Zoro Feigl: Infinity
13 January – 11 March 2018
Review by John Gayer
While the conversion of former power plants into pristine gallery and museum spaces – we now have Tate Modern, Toronto’s Power Plant and Shanghai’s Power Station of Art – seems to have lost its singularity, surprising examples can still be found. Take The Hague’s cavernous Electriciteitsfabriek, for instance, which houses Infinity, a captivating survey of Zoro Feigl’s kinetic sculptures and installations. Dimly lit, unheated, unrenovated and partly operative, the facility makes no attempt at mimicking the white cube. Though visitors receive a sizeable list of do’s and don’ts upon entry, this fails to dampen the bracing sense of adventure. And once inside, it is immediately obvious that Feigl’s vigorous mechanical work wholly suits its location.
For one, Feigl utilises motors, plastic tubing, steel sheets and conveyor belts, all of which directly correlate with the power plant’s industrial aesthetic. Reinforcing this impression is his studio, which has been relocated to the Electriciteitsfabriek for the duration of the exhibition. It gives visitors insight into the making of the works, which develop gradually and evolve through a process of trial and error. Viewers can also ask the artist questions, if shouting over the whirring, rasping and rattling that fills the space doesn’t rankle them.
Inside, the glimmering ‘Wave’ (2018) immediately captures attention for how it mirrors the colossal ‘Echo’ (2017), the commission Feigl completed for PoortCentraal, the newest of The Hague’s Dutch government buildings. But unlike that work, which hovers near the top of a lofty atrium, ‘Wave’ proves to be much more engaging. Not only does it float at eye level and possess a diameter approximating the arm span of an average sized person, but its rings also move at a more spirited rate. The dual sided reflective mylar that fills the centre ring – gold on one side, silver on the other – recalls celestial bodies and further animates the space. Viewers are intrigued by the flashes of light and shadow encompassing them and that play across nearby surfaces.
As such, ‘Wave’ provides an apt introduction to Feigl’s mechanical aptitude and talent for exploiting rotational movement. In ‘Hoop’ (2015), he uses a rotating metal rod to instigate erratic movement in a set of black plastic rings. The fact that these skeletal objects clatter away in a dark space imparts a spectral aura that makes this, otherwise understated work, quite memorable. Equally remarkable is ‘Untangling the tides’ (2014), a pair of heavy ropes subjected to a twisting action that forces them to repeatedly wriggle away and toward each other over a sandy area of floor. It manages to produce a sequence of shapes that defies expectations. Immobile, ‘Poppy’ (2010) resembles an oversize fuchsia tablecloth suspended overhead, but with activation it flares widely, billows, makes flapping noises, and generates feelings of astonishment and dread. The sizable tangerine streamer called ‘Hula’ (2015),in contrast, jitters happily to and fro in a broad stairwell. Ignoring the ‘no touching’ rule, it will occasionally surprise people by touching them as they move between floors.
Whether extended to hang loosely, to bumble about on the floor or transport veils of colourful gunk skyward, Feigl orients his conveyors vertically. He merges a fountain with a cenotaph to create the elegant hybrid ‘Monolith’ (2016) and, for the commanding wall mounted ‘Conveyor’ (2016) and other table top prototypes in the studio, explores making viscous mixtures that, in addition to streaming upward, also ripple, display the effects surface tension and sometimes attempt to cascade. The medium’s spread conjures up the dynamism of Larry Poons’ drip paintings and marks a departure from them too. The fact that the imagery, subject to the ongoing process of renewal and decay, never achieves stasis makes the works more cinematic than painterly. Together with their companion pieces, Feigl’s compositions attune the mind to dynamics, kinematics, and the fascinating traits of everyday objects and materials. Their power resides in their ability to enthrall and maintain a poetic presence.