14 February – 6 April, 2014 (The Calder, Wakefield)
Words: Daniel Annet
Ingress: ‘I have been thinking about art as being like meeting a stranger’ (Erika Vogt, 2014). The gallery is cold, empty but for two
invigilators and a scratching resonation of sound.
Speech Mesh – Drawn OFF is a site-specific commission for The Calder, Wakefield and the first European exhibition by American artist Erika Vogt. The exhibition stands to question curation and rally against what actually equates to a ‘meaningful arrangement’. In an interview with Aesthetica, Vogt explains that the exhibition title is a filtered appropriation from the Romanian poet Paul Celan, whose theory of poetic economy as sprachgitteris actuates Vogt’s own concern with the process of creating objects and image(ry). Indeed, the term is a compound of two nouns; sprach meaning language and gritter meaning lattice, fence or woven mesh. Evoking this idea of a net, a multiplicity of mediums including cast-plaster sculptures, audio-video loops and a spate of ropes and pulleys confronts the viewer.
During a previous exhibition, Stranger Debris Roll Roll Roll  Vogt described her spatial compositions as ‘field[s] of debris’ – an appropriate assertion considering the raw aesthetic context of The Calder, a former nineteenth century textiles mill. Indeed, the viewer – activating the space – is obliged to move; forth – around – through – under – between – back. The experience is prepositional, as much as it is propositional; dependent on the circumnavigation of the space as an undulating total. But at the same time, with these fractals at hand we never see the fuller picture, rather we glimpse a dramaturgical dispersing of details, imploding in a synaesthesia of pacing colour and pulsating noise.
The titling of Vogt’s exhibitions are a vital constituent of the process; ordaining and ordering language through a net(work), ambulating meanings, leaving or letting the viewer to thus descramble for those very meanings. Perhaps, an elucidating commentary would come with the insertion of Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s understanding that ‘(language is excess movement)’, as discussed in his The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance . Berardi builds around the destabilizing nature of language and puts in poise the view that language – as a fought/fraught territory – serves to simultaneously sensualize and spurn fixed meaning.
Similarly, Vogt sidesteps blindfolded binaries by a series of overlaps, interlaces, and interweaving. For instance, the artist’s filmmaking is a combinatory layering, superimposing original with re-appropriated footage in screened weaves and wefts, like a broken dialogue, that seems to beckon from the screen, wrapping around the very mechanical scheme that folds through it. I may venture to argue Vogt has subtly landed on Derrida’s theory of the lemmata and passe-partout in The Truth in Painting , by her displacing of the internal and external for the middle-ground. The meld between the architecture of the analogue with what curator Andrew Bonacinahas called digital ‘non-space’, collides with the physicality of the sculptures and the implicated viewer -you can almost feel the whole set-up percolate with the background stabs of sounds (!)
The immersive, multilayered environment figures the viewer among a dense viscosity of the visual. The exhibition is depicted as a clean mess, the oxymoronic nature of which (off-) sets (off) the exhibitions overcoming, or more succinctly, embracing of incomprehensibility, by bulwarking its ‘ultimate meaning’ as unstable, roaming with and as the viewer. Indeed, Vogt’s exhibition recapitulates meaning from the object to the subject, dismantling the frame(work) of exhibition display. In this way the sculptures take role as scaffolding, bunting of right, left, supporting the mechanism of meaning across all vectors.
As cast-plaster, the sculptures are suggestive of a consumer history of replication and an art history of preparatory models. Swelling from their commodified counterparts, the objects formulate a synecdoche of the market and the maquette, their normal use/application rendered obsolete; the secondary becomes the primary for Vogt. The sculptures chosen are often parts that join, connect, fuse like screws or on the other side of things, occupy like anchors and quasi-headstone slabs. This relationship of equilibrium is played out before the viewer, the pivot, who witnesses the weight of one object raising another, forming a scale that has the potential to un/screw perpetually.
Exhibition expectations are affronted by Vogt by measuring the mutability of objects and images. As has been granted in her earlier displays at the New Museum, Vogt ‘challenges prescribed art-making systems, conflating and confusing their logic’ with sculpture that is scribed in space like a drawing; all lines of thought perturbing normalized display methods. These sculptures are entangled fragments of information awaiting untangling; s/p/licing by individual spectatorship.
The motif of the exhibition (albeit an invisible one) is the fluidity of meaning, un/attached to the premise of objects. Echoing this, a key stake placed in the gallery is the oscillation between tension and suspension. Amass the mass of these objects, weight is retained and maintained by this precarious economy of counterbalances. Moreover, their tectonic quality is intensified by their potential to ‘expand or contract’, move or be moved, as above, so below. Their concurrent defiance and liberation of gravity (ever the material of art-historical sculpture-making) challenges preconceived notions of sculpture as a whole; their varying distantiation from the ground and thus the modality of the plinth liquidates their quality as solids, leaving a residual that perfuses the intervals between nominal art categories.
Vogt approaches and demarcates the gallery in an exciting way, highlighting the volumetric qualities and indeed quantities of the 600square metre space, the various tools and vessels, acupuncturing in diagonals and filling full the space. Interestingly, the economy of labour also features astutely, with the positioned objects hinting at the physical exertion involved in their literal hanging and the industry behind it all.
Egress: Who is pulling the strings?
Filed under: Art & Photography