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viewing room

December 19 – February 28 2021

Activity of Matter

Mac Adams, Dove Allouche, Robert Breer, Elina Brotherus, Mark Geffriaud, Július Koller, Jiří Kovanda, Deimantas Narkevičius, Roman Ondak, Dominique Petitgand, Pratchaya Phinthong, Pia Rönicke, Yann Sérandour and Cally Spooner

The exhibition Activity of Matter, title of a work by Július Koller, explores the limits that artists define to circumscribe their fields of experimentation. A physical or mental space, an observation surface or an unknown territory, these interstices are an attempt at permanent renewal. Like an alchemist, the artist wanders in fictional spaces where each work defines its perimeter of potentialities and produces a hypothesis while underlining its questions.

Július Koller, Time/Space Definition of the Psychophysical Activity of Matter 1., 2., 1968

As a keen athlete, Július Koller frequently aligned his concepts with a variety of sports. As early as 1968, he chose tennis as a symbol of democratic communication; empyazing the principles and rules of fair-play, wherein the exchange of blows via a ball flying from one side to the other stands for an exchange of opinions. Like other demonstrative moments of his work - such as manually inscribing a question mark in the sand field of a tennis court, or making a chalk line with a marking wagon - this act triggers an existential movement in a cultural situation. After 1970,Koller shifted his attention from the theme of sport to the exterior - to extra-terrestrial spaces. increasingly, he sought possibilities for alternate expression; a reaction to the lack of free communication in Czechoslovakia after 1972. The surfaces of sports grounds prepared by Koller for active playing were later shifted to sites in anticipation of a potential other future to imagine.

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Mac Adams, The Predicament, 1974

“Sometimes I have no art ideas I can identify with… then I generally wander around feeling a certain despondency and embarrassment”

In the work, the artist modestly acknowledges doubt but most importantly, he notes the existence and texture of those moments of doubt as a defined field and state of mind, a moment that is indeed at the core of the artistic practice from which his later work springs.

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Inside the first exhibition room, the viewer encounters works in which artists have defined their field of action with reference to science, geopolitics, and even institutional territories. In Loop, a drawing done by Roman Ondak for his transformation of the Czechoslovakian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009, the artist presents the heavily signified building -a political relic of Europe after IWW- turned on its side, with its floor opened as a flap showing a map of Europe covered by different grids. The artist chooses to tackle his artistic endeavour by entering the field of geo-politics and turn it upside down, only to find in its interior a rich mix of tangible reality, politics and many subjectivities that acted as his raw material.

Roman Ondak, Loop, 2009

Indian ink, watercolour, felt-tip pen and book cut-out on cardboard, framed
24 x 29,8 cm, framed 36,2 x 41,9 x 4 cm
Unique

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Ecological catastrophe and its co-relation to precise socio-political events is at play at Ronicke’s Le Monde FRIDAY, Mardi 29 Juillet, 1952. Lathyrus sativus, in which the artist pairs a newspaper from 1952 to the moment in which a plant and its seeds entered in an international seed vault in order to be saved from extinction. On the other hand, Phinthong’s work One of Them pairs a sculpted sphere of Yttrium, one of the rarest and most expensive minerals on earth, to a satellite image updated every-few days of the most significant and ever-growing mine of this mineral, located in China.

Pia Rönicke, Le Monde FRIDAY, Mardi 29 Juillet 1952, Lathyrus sativus, 2015

43 x 57,5 cm

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Pratchaya Phinthong, One of them, 2012

Installation
Shelf, 10 cm diameter ball of Yttrium, inkjet print on A3 paper mounted on aluminium
Unique

The story of One of them, 2012, begins in China, 132 AD, as Zhang Heng presents his mysterious invention, the first known seismometre, to the Han court. Recognised by sources as remarkably precise, Zhang’s machine (the exact mechanics of which are no longer known) consisted of a dish on which eight dragon-shaped tubes corresponding to the eight points of a compass had been fixed. Each dragon held a metal ball in its mouth. An earthquake occurring at a distance would cause one of these balls to fall into the mouth of an object in the shape of a toad, thus showing the direction of the coming disaster. Pratchaya Phinthong has recreated one of these balls here but rather than bronze, he has made it with Yttrium, a rare earth element in a group of minerals used in manufacturing high-tech objects: flat screens, batteries, etc.

The People’s Republic of China owns more than 90% of the mondial market in rare earth elements and uses this economic power to political ends. Linking an ancient scientific object to a modern technology, the artist gives current economic reality to the work. The sculpture is accompanied by a photograph taken by the global imaging satellite ASTER, run by Japan and the USA. It is an image of the largest rare earth mine in Chinese Mongolia, the Bayan Obo mine. Pratchaya Phinthong plays on correspondences, causing the geopolitical sphere to slide towards the more sensual one of an installation.

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Minerals themselves and microscopic traces of life and geological history are the chosen territory of Dove Allouche, whose work Spore_8 acts as a reminder that what lays beyond our vision, and apparently at insignificant relationship of scale to the world’s attention-grabbing current events, is a rich source of visual wonder and precise scientific history able to take our mind to times and places otherwise hardly imaginable.

Dove Allouche, Spores, 2014

Lead pencil, silver oxyde, ethanol and ink pigment on paper
120 x 96,5 cm, framed 136 x 106,5 x 4 cm
Unique
The subject of the Spore works is the photographic emulsion Allouche makes himself with the same tools used for drawing. He puts spores known for their voracity on a photographic plate; they eat away the emulsion and do the drawing for him on the plate itself placed in a petri dish. Then he fixes the place and draws on it.There is no more narrative subject. Allouche drawings are like a mode of apparition - the photographic equivalent would be a double exposure. Unlike photographic paper, drawing paper can incorporate images into its ber by absorbing the materials used the image appears as a result of this embedding.

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In the middle of the exhibition room, we find Yann Sérandour’s Dance Floor, in which the exhibition space has transformed into a work of art that is, in turn, a space welcoming the arrival of other works that dance upon its black and white tiles. On top of Dance Floor, we encounter a motorised sculpture by Robert Breer (Tucson #1) that seems to have escaped the two-dimensional format of an untitled drawing also by Breer that hangs on a nearby wall. Facing this float stands a work by Mark Geffriaud, 2004, in which space and time have materialised in an inclusion of arranged objects inside a block of plexiglass.

Robert Breer, Tucson #1, 2009

Motorized sculpture
Styrofoam painted, motor and wheels
45 x 27,5 x 33,5 cm
Unique

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Mark Geffriaud, 2004, 2017

Inclusion of a RAM chip, a subway ticket, an elastic in acrylic glass
30 x 21 x 8 cm
Unique

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Bringing to mind notions of circulation and the city as a territory that acts as an –not empty- but over saturated canvas for artists, is Roman Ondak’s video Insiders, in which we see seven women walking on the vertiginous streets of San Francisco, wearing their t-shirts inside out as if creating with their steps a secret map we never get to follow.

Roman Ondak, Insiders, 2008

Video, color, ambient stereo sound
Duration 9.08 min, loop
Edition 5 (+ 2 A.P.)

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Rounding up the exhibition is Cally Spooner’s work Notes on Humiliation in which fiction, humour and psychiatric facts mingle in the universe created by Spooner in order to explore the nature of our high performance economies and its relationship to feelings of shame. Both intimate and sensual, the work acts as an end that refuses to draw conclusions, instead producing questions about the inexhaustible capacity of artists to find the real in the fictional, the unknown or the non-existent.

Cally Spooner, Exhibition view - Soundtrack for a troubled time and Notes on Humiliation,Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2017

Set of 5 pigmentary prints on paper
47,5 x 30,6 cm each

Notes on Humiliation transcribes extracts from Spooner’s interview with psychiatrist Isabel Valli. They are overlaid with drawings of human organs that produce the stress hormone, cortisol. In order to understand hysteria at a societal level, doctor and artist probe into pre-verbal communication, trauma, apocalypse and protest asking how these conditions can be captured and made visible as fact, fiction or the symbolic in 2017.

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