Florian Auer: BABIES ARE BORN AT NIGHT:
Cell Project Space
25 May - 14 July 2013
Review by Kathryn Lloyd
‘BABIES ARE BORN AT NIGHT’ is the first UK solo exhibition from Berlin-based artist Florian Auer. In this series of works, commissioned and exhibited by Cell Project Space, Auer continues his investigations into productivity-yielding vocations and their aesthetic tropes. In his previous work, Auer has displayed a deep-seated fascination for post-industrial aesthetics, which stem from the late eighties banking world and the changing environment of business culture. Here, the artist again adopts materials and objects closely associated with consumer desire, and inherent aspiration in the slick, corporate world.
The gallery space has been lined with an electric blue carpet, and the Cell Project Space office clock has been hijacked and now rests benignly on the gallery wall. While the installation works are contingent upon this office-style encasing created by Auer, they also rally against it; creating a tense dichotomy between work and play. A plastic football is rooted to the floor, with the office clock brooding above it; a red and white punch bag hangs heavily from a chain in the ceiling, resembling a monstrous joint of meat. Two parallel wooden trestles are dusted with chalk, while nearby a suit jacket on a neon coat-hanger shows a post-workout chalky handprint on its pocket. These objects are ones of play; a serious play associated with the driven and ruthless corporate industries.
Auer’s practice oscillates between technological references and the materiality of hand crafted matter, ease and labour and remorselessness and romance. The exhibition text, written by the artist’s close friend in the financial industry, Maximilian Biswanger, claims that the installations on display ‘seek to offer an auratic midnight manual for the late hour alchemy inherent to contemporary working settings - in which the bright rather open than close the positions at dusk.’ Biswanger’s words, while oblique, soften and idolise an elitist world which is alien to the majority of society.
The extreme ‘work hard/play hard’ environment which Auer is so intrigued by is one which is often abstracted by the media and represented by its material counterparts: the ‘playboy’ lifestyle, wealth and the objects it accumulates. It is a reality many understand through its luxury items. However, Auer’s perspective appears to come from somewhere else; he stands simultaneously within and without. There is an almost pathetic humaneness to the gym-related objects he displays; a monument to blind and relentless ambition. But there is also an impish, yet critical, humour in his employment of industrial materials such as lead, neon, wood, leather and his references to trade and ticker tape - one of the earliest electronic communication mediums used to circulate stock prices.
Additionally, the allusions in ‘BABIES ARE BORN AT NIGHT’ to orthodox working/living performance routines, such as fundamental day/night constructions within the office place, further discussed by Biswanger, give the exhibition a clandestine, sinister atmosphere. There is a general sense of film-noir; the remnants of an indulgent, unrelenting lifestyle littered like clues, left to be discovered in the morning.