The Power of Camouflage
Is that art - or am I wrong - or is art deceiving me?
Camouflage. Whoever first thinks of a military camouflage pattern is right, of course. But the term also stands for a concept. For hiding, camouflaging, not showing oneself to the full intention, for security. And it is the title of an exhibition curated by Lorenzo Benedetti with works by the artists Catherine Biocca, Kasia Fudakowski, Grace Schwindt, and Zin Taylor, which can currently be seen in the Lokremise St.Gallen until June 16, 2019.
There is plenty of camouflage in the show, less certainty about the statements and hidden messages of the works. But that is not its claim either. Its claim is to dissolve precisely in this ambivalence, to sound out and question the boundary between purely aesthetic-formal and conceptual-intellectual offers of reception, and to make them visible despite, or precisely with all their sophisticated deceptive manoeuvres.
Fathoming hidden meanings
The core of the exhibition is formally presented as a subtle metaphor underlying the exhibition: A curtain of colourful silk stripes, a black-and-white drawing that functions in detail as well as in the whole and in interaction with other objects, each one differently. The other elements can also be experienced and interpreted purely visually against the background of their colours, forms, techniques, etc., whereby they may not immediately reveal or even skillfully conceal their deeper, conceptual and ideal meaning. The participating artists play hide-and-seek with the viewer and his or her perception in a surrealistic, playful, almost childlike manner by deceiving the two levels of a contemplation of art and entering into dialogue with them, but also by addressing them themselves. But where and how is it veiled here?
Mergers and Dependencies
The reference to language and thought is a central point in the creative work of Zin Taylor. That’s how he describes it: “Each drawing is a space, a void, for holding thoughts about what it could be. (...) The black lines spell a thing that may or may not be familiar, so that a thought can fill that newly formed area. These caricatures are thinking opportunities, and I've collected a lot of them." Zin Taylor's two three-dimensional objects (*1978 in Calgary) even practice hiding from his own further work, the wall painting Thoughts of a dot as it travels a surface (OLCM / In the valley), 2019, which was drawn with permanent markers and for which Taylor was inspired by the city and surroundings of St.Gallen. The sculptural arrangements A Tool for Stripes and Dots and Double Sliver / Stripes and Dots merge formally and intentionally - according to the title of the exhibition - with the strokes, dots and lines on the wall behind them and thus, depending on the viewer's point of view, become either a fused unit or individual works again.
Continuouslessness, the work by Kasia Fudakowski (*1985 in London), which was created especially for the exhibition - consisting of several parts that can be seen separated from each other on the one hand, but on the other hand support each other and do not function without the other parts - takes the actual meaning of a room divider, to the form of which the work refers, ad absurdum, because behind this screen one can protect oneself from anyone's gaze, one feels rather as if one were presented by it oneself. The work deals with the relation to our body and the relation to other people. In the artist's ongoing project, which she began in 2011 and intends to continue ever further, confusion and deception can be found once again - already in its title with its double negation.
Don't touch it!?
The central, monumental work Curtain by Grace Schwindt (*1979 in Offenbach) refers to a firmly anchored convention in (art) exhibitions: "Do not touch!" - no matter how much you want to. But that doesn't apply here, so visitors are also referred to in the artwork reviews. And they probably have to, because instinct says: nothing is touched in the “holy” exhibition space - at most with haunting glances. But the haptic of the silk stripes, which fall in the most dazzling colours from the over six meters high ceiling of the Lokremise St.Gallen shed - the building designed by Carl Moser was originally used for the maintenance of steam locomotives and is now considered an industrial monument of national importance - is too tempting and appeals to visitors in a subtle way. The colour stripes are soft and gleam richly in colour, so that one cannot avoid the reflex of wanting to touch and walk through them.
Of pseudo-stones, talking chains and other surreal objects
The work Volatile Compounds by Catherine Biocca (*1984 in Rome) plays hide-and-seek with our perception, wants to convince us, that we see a book in which one could leaf through to reveal in the next moment that it is made of marble. The artist lays out bricks scattered on the floor (resting on a foil printed with a red brick pattern), which on closer inspection betray: In reality, these are plastic pseudo-bricks disguised as bricks. These elements are taken up in the surreal audio-video installations and continued even more absurdly with an animated, loudly laughing mushroom. Elsewhere, in the installation "Sabotage", jewelry, clothes racks and dust covers, whose installation on the corresponding stands assumes anthropomorphic facial features, speak directly to the viewer. A chain moving by video animation sends us enigmatic messages by asking: "Is it habit, tradition, intellectual confusion? Do you have any clue at all? I mean about anything?".
Author: Sophie Lichtenstern
Sophie Lichtenstern works in communication and marketing at the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen. She is currently completing her master's degree in literature, art and media studies at the University of Konstanz and is particularly interested in contemporary art and interdisciplinary studies.
Cover picture: Camouflage, Installation view, Lokremise St.Gallen ©Mark Mosman