions.

The exhibition’s title alludes to a passage from Walter Benjamin’s seminal essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility” (1935), where he distinguishes the perceptual changes following the invention of photography and cinema as ‘the decay of the aura.’ He describes the aura as ‘a unique apparition of distance, however near it may be.’ According to Benjamin, the social basis underlying the decay of the aura as distance in the age of technological reproducibility is linked to the desire ‘of the masses to ‘get closer’ to things, and their equally passionate concern for overcoming each thing’s uniqueness by assimilating it as a reproduction.’

The exhibition takes Benjamin’s definitions and turns them upside down. In the digital era technological reproducibility can no longer maintain the illusion of unveiling, of getting closer to things; it should be taken as a form of inaccessibility emphasizing the fact that we are always, already, inside the distance; that the distance is in the heart of the thing.

The exhibition’s proposition is to examine the works on view from the perspective of distance. Each of the works presented here can be regarded as an act of distancing and as a poetic reflection on the concept of distance.

Olaf Holzapfel’s pictorial configurations of straws collected in Lusatia and Brandenburg are situated on the border between painting and architecture. Flattening three-dimensional spaces and landscapes into two-dimensional linear surfaces, his straw pictures recall partitions or window shades separating and isolating us from that which lies behind them. In this exhibition, Holzapfel’s patterns of straws are combined with one of his hay canvases. The combination creates a structure-like wall installation resonating Holzapfel’s presentation in documenta 14. In the hay canvases distance becomes a material, as ropes of certain lengths are condensed and squeezed into and around frames of other lengths (and widths). Abandoning one- in favor of two-dimensionality, the hay canvases relativize conventional measurements units and expose them as arbitrary.

The paintings of Adam Rabinowitz in this exhibition transmit an effect of infinite space/depth. They can be read as psychedelic nocturnal landscapes (especially the painting Falling Moon (2016) with the evaporating crescent moon conveying the twilight time between night and day.) Contrary to panoramic representations, Rabinowitz’s paintings do not appropriate the landscape in order to control it. They are manifestations of haze and fog, of uncertainty and indeterminacy. They represent remoteness, a world out of reach. Their connection to geometric abstraction and animation (as seen in Sea of Holes (2017) and Untitled (2017) is an additional layer of withdrawal, indicating the distance from realist figuration, and reality in general.

Juxtaposing photography with sculpture, image with object, Lothar Hempel’s signature works are free-standing cuttings of photographic enlargements depicting real-size human figures (in this exhibition it is the figure of Kathleen Cleaver, the secretary of the Black Panthers movement.) Hempel’s works release the photographic image from the flat space of the wall and from an optical-pictorial context, and re-install it in real architectural space. In this sense they enable us to experience the photographic mechanism as a technology of recording and perpetuating distances (between the camera or the photographer and the photographed subject) in an unfamiliar way. They allow us to be inside the distance of time and place.

Gregor Hildebrandt’s peculiar paintings are made of black, unrolled magnetic tapes taken from audio and video cassettes, and then stretched inside and wrapped around the frame. In the light of this description, Hildebrandt’s paintings can be interpreted as a movement from a verbal and visual realm to a mute material realm. Eliminating the sounds and images they originally recorded Hildebrandt’s tapes signify denied communication, a continuous state of communication breakdown. His paintings are an event of concealment and silencing. In a group of photographic prints from 2013, the retreat is multiplied. The prints are photographs of reflections of objects on top of the paintings. They add the distancing effect of reflections and photographs to the inherent distance of the unrolled tapes.

Ronald de Bloeme’s painterly work is fundamentally based on erasure. His paintings integrate layouts of globally famous logos from which he erases the names of the brands, focusing on the structure of the logo rather than its content. What we see in his paintings is the transformation of the brand’s logo from a commercial sign into a painterly module. De Bloeme’s paintings stem from elimination and removal, exchanging between identifiability and unidentifiability, familiarity and strangeness. His erasures not only veil the names of the corporate brands, they also demonstrate a shift from design and advertisement to art, reinforcing the difference, i.e., the distance, between them.

Sebastian Preece Books installation (2008) addresses both the distance of time and place. The installation is comprised of books that were pulled out of the ground in an advanced state of decomposition, during excavations executed in 2004 in a site of a ruined house in the rural outskirts of Southern Chile. The house was abandoned in 1939 and remained unoccupied until its collapse in 2000.

The affinity of Preece’s installation to archaeological display reintroduces and deconstructs the axioms of the scientific representation and reconstruction. Instead of pretending to grasp the past, to bridge the distance between the different times, Preece’s installation is a topography of oblivious history confronting us with loss and obscurity.

 

Olaf Holzapfel, Lothar Hempel, Adam Rabinowitz

Gregor Hildebrandt , Ronald de Bloeme

Sebastián Preece, Gregor Hildebrandt

 

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