The main strategies in Adriana Lara‘s work involve superimposing and blending different sign systems. In this cryptically titled show, S.S.O.R. (short for Symbolic Surface Of Revolution), Lara distributed both single and loose groups of medium-format, white canvases around the walls of the main space of the Kunsthalle. This work – also called Symbolic Surface of Revolution (2012) – involves a fragmented hanging, held together by a continuing horizontal line of small vertical bars on the canvases. Like a line of dominos, these black printed-shapes seemed to march across the canvases until they started to topple over. A pile of A4 pages was scattered on the floor in the middle of the room (Living Sculpture, 2012); the sheets were covered with text fragments – a cryptic dialogue about planes, cylinders and ambiguities – which were superimposed with graphic symbols, the latter arranged in a way that depicted a face on each piece of paper.
The show‘s title is a pun on the phenomenon of the ‘surface of revolution’. As the press release notes, this mathematical term refers to the surface of revolution that is created in a three-dimensional space when a curve is rotated around a line. With the cylindrical work (1 (One) from Numbers (Disambiguation) (2012), Lara added a sculptural variation, wrapped with a canvas printed with the white and grey chequered pattern – known to Photoshop users as the ‘canvas’, the zero level. Hanging behind this work and taking up most of the wall, the large-scale painting Coup (2012) – with its enlarged vertical bars toppling over – echoed the smaller black bars in the main room. Lara’s exhibition seemed to generate its own domino effect with this repetition. 2012 (2012) – the eponymous number shown on a flat-screen in the last room of the exhibition – added yet another variation, albeit computer-generated, on the already multifarious spread of surface thematics.
The title of the show also plays on the political meaning of revolution. In the Cold War, politicians spoke of the ‘domino effect’ to allude to ideological or revolutionary movements spilling over from one nation to another. In the extensive literature accompanying the show, this layer of meaning is introduced with a reference to the 1968 student riots in the artist’s native Mexico (and their bloody suppression in the Tlatelolco Massacre). It’s left up to the viewer to decide whether or not there’s a connection with recent events such as the Arab Spring. The exhibition reflects the fact that the domino effect – in its linearity – is also considered an inadequate model to predict the dynamic of such complex processes. With her strict formalistic presentation, the artist demonstrates how to build up allusively the viewer’s expectations about art, politics and each system’s symbolism. Signs appear as both empty forms and carriers of meaning, linked with one another by – what else? – surface.
Translated by Dominic Eichler
First published in Issue 7