Several street artists have been commissioned by the German artist Olaf Nicolai to reproduce 22 images into the form of chalk sketches. Projected on the floor of the exhibition space of the Kunsthalle Wien - where the main part of the series of interactive installations has been situated, the drawings were to be walked on and walked about. Being the only representative medium within the space, surrounded by an ‘empty’ spatiality and without any kind of visually interrupting components, their scale and meaning is reinforced, expanded and opened-up to individual re-interpretation.
Through the reproduction of newspaper photographs into drawings – which have been selected from the private archive of Nicolai, the images are aligned parallel to each other as pictures of events. Reassembling a ‘carpet of images’ – a news tableaux – the stories behind the images are rewritten through change in size, scale, resolution and their proximity to the private body of the reader - as one is actively drawn into walking on top of instead of around them. Intensified through their raw exposure into the private and closed setting of the gallery space, indifferent to their original nature of a publicly accessible newspaper, the way the images are read by the audience is constantly in change. The initial and original characters of the photographs - which the viewer can also find in the exhibitions catalogue, are being translated into a new spatial setting and experienced from another angle. Shifted from paper to a multidimensional work of art, expanding in form and mostly in meaning, the headline standing behind each individual image evolves. Translated in relation to each other the images and their stories are rewritten, thrown into a public assemblage within an institutional setting and yet only allowed to be accessed through subjective interpretations of the walking crowd.
MUSEUM OF PROGRESS
Introducing performative media, Nicolai’s curated work is in constant transformation. Inviting artists to respond to the individual images and even perform on them, the exhibition, interweaved with physical objects and performative components, expands beyond the site of the Kunsthalle Wien into further locations. It is dissolving the threshold between private bodies and public spatial entities as over time the exhibition’s momentum changes – the pictures dissolve until vanished completely. Here, Nicolai’s methodology of continuous reinterpretation and change – almost a work of art in itself – shifts our perceptions from A to B. Raising the question whether headlines between moment and moment are changing – constantly feeding into a loop of re-reinterpratation and reproduction. Further, the concept is continuously recontextualizing ideas and expanding perceptions without settling onto one interpretational medium.
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
As I have visited the space, a group of students was engaging with the individual pieces of artwork and specifically its contexts. “Come and create space upon your arrival” – assembling around the students got involved individually with the backgrounds of the images and were re-writing and expressing interpretations of new potential headlines for the pieces. Rewriting histories of the reproduced photographs and so, multiplying the meanings and multilayering references between the work, each other and between the environmental setting they are being shifted into. The students were consciously remapping spatial settings and primarily addressing experiences of space, time and embodiment within the new stories. In reference to political moments within history, current affairs and culture, the medium of recreation – here whether the reproduction of photographs or the reproduction of the story behind the images - questions the way we perceive our environments, and the way we long for our habits of seeing, understanding and experiencing. ‘There is no space before arrival’ – as the title reads – the exhibition addresses the way mental and physical space is being experienced, through spatialities that can only be mapped out once opened up to their free interpretation.