|Martin Kersel, Tumble Room (2001)|
|Martin Kersel, Tumble Room (2001)|
Not quite as big, but louder and at the centre of the hall stood Martin Kersel’s Tumble Room (2001), a typical Californian bedroom for a teenage girl, a space of pink walls, posters and innocuous furniture. What sets this bedroom apart is that it is set in a large circular steel frame mounted on industrial ball bearings. The entire structure spins around its horizontal axis: the floor and the ceiling sickeningly and lurchingly swap roles. It moves slowly at first, so that the teenage girl who inhabits it can clamber about—as an associated video attests—but then faster and faster. By the end of the exhibition the piece seemed to have more to do with the trapped violence of Chris Burden’s The Big Wheel (1979) than Alice through the Looking Glass—the imperfectly glued down furnishings had long since broken free of their moorings and smashed each other to kindling, turned glass into shards, tore posters to shreds. The work had effectively destroyed itself, a concrete mixer full of the refuse of family life. The piece takes itself to its own logical conclusion, starting as the embodiment of a child’s fantasy of the inversion of the everyday through to a nightmarishly literal illustration of the parental exaggeration: hey, it looks like a bomb has gone off in here.
Off to one side I enter an unmarked entrance, because the weird schadenfreude of the people staring at the trashed bedroom is giving me the creeps. A mistake. Douglas Gordon won the Turner Prize in 1996 for doing spooky work and it has gotten spookier. Black Star (2002) is a darkened hall punctuated geometrically by fluorescent tubes giving out ultraviolet light, so that, not for the first time in a gallery, we feel like we are wandering in an abandoned space station. Our teeth glow and our dandruff shimmers. Other lingering visitors give us blinding Cheshire Cat smiles. Over the top we hear Gordon read from the gothic novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (James Hogg, 1824), a tale of schizophrenic breakdown or satanic possession, depending on your point of view, recited in a mordant Scottish brogue. Is this futuristic archaeology, are we aliens investigating the ritual beliefs of 19th century Protestants? We didn’t know, but we liked it.
Luca Pancrazzi’s extraordinary Il paesaggio ci osserva (2006) (which according to the whimsy of catalogue babelfish translates to “the landscape observes to us”) reminded me of how much I’ve always admired men who play with train sets. A blank doorway leads us into a maze punctuated by a couple of surveillance monitors showing a blurry, nondescript landscape. A couple more turns and at the centre of the maze we discover a model city built at eye level. The miniature town is bisected by a river, and on one side what appears to be an industrial estate is made entirely of old computer components that, when arrayed in rows, provide an impeccable precinct of Bauhaus and international style structures. On the other side of the river is an old city composed of typewriter and linotype parts, set off by the frob of an IBM golf ball printer suggesting the dome of an urban nuclear power plant squeezed in amongst the slate roofs of a 19th century central European city. We leer over this landscape like Godzillas, delighted by the simplicity and inventiveness of the diorama, and it is only then that the security monitors make sense. They are filming the city. I almost run back to look, only to see a shadow of movement above the town. The cameras themselves are embedded in the city, but so small that they are almost impossible to find: presumably medical cameras, endoscopes—the things used for colonoscopy. It was as if the journey through the maze had made me bigger, much bigger, and here I was, looming like a giant predatory reptile over a terrified Lego town. Oh, what art does to us.
Art Unlimited, Art Basel 38, Messezentrum Basel, June 13-17
RealTime issue #74 Aug-Sept 2006 pg. 56
© Adam Jasper; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org