Views on politics and poetics
02 - 30 Apr 2011
Chez Valentin Gallery is pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition by Paris-based German artist, Veit Stratmann, opening on 26th February. Further questioning the problematic of space and its representation, Stratmann’s work once again invests a gallery space for which it was specifically made. This particularly large installation consists of rectangular pieces of carpet arranged in grid on the floor, at once saturating and organising the totality of the space. The spectator is invited to walk over the expanse, choosing where to place his/her steps in relation to the motif of alternating carpet squares.
Here the spectators leisurely visit isn’t encumbered by an exterior motive but fuelled by the wish to discover an object which is ‘worth the detour’. Stratmann’s choice to opt for vivacious, if not bordering on garish colour scheme, which strays from his trademark discretion, attracts the spectator’s curiosity, giving him/her a clue that, albeit disguised, there is most probably something sensational here to behold. And yet in general when discussing the works of Veit Stratmann, it is an unspoken rule that the artist rarely reserves a spectacular epilogue for the spectator. This act of displacement becomes a considered act, performed for a reason, as much a means as an end in itself. This act of roaming provides new perspectives that allow us to perceive and trace our own presence within the gallery. In the duration of a short stroll the gallery space, which is fully invested albeit practically empty, is given a new significance that the spectator has personally chosen. Thus, the artist imposes a spatial configuration that plays with the common rules of orientation, while manipulating reference points in such a way that spectator meanders over this vast multicoloured chequerboard without adopting a systematic sequence of steps. The spectator must concentrate his/her attention of the process of moving, being cautious not to stumble. In this sense, Stratmann’s work is able to be contemplated passively and yet at the same time forces the visitor to experience the need to stabilise his or her own posture.
Walking around the instillation therefore requires a keen sense of physical awareness with the body finding itself in an uncomfortable position, as if it were mastering fragile balancing act. As the visitor penetrates the inner zone of the work, he/she becomes the legitimate habitant of the surrounding space, the central actor within a territory whose codified nature would normally condition his/her presence. Here, however, the nature of the environment confines and orders the spectator’s presence to follow a timid protocol that is normally assigned and limited to that of a sacred space. Once again, Viet Stratmann’s work is organized around the significance of it’s own exhibition space, substituting the constraints of the almost religious genealogy of the art gallery for different constraints: the space becomes an ethereal place of play, a domain to invest or even to conquer. The constraints of the system that the artist presents to the visitor do not act to compartmentalize our experience of the work but they in fact open up the possibility of new modes of representation. These new rules of play, which in turn relate to an entirely new way of playing, strategically generate new attitudes. In exchange for his/her physical position, the spectator inherits a role within the work, allowing their very presence to both animate the space and also to cast themselves blithely into the inner limits of the work’s domain. The artist’s invitation to stroll around the space is an invitation to create ones own choreography and to embed a trace of the path each visitor has made.
Thus, Viet Stratmann’s installation engenders an unusual circulation within a specific space and, in doing so, prolongs the questioning which is central to the work. This new way of experimenting with space is significant as it is never formally imposed, existing in opposition to any relation of force between the instillation and visitor. In a moment of suspense, the context invested by the spectator presents a new environment that he/she may survey, inside of which this curious actor, wanderer or player is able to be truly ‘present’ for the first time.
Clara Guislain (Translated by Eliza George)