Lanzarote is a unique land constituted by the co-existence of radically different environments and landscapes. A place where wide stretches of volcanic soil lie in proximity to beautiful white-sanded beaches, a territory punctuated by rare mineral deposits that connect the island to a remote, even alien, geological formation. Defined through such schizophrenic juxtapositions, Lanzarote is a sort of hybrid place trapped between an ideal paradise and a dystopian landscape.
By bringing together a diverse range of contemporary practices, the exhibition currently on view at Union Pacific explores concepts of otherness and dislocation, incongruence and contamination that might define Lanzarote’s unique configuration. A series of conceptual premises structure the show and set up a fluid dialogue among the constellation of practices being presented.
Rallou Panagiotou’s work establishes an initial and direct point of dialogue with the core ideas of the project. Conceived as the pale reminiscence of a forgotten place, the work transforms a former holiday resort into the desolate stage of a pseudo sci-fi narrative. Using a combination of synthesised sounds and voice-overs to pace the journey of the viewer, the artist emphasises the status of alienation characterising this place, insisting on its temporal dislocation and therefore its potentiality to be re-narrated in a futuristic setting.
Max Ruf’s drawings emerge from the negotiation between a physical encounter and a remembered projection. Articulated as glimpsed of different landscapes and locations, Ruf’s compositions crystallise the physiognomy of a visual experience. The reality of different spaces is recorded and distilled through the artist’s subjective take, producing a tension between experience and imagination, representation and vision.
Mathis Altmann’s ‘Chemical Euphoria’ further stretches the idea of the work as a territory of projection, a platform where the concept of space is re-mediated through an imaginative process. What appears as a chaotic assemblage of objects and fragments of different provenance is instead a minutely organised apparatus. Through such dense and fragmented corpus, the artist seems to institute a sort of self-contained micro-cosmos, a miniature environment structured and regulated by its own parameters and laws. Constructed through a series of dark and oneiric compositions, Aleksander Hardnashnakov’s works also give body to a seemingly parallel reality, a surrealist landscape populated by faceless/defaced subjects and figures that appear to be at once haunting and articulating the scenario in which they are immersed. In line with this idealisation of the remote landscape, Will Thompson’s ‘Footnote’ plays with the cultural and historical connotations of objects such as the globe and the vitrine to explore modes of conceiving and representing space. As both devices tend to abstract the viewer from the reality of their content, the work opens up ideas of exoticisation and remoteness.
In Isabelle Cornaro’s work a group of objects are isolated from their usual mode of circulation and experience to be clustered onto the same homogenous surface. By elevating them to a wall-based relief the artist blends these elements into one neutral territory, stripping them bare of their individuality and dislocating them from any symbolic system. Such movement of appropriation and reconfiguration is also present within Eloise Hawser’s work, resulting from the compression of a radiator into a solid monolithic sculpture. Once again the object is cannibalised by a transformative process that undermines its original physicality and purpose.
Employing inanimate objects and materials to simulate the sinuosity and texture of the body, Martin Soto Climent’s works explore the representation of the body through the antithesis between organic and inorganic.
By abstracting the physicality of the subject through a series of sensual constructions and images, the artist proposes the body as a site of ambiguous convergences between different material and sensorial dimensions. Conceived as a mutant post-human creature, Renaud Jerez’ sculptural piece instead addresses physical contamination not only as a fundamental condition of the subject but also as a form of advancement in which the body becomes something other than itself.
Ben Burgis & Ksenia Pedan transpose the concept of ambiguity onto the visual properties of the object. Exploring how given systems of association and convention define our encounter and consequent experience of objects. The two works presented are conceived and constructed to fail the expectations of the viewer. Jean-Marie Appriou also navigates the idea of dualism by exploring the re-articulation of the mythical within a contemporary context and, therefore, the intersection of diverse cultural and historical references. In Merike Kara’s works, the spatial contextualisation of the subjects dissolves through the tight reciprocity of her figures. These bodies are conceived in close relation to one another, engaging in a collective action that rarefies the narrative of the space in which they are presented.
Vivian Suter’s work particularly opens a discourse on concepts of dislocation and otherness. As the artist left Switzerland in the early 1980s to relocate in South America, she lived at a distance from the then epicentres of the art world. Although she remained detached from major artistic movements and was viscerally engaged with her local context, her contribution to contemporary artistic discourse is extremely significant and palpable.
Taking Lanzarote’s peculiar nature as an allegorical point of departure, the exhibition develops through an extremely dense set of discursive possibilities. Through this diverse body of practices, the physical and conceptual structure of the project extends beyond ideas of geographical transcendence and remoteness, duality and contamination that characterise the island’s fundamental polarities. The project expands into broader conceptual territories concerning a contemporary understanding of the human body, the articulation of artistic subjectivity and the relationship between the subject and its environment