Jeroen Jongeleen,
Felix Schramm,
Clemens von Wedemeyer,
Andrea Winkler
«UMBAU / MODIFICATION»

24th February – 8th April 2007

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«UMBAU / MODIFICATION», Felix Schramm, This Is Not A Wall, 2007. 
Photo: Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Stefan Rohner

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Felix Schramm, exhibition view, This is not a wall, 2007

Photo: Stefan Rohner 

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«UMBAU / MODIFICATION», Andrea Winkler, Everything I've Done Today, 2007.
Photo: Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Stefan Rohner 

Anyone who has visited an exhibition space between shows will know that it resembles a construction site, seething with activity as traces of the previous exhibition are removed to make way for a new setup. Such spaces are constantly being reorganized to accommodate a variety of artistic practices, curatorial aims, and architectural givens. Rearrangement takes place in accordance with a kind of division of labor and grants the existing space a different significance each time. The original space may even disappear from view completely. Much contemporary art, for instance, creates a spatial illusion that totally negates the existing architecture.

 

What exactly do artists, curators, and the public expect of an exhibition space? What features do they demand of it and what kind of compromises do architectural givens and theoretical considerations force on them? A wide variety of artistic, social, and economic claims confront one another in these spaces: The art space is not simply a forum for encounters between art and its audience; it can also be the point of departure for engaging with spatial issues in general.

 

Art critic Lucy Lippard distinguishes between “site” and “place.” Yet does it still make sense to speak of “site-specific art”? Ever since the term was coined in the 1960s and ’70s to describe works of Conceptual Art it seems to have existed in a permanent state of crisis. Even today, after many critical approaches to the issues involved, it is difficult to escape the blank world of the exhibition space. More than ever, artists appear almost relieved to retreat into a seemingly clearly defined “white cube.” The discourses of recent decades may have shifted some of its walls a little, but we are still not prepared to forego the arena-like qualities of the “naked” art space.

 

The group show MODIFICATION addresses the exhibition space as such and the conditions governing the display of art. If the show is site-specific, then less in the sense of concrete relationships between the works and their topographical situation than with regard to their engagement with the current function of the former St. Gallen warehouse as a place for exhibiting and promoting appreciation of contemporary art. The Kunst Halle is using the six-month period between the departure of one board of directors and the arrival of the next to examine its own spaces. Artists in the group show will assess the exhibition areas by expanding or negating their spatial potential. In MODIFICATION the Kunst Halle is treated not merely as a retreat, but also as a distinctive part of the public realm. All the works engage with the possibilities of the site. A publication will appear in conjunction with the exhibition.

 

Felix Schramm (born 1970) alters the basic coordinates of existing architecture by revising floor-plans. He frequently reconstructs removed elements, leaving behind a different space that incorporates the destroyed features. He sometimes uses plasterboard, wood, and found objects to make the actual construction of a space the focal point of his exhibitions, with visitors finding themselves in a situation comparable to that behind the scenes in a theatre. Schramm also operates with phonograph records played off-center, so that the sounds begin to vibrate. This produces a fractured perspective that recalls collages in space.

 

In her work Andrea Winkler (born 1975) shifts the focus of a space by means of mostly small objects made from paper and other light materials. For Trottoir, an exhibition space in a former shop in Hamburg, she made an installation from gold foil, semi-transparent fleece paper, and various plastics. A torn-off piece of gold foil—the fragment of a once-glamorous whole—covered a section of the wall opposite the window, the protrusions and folds in its reflecting surface generating what almost seemed like images. Lengths of fleece paper were spread over parts of the window and wall. The artist incorporates such unused architectural features as niches, columns, and joints in her works. Her fragile constructions amount to a new system for making space visible.

 

Jeroen Jongeleen (born 1969) operates in an area on the border between art space and public space. A sprayed black line constantly interrupted by the words “INFLUENZA/POINTLESS OUTLINER” questions the sense of his own spatial intervention, but a kind of crash barrier indicates a possible point of orientation. Jongeleen transforms urban sprayings into plain white walls by painting over them, yet also adds a monochrome rectangle to blank sections of wall. Such apparently “orderly” interventions are soon covered with new messages or new coats of paint. In this way, the artist subtly forces us to examine our preconceived notions of certain types of space. When is an art space public, for example, and when is it a closed and exclusive?

 

The people in the video piece Otjesd by Clemens von Wedemeyer (born 1974) wander back and forth in a labyrinthine landscape on an urban periphery. Apparently looking for an exit, they are shown questioning one another and discussing. What they are really doing is engaging in an ongoing debate about possible ways of coming to terms with their surroundings. The merits of various approaches are assessed, but no definitive solution emerges. The camera stays in the same space and the people are effectively walking around in circles despite their constant movement: They cannot actually move to a different place. The impossibility of migration shown here in peripheral urban surroundings can be compared to certain types of artistic experience.

 

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