“What I notice is that I architect my poems. . . . Rooms are not just square boxes. You design how people move through them and so that’s [a] projected imagination already of how you’re not going to live in a room, but how you’re going to go from one passageway to another.” Robert Duncan (from Duncan: The Ambassador From Venus, Lisa Jarnot, 2012)
Hesitancy upon entrance. The gallery floor is covered with coloured panels & there is a momentary natural uncertainty. Is this part of the art? & if so, surely it is not meant to be walked on. Inherent to the gallery experience, a para-part perhaps, often unnoticed, sometimes annoyingly defining (by its obstruction; for example, the famous Mona Lisa which can only be viewed from behind glass & a distance of metres). More often than not these restrictions are probably necessary; artworks are regularly defaced or stolen. A Rothko was recently vandalised, as well as a Picasso (whose defacer is, absurdly, getting his own art show); & then there was the overzealous janitor who ruined (or improved?) in any case, thoroughly scrubbed clean, an artwork that she thought was a dirty trough.
Rarely however, is the permitted distance of the viewer from the artwork, or for that matter the viewer herself, actively integrated as part of an exhibition. The Invisible Show (at Hayward Gallery, London) last year did contain some nice pieces that were designed to frustrate, provoke, titillate the visitor. In an essay about a similar exhibition Voids: a Retrospective (Centre Pompidou, 2009) the proposition is made of that, “Voids revealed that the exhibition is contingent upon space (architecture), language and memory.” Natalie Häusler’s work now exhibited in gallery Supportico Lopez recognizes and incorporates these uncertain relations between space, language, body, the viewer.
Not only is there a moment of uncertainty upon entering the gallery, when the visitor becomes part of the artwork before or probably while realising this is happening. There is another way in which visitors’ presence as absence, “out of sheer synthetic voids”, is incorporated into the artwork itself. As visitors move around the gallery, the coloured panels, which are not connected or stuck to the floor in any way, will inevitably begin to move around and get dirty. This means that the exhibition, which will last for a month (until 16 February), will incorporate the marks, movements, and moods of the visitors, the outside world, the weather. The shifting and shuffling of the visitors is recorded by the coloured panels covering the floor, “a stutter / a a a stutter on behalf of recreation” (reads Häusler’s poem ‘Balcony’)
thereby, in a self-reflexive loop, becoming part of the artwork itself. The exhibition thus reflects and incorporates some of the contingent processes of its becoming in the world, “an excess of flaming fractures”.
The panels on the floor, I was told, go together with one poem. Other poems, with their own artworks of panes of glass are attached to the gallery walls.
Further, the poems have been recorded, each poem by different reader, and are played via small speakers. This means that as you walk by each poem–artwork, you are gradually enveloped, first by the static then the audible poem, and as you move on away, or to the next poem, you are released again from poem, into noise, commotion, new poem, exit.
Or perhaps you will wander over to the small alcove in one corner of the gallery, where you will find a book of watercolours created according to similar principles of allowing moments of contingency to interrupt and inform the creative process and final work. The book Watercolors is the result of a 1 1/2 year correspondence with artist David Horvitz, during which the two artists responded to each others’ drawings and texts.
Art exhibition, or poetry surreptitiously snuck into an art gallery? Not the most important or interesting question; nevertheless, the combination of text, art, installation, book, is unexpected, unusual, and fun. It also reminded me of another favourite artist, Mark Manders, who similarly combines art installations with text (& parenthetically, runs the amazing art / poetry books Roma Publications). In this case, the text usually takes the form of the work’s title. These titles are often very long, with words sometimes separated by foreword slashes suggesting a poem’s line break, or with ellipses combined with words.
Häusler’s exhibition, in its constant metamorphosis, is also reminiscent of Zeger Reyer’s rotating kitchen.
But rather than remaining a self-contained whole that turns on its own axis, Häusler’s Case Modification, as the exhibition’s title indicates, emerges as an open–ended process of becoming, incorporating and reflecting the surprises that it evokes in the world. Surprises, in part, brought in and imprinted on the art pieces by all the different visitors; but no less emanating outwards and leaving, in turn, their own impression on all the varying expressions and bodies of the visitors and by extension all their own separate worlds they eventually wander back to.