An exhibition initiated by Nicola Arthen (DE) with Alondra Castellanos Arreola (MX), Paul Bernhard (DE), Dan Walwin (UK), Baha Görkem Yalim (TR), Isabel Mager (DE), François Girard-Meunier (CA).
The start for this exhibition lies in two experiences, which sometimes coincide ambivalently as they will for this occasion: a corporeal awareness of oneself when subjected to a mix of temperatures and the frustration while encountering products or architecture that has transformed from "open source" to sealed surface.
The first part of this exhibition consisted of a large-scale windmachine and a rack of heaters, a performance by Alondra Castellanos Arreola and a reading by Baha Görkem Yalim. It focused on the ephemeral and outsourced: the convections of air-conditioning, the neighbours' electricity, centrifugal forces, warming bodies, an invisible kite, a blown-away word, two scripts for a microprocessor and a Metafont.
Since the second part a large-scale installation obfuscates, restricts and aligns the space in a complete turn-over. The result is meant to frustrate and introduce a physicality according to principles used in architecture and product design.
During the third and last part, two lectures were presented inviting to link the exhibition's intentions to a wider reality and inspire a moment for discussion, reflection and critique.
Axialventilator with 650 W engine (re-programmed), laser cut, powder coated steel
Rack of electric blowheaters with each 3000 W (re-programmed), laser cut, powder coated steel
Alondra Castellanos Arreola
Text with intervals
Baha Görkem Yalim
This text is a result of several translation processes between different forms. More importantly it is a result of several translations between forms that do not exist. In this attempt to conjure a condition or a position, I will briefly ask for your attention. If you can no longer hear me, please raise your hand so I will try to raise my voice. The text is called "Regarding an Invisible Kite"
Let us begin by imagining together. Let’s imagine someone. A particular construct. Perhaps an invisible person, powerless but particular. If you drown, you can’t describe water. If you burn, you can’t describe fire.This person is alive. But is cursed to spend their remaining
days on top of an inflatable swan. Unlike how Odysseus was cursed by Poseidon after blinding his one eyed son, this person’s curse wasn’t an act of justice. Floating on an inflatable swan is an inclination towards an absurd fiction yet also a poetic gesture. Floating on a swan back and forth on a land they called home. Alone this person might be, how sad can one get on an inflatable swan?
However it may resemble a part of some absurd fiction, this imagining’s fictiveness depends solely on the length of the ‘remaining days’.The remaining days separate real from fiction like a survivor’s testimony of a war. Spending just four hours on an inflatable swan might be a piece of performance art and might as well move us immensely, depending on the weather of that day.The weather, beyond its appearance, is an indicator of the tone and strength of our emotions, it is the colour of our perseverance. Spending days and not hours however is different. Just like how kites, swinging back and forth, form another story, a different version of the same. But also similar. Contrary to an anchor, a kite, like the swan, is a desire to freedom.
Kites are a nice invention and like all inventions a necessary one. Us, lacking an internal organ to gaze at ourselves from within, always had our eyes on the sky. Kites are well fit to our desiring machine.They don’t change anything, yet do something crucial; they remind us a string connection is enough to fulfil our inner most envious dreams. In this space, instead of my words, there could have been invisible kites made from carbon fibre skeletons caressed by a transparent nylon. Diamond shaped kites, 120 to 115,2 cm long, could be hanging from these rails. Flown by the audience when desired, the kites would adopt the sky’s current situation; colours, climates, rhythms.As the kites would have been invisible, while flying them, the audience would have become dancers under open air, moved by unknown forces, by the weather that is high above, the kind of weather we don’t have access to.With the lack of access translated into movement, the body would activate the possibilities above us. The body as below would signify the known limits of this place called home.
Floating back and forth, the invisible kite is no longer any different from the inflatable swan. An invisible kite and an inflatable swan’s sameness reassures art’s freedom or more correctly art-as-freedom. Freedom, as much as freedom can be experienced by a mortal being.The freedom becomes freedom through measuring the finitude of mortal beings; those remaining days, like how fictiveness was measured in the case of an inflatable swan. Freedom becomes the inflatable swan.This is how we know freedom is indeed fiction.
The invisible kite is as much of a kite as any other kite. It is an object, yet its invisibility in the context of arts also allows us to ignore it and therefore not make it.To put it simply, If I cannot see the kite I don’t have to make it. Here, we can all convince each other just by our movements that there is in fact a kite stringed to our hands flying.A person can convince you by the movement of their one hand and head that there is a fly in eyesight.The inflatable swan and the invisible kite; what are the commons? Each object possesses a myriad of folds, each reality a myriad of fictions and fictive realities. Even legends have different versions. Each version may begin the same but they are always different. In one version the curse of Odysseus was to make certain that he, in fact, made it home, but it was after an agonisingly long journey and one in which he lost all of his companions.
[The sound of the windmachine in space makes the reading of the next 12 sentences inaudible.]
And between them the sea. The sea; transparent nylon, caressing eternal lines, stirred every whipstitch by unknown forces, and always in rhythm. The sea, almost touched by herons and the sails, like sharks flipped horizontally.
Let us imagine a sail approaching from a distance. Resembling perhaps first a kite, after a while an inflatable swan. At first reminding a fiction, after freedom. People drifting is on the same sea. The same sea has different versions. Because similar to the invisible kites that do not exist, justice also does not exists in this world. This is why we had to translate it from elsewhere. Translation, conjuring time and reality, fabulating, fictionalising, stretching and moulding, is dark matter.
Things that do not exist but are translated from elsewhere, a windcoming from a machine that doesn’t know what wind is, the inertia of being, trying to tell everything, translating them back to their origin, seeing that the origin does not exist, the micrometer gap between everything...
If you drown you can’t describe water. If you burn, you can’t describe fire.
Installation from perforated steel plates, welded tubular steel frames, 1/4" screws
Audio, 36 ' 16 " continuous loop, speakers
NA: I can just start talking about something.
AS: Yes, that would be nice.
NA: The other day, I went running in Osdorp at a place, where you always can see airplanes taking off. They were really close above in the sky. And when I heard the sound of the jet, I realized that the fan in those turbines must pull the wind similarly to a ventilator. It felt comforting for me, to find out that there is a connection between my earlier works, the simplified aircraft-wings and this new work. The movement and mechanics of the ventilator have a similar principal, but in another scale, of course.
AS: I thought, your interest was never the experience of flying itself, rather than this seemingly unreal experience of transporting passengers through the air, crossing several countries without having been outside in fresh air for once.
NA: Yes, you’re right. It’s strange how the act of flying is mediated, isn’t it? For example, the efficiency of space in a plane. Everything is adapted to your body-size. The body is really suspended in-between, the folding-table, the curved wall, the two arm-rests and some advertisement in front of you, or a monitor.
AS: Everything is designed to fulfil its purpose.
NA: But that’s somehow beautiful. People need to come together or get together by the purpose to travel somewhere or even just being brought there.
When I was traveling to Mexico this year, I was really touched by the feeling of global-scale while flying. You literally cross a big part of the globe, but it’s also fascinating, how efficient everything works together. It’s a peak-point of structures working with one another. And then, there is this strange acceptance of the surface. There has to be so many layers in-between the inner pearl-effect plastic-skin and the outer aluminium-shell, like 15 different fabrics of some brands, they developed, like honeycomb-fibre-structures, certain laminated plastic-parts, some Glasswool and, other stuff, I have no idea about. All those layers protect you at anytime, while flying through minus 46 degrees in 10.000 metres height.
AS: But why should it be comforting and beautiful for a human-being to feel like a depersonalized unit?
NA: Maybe, it is the amount of effort, which is usually not applied to a human-scale. It’s usually used for packaging-logistics, material-production, raw materials, products, financial transactions. Here, it´s a huge network, that works just for passengers.
AS: You worked for several months in the manufactures of BMW and Audi.
In difference to feel like being a unit, how does it feel to produce a unit?
NA: There is one simple or immediate fascination I can directly remember. The amount of cars BMW produces in one day is 300 cars. And when I was there for, let’s say 50 days, I produced 6.000 cars. Okay, not the whole car, I did put 6.000 valve-head-screws into the valve-head, but it again gave me a glimpse of global-scale. I did put my fingers on something, that is now moving around many places of the world. I never enjoyed any feeling of ownership in the sense of, wow, they were all made by my hands and without me, they would not exist. It’s very clear how small my part in the process was, but … It gives a bit access to the question, what it means… seven billion people. As a child, I always thought, when there are seven billion people, there has to be someone who thinks exactly like me, just because there are so many people on the world. What is a whole population or, what is global scale.
AS: The screw is the starting point for understanding a worldwide working economy on an emotional level. You have to imagine the rest, but at least the screw lies in your hand. In our daily life, there is no starting point and you also don’t see the end of the process, you are always in between. That´s why calibrating scale is impossible.
NA: Maybe, it’s actualizing oneself’s identity within global scale.
But it also means breaking the anonymity of the material, which is always ignorant towards you. Most material and most products are just ignorant to you. They don’t care if you exist or not.
AS: But I can always remember you being fascinated of products, that look like no one would have ever touched them. Did you ever ask yourself why?
NA: Even in a shape, that looks untouched or not made by human hands, I can see at least the decisions, that were made. I know both feelings, the frustration about some decision-making and the joy. My phone for example, I changed to a smart-phone, and the keyboard is designed really shitty, so I cannot use it with my fingers. Really, there’s hardly any word coming out complete, that doesn’t have a spelling-mistake, just by the way, the keys are placed. So, I use the spell-correction, which means, I choose one of maybe 120 words, instead of writing them myself. And that started to retard my language, because I started to write more or less always the same sentence. That’s a point where I get annoyed about the decisions, that have been made in the construction of it. While on the other hand, I can really enjoy, especially in public spaces, to look at an individual, not individual, but a specific solution of how a joint of two metallic pieces is placed on a house. I can really enjoy to see the decision of someone, who is responsible for that. I’m also curious about this exhibition, because it´s the first time, I am using stuff made by others, a production-company for example. I will send something to the laser-cutter and it will come back as a piece of cut steel, even painted, so I’m curious to see, how somebody programmed a solution for the curves maybe smaller or bigger than in my model for practical reasons. These things leave traces of how they have been conceived. Like in the airplane, where you spend a very long time with certain objects. Don’t you know this small recess, where the cup should go on the plate. It´s a known thing. Or that small hole in the window of the airplane. I think, people know how it feels.
AS: Is this maybe the core of your art-practice? The search for a stronger connection to the world of products and produced materials around us? Is there maybe a lack of connection you want to balance somehow?
NA: Yes, I think the lack of scale we talked about earlier, is very similarly to this lack of connection, you are mentioning now. There is some desire to connect to those inhospitable and anonymous places or these serial objects. Things, that exist almost identically thousands of times or also, automated machines, that run entirely by themselves. I ask myself, where can we put our finger in-between. Where could you zoom in to see something individual, maybe not even individual, but at least something, we can connect to.
AS: Do you already feel advanced in that process of connecting to this emotionally alienating environment. This would at least be an explanation for me, why you never seem to be stressed about those speed-increasing changes in our daily life, while other people feel the urge to escape to something that feels somehow more “real”, like quiet nature.
NA: I do get stressed. Even flights are a certain stress-level for me, being at the airport with its long hallways, the restricted atmosphere, the security Check-In and the packaging. But then in the air, especially on a long-distance flight, it connects me to the desire of being closer to nature. Nature, that’s of course the fresh air in the forest and the cracking sticks under your feet or climbing up a mountain, but it’s also seeing those vast parts of the world, which at least by distance seem uncivilized. It’s very beautiful to see it from the airplane. I am also really trying to internalize the idea, that the separation between natural and technical does hardly exist. I think, it’s hardly possible to make that particular distinction between, say, the forest in Bavaria and the airplane at the airport. The terms have to be different and also its evaluation of their quality. Because all the materials used in the airplane are natural as is their development, because they are produced by humans and humans are a part of nature. Of course, it feels strange to read it that way. To say, consequently, there is maybe no such thing like being inside or outside. But the desire for an outside exists, for the outside-perspective, the elevated position in an airplane, the outside of being on a mountain or in a forest. And also, the feeling that there will come this day, where I will actually stop using my laptop. I am just using it now, but that’s just a temporary state to get somewhere else, where I won’t need it anymore. The illusion of the outside is there all the time.
Adrian Sölch is an artist, poet and writer based in Munich. He studies as Meisterschüler at the academy of Fine Arts in Munich and interviews and writes regularly for the radio. Adrian and Nicola studied together at Rietveld Academie for some years and know each other's work well through an ongoing exchange we have.
(All works made for this exhibition except 5000times)
This exhibition is made possible with the support of Paul Bernhard (Graphic Design), Franziska Schulz (Documentation), Stephan Blumenschein (Electronics), Alondra Castellanos Arreola, Christian Glück, Katleen Arthen, Dan Walwin, Adrian Sölch, Ivo Rick, Kevin Aerts, Oded Rimon, Tim Matthijsen, Rutger Muller, Noa Giniger and the team of puntWG. The exhibition and its program is generously supported by the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK) and Mondriaan Fonds.
The typeface DOF is used to interface the exhibition's program and is available at github.com/paulbernhard/dof.