Raphael Hefti: Quick Fix Remix
Ancient & Modern
5 - 28 September 2013
Review by Ruth Hogan
Raphael Hefti has buried the interior gallery space of Ancient & Modern under twenty-five tonnes of sand. A man-made dune slopes down from the ceiling to converge at the mouth of the gallery entrance. The scene is reminiscent of something documented in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
This action prefaces ‘Quick Fix Remix’, a performance and exhibition that demonstrates the alchemy of ‘thermic welding’, an industrial process originally devised in the 19th century to weld steel train tracks together. The sand underneath the artist’s feet is composed of iron oxide and aluminium, and with the introduction of a portable casting crucible the earthy landscape is transformed into a makeshift foundry. As he lumbers up the gradient, under the weight of the cumbersome, heat retardant suit, Hefti steadfastly shapes a descending chute from the crucible to the gallery floor.
With a flash of flame and a sudden rush of heat the combustible material is ignited and the crucible releases a stream of molten steel that rapidly flows down the chute, sparking, hissing and steaming as it reaches its abrupt end at the sandy base.
Hefti’s practice experiments with the various methods and techniques behind the industrial production of structural objects. ‘Misproductions’ that occur on the factory floor become evidence of a creative process at work, the handicraft behind industrialisation. The artistic interventions in these stages of production accentuate the unique, composite properties of the finished objects, often reversing their functionality. Glass becomes opaque and steel becomes brittle.
In a previous series, ‘Subtraction as Addition’, the artist manufactured highly reflective, iridescent glass panes formed through the consistent re-layering of luxar coated museum glass. Luxar coating was originally designed to eliminate reflection. Yet, through the repetitive intervention, the layering of the treatment creates opaque, abstract glass panes that react to the lightning conditions of the exhibition space. As self-contained objects, these polished artworks feel strangely autonomous. The artist’s hand, mediated through the mechanisms of the factory process, seems absent.
However, with ‘Quick Fix Remix’, the importance of process is emphasised. Returning to the performative aspect of the creative process, the artist is very much present and the spectacle of the event takes precedent over the finished object.What remain in the aftermath of the performance are cobalt blue shards of steel. Their gnarled imperfections protrude from the desert environment like the weathered limbs of a Giacometti sculpture.
Fragments of the aluminium oxide produced during the exothermic reaction are delicately placed on a timber shelf, like the excavated artefacts from an archaeological dig - testament to the handicraft of manual labour and industrial alchemy.