Exhibition visit: The forces behind the forms & Felt Events – A Performance by Ilana Halperin

Exhibition at the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts) Thun, Switzerland (27 August – 20 November 2016). Available from: http://www.kunstmuseumthun.ch/en/exhibitions/current/felt-events-a-performance-by-ilana-halperin-2436/ [accessed 06 Dec 2016]

The exhibition was dedicated to the exploration of matter and the forming processes in contemporary art. Exhibiting artists were: Jonathan Bragdon, Nina Canell, Julian Charrière, Olafur Eliasson, Ilana Halperin, Roger Hiorns, Per Kirkeby, Katie Paterson, Giuseppe Penone, Jens Risch and Hans Schabus, George Steinmann.

The exhibition had various works in show that build either around the concept of geological time and how to present this in a meaningful way for human times perception. Or

A few examples that striked me [all linked online images accessed 06 Nov 2016]:

  • John Cage (1912 – 1992): a composition for organ ‘ORGAN2/ASLSP’, 1985. ASLSP means ‘as slow as possible’ . The actual composition is played since September 5, 2001 in the Sankt Burchardi Church in Halberstadt. It plays continuously and will finish in the year 2640 (after 639 years). The life sound was transmitted to the exhibition room to a loudspeaker. What one hears is one steady note. I felt the wavy pattern of this one note .(see examples on YouTube video: https://youtu.be/byqsV-CXJ-g)
    => This is such an unbelievable work – lasting 639 years! – knowing that now one ever will hear the entire composition. It has quite of an eerie appeal, out of space atmosphere. For me really a conceptual work. The questions that I am asking myself: What does this do with the moment of hearing? What with my own aesthetic perception and my perception of myself? Quite meditative as it pushes one to reflect on time and his/her own being in longer time frames.
  • Jurgen Krause (b. 1971) ‘Grundierungen‘, 2012-13. One paper sheet covered with layers and layers of gesso as the artistic endeavour. The exhibited piece – a few centimers thick – is not useable any further, not considering the initial purpose of gesso primed surface (below image – bottom left)
    => This works made my think about what painting could be more. In this context the making as an exploration of doing with a result that can be seen as a dead end? Or just an illustration of a time consuming effort? Truly a process related activity. But it also makes my think about material purposes and reuse of materials. Coming to my mind ready mades (Duchamp) or other works by artist that explore materiality and process characteristics.

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  • Julian Charrière (b. 1987) ‘The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories‘, 2013. Photographs showing the artist on an iceberg melting the ice under his feet with a blowtorch. This work articulates the impact of human presence on climate change and the juxtaposition of the time for destruction by human impact and the geological time of formation. The artist accelerates the process in a metaphorical manner. The images could remind one of the painting by Casper David Friedrich ‘Wanderer above the sea of fog‘, 1818 and the german sublime.
    => The artist articulates his concerns with the climax change and the human impact and on the other hand representing himself as an impacting and destroying human. Double role? This let me think  what my role as an artist is and could be. A presenter or representer? An external person demonstrating or presenting to the audience? Or also as an actor and as part of the audience?
  • Katie Paterson (b.1981) ‘Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull’, 2007 the recording of the sounds if iceland glacier pressed in disks from refrozen meltwater instead of vinyl. The records are played and over time the sound of the melting disk is interfering the sound of the original recording of the glacier.
    => I can envision this idea further as it presents the juxtaposition of an original image depicted with a certain material and the process of deterioration and destruction. Translating to painting this could mean to paint an image with a volatile material that moves, changes etc. over time through a process. This can happen also during the process of the painting itself. Or as the work by Paterson as part of a performance. I need to think more about performative painting and materiality in this context.

What I went there for was the performance by Ilana Halperin (b.1973) ‘Felt Events‘, the title referring to a term used by seismologists to describe an earthquake. I know her from the research on my personal project in Drawing 1 while reading the book ‘Ambiguity in Drawing’ (Sawdon &Marshall, 2015).

The performance it self was a combined video and reading performance. The video showing a  view on a volcano with a standing camera and the reading was Halperin’s writing about her own experiences in New York city and Japan, the scottish isle of Staffa and some other places she has been . A work that was a combination of “geological and everyday temporalities.”  Volcanos and earthquakes were the key theme. Her very personal description of her sensations of earthquakes and especially in the area of tsunami in Japan. I didn’t know before what this performance was about, a performance she was given in various places like on the isle of Staffa. Part of her enquiry developed along the idea that “we as humans are also geological agents – we form geology, body stones. We are like volcanoes, producing new landmass on a micro scale.”

I took the chance to talk with the artist after the performance, exchanged some thoughts with her and was eager to understand her motivation and current work.

  • The Library‘, 2015: mica platelets works. A piece of mica (sheet silicate mineral) is considered as a ‘book’ for its page like layered composition.
    I asked her about her motivation for those works and she explained that those markings done with a laser are similar to the traces of small animals from remote past. As one can not find the dead animals encapsulated in the stones one still can find those traces they made during lifetime. I found this an intriguing thought as it brings up the idea how to visualise life traces in a pictorial form. Translated to my own work: Would this be an approach to visualise human presence, an itinerary of people or me myself? Another way to depict identities telling which kind of animal left certain traces in stones in the remote past?

At the moment Halperin resides in Switzerland to investigate the local earthquakes. She told me that currently she is more into writing.

Learnings:

  • I loved the fact that I could engage face to face with the artist. This gives new insights and learning from their motivations  I find this quite helpful for my own development as an artist.
  • Although geology per se is not that much of my interest, I learned certain aspects from shown works that otherwise I would not have thought about. A more intense interrogation and reflection of the work by an artist and they way it is presented helps me to contextualise it more. I came to new ideas and I can see how this widens my horizon.
  • First I was surprised that Halperin is going more into writing now. Than I understand that the role of a contemporary artists is or can be much more than just being a painter, sculptor etc.? Something I will have to think for myself over the time of my studies and more at level 2(5).

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