Mehdi Chouakri, Künstlerhaus Bethanien
Viewing exhibitions on a casual Saturday, one behaves like a passer-by going from one place to another. There are so many galleries and off-spaces in Berlin now that one could easily get lost in a mass of objects, installations and people. Attempting to obtain an overview of art exhibitions becomes a half-fastidious half-exciting activity, resembling a search for clues in a huge smorgasbord.
While trying to organize memories of exhibitions, a tendency to classify occurs. Finding similarities between the signifiers comes out as one of the means to try detangling diverging impressions. Luckily, two shows by the same artist were on view at the same time in Berlin beginning of May: Luca Trevisani's work was hosted by both the Künstlerhaus Bethanien and the Mehdi Chouakri's gallery. Some clues provided for coherence between both shows and allowed an opportunity to sort out cluttered memories.
One of the most noticeable elements of coherence between both exhibitions is the wall dividing the space into two equal parts. At Bethanien, Luca Trevisani separated the space by hanging sheer fabric panels in the middle of the room. The room was partially cut at its length, turning the exhibition space into a corridor and forcing the visitor to walk back to the entrance. Yet this cut is a soft one. The fabric elements, which at times perforated, do not build a precise partition and function more as a filter to look through. There is also a wall in the middle of the space at the gallery Medhi Chouakri, though here it plays a very different role, clearly dividing the show into two sections. On one side, a 16 mm film projection is placed in a dark room, in the middle of a complex loop system. On the other side, groups of objects are displayed on the floor, hanging from the ceiling or mounted on the wall.
For two exhibitions displaying mostly sculptures (the film projection could as well be considered as such), there are some surprisingly precise colour correspondences. The copper used for some pieces recalls the indefinable colour of sound tape bands, from which some mobiles have been hung. Hanging from the ceiling at Bethanien are two honey spoons painted a shade of black to yellow, while a large mobile on view at the gallery also carries among others two paper elements shaded black to yellow.
The artist has been spreading indications of symmetry through both shows. At Bethanien, two fans of different sizes are lying on the floor, opened and facing each other. Their association parallels two framed photographs of soap bubbles hung next to each other. The fans and the photographs unfold a multiplicity Ðof wooden sticks and of bubblesÐ organized in pairs. TrevisaniÕs association of objects often seems unbalanced because they are the same yet do not look alike. This kind of visual organisation suggests that there is a system at work in the shows, and that it is of incomplete nature. Processing by pairs can be considered as a first step towards symmetry, yet these unachieved attempts to reach symmetry convey an impression of tension.
Many elements framing the pieces in the shows can be paired; associated yet being slightly unlike. They raise the following questions: to what extent can the similarity between things be perceived, and from which point can one consider them as too different to be paired? Trevisani's fluctuating pairing system develops around these limits and plays with our tendency to associate elements through the projection of what we know to belong together. Looking for regularity and order is a natural inclination, as is classifying objects (building a logic system helps understanding a situation). This is why movement and symmetry are strongly related in the exhibition: the viewer goes from one piece to the other, building links between them, and thus perceives the whole as to a set of connections. We invent our own geometry of the exhibition, following memories of structures, because this is the only thing we can come up with to analyse and mentally represent a situation.
We are able to manipulate these two exhibitions according to our visual habits because the display of the pieces develops somewhere between entropy and a flimsy invasion of the space. This spatial irregularity generates uncertainty. Thus, one looks frenetically for coherence, which at the end is probably rather generated by our intention than by the one of the artist, and has been mostly fabricated because of our spontaneous need to project structures onto a new situation.
Luca Trevisani 'Boundaries are boneless'
'It's oh so strange - When centimetres feels like miles'
Luca Trevisani „Soap Bubble’s Skin“, 2008 (© Courtesy Galerie Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin)