Rivane Neuenschwander & Haegue Yang

by Wes Hill

Pavillon der Overbeck-Gesellschaft

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Rivane Neuenschwander, A queda (Der Fall), 2009, Standbild

Rivane Neuenschwander, A queda (The Fall), 2009, video still

This eponymous exhibition by artists Rivane Neuenschwander and Haegue Yang showcased their shared elementary approaches to art-making. Upon entering the gallery, viewers encountered Neuenschwander’s Chove chuva (Rain rains, 2001): silver buckets hanging at various heights from the ceiling slowly drip water into buckets on the gallery floor. The suspended silver vessels evoke the poetic ambience of Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds (1966) while the pavilion’s surrounding gardens – visible through the windows in the exhibition space – enhanced this work’s allusions to topical issues concerning the sustainability of natural resources. After a few hours, the buckets on the floor filled up with water and had to be emptied by a gallery attendant so the cyclical performance of the work could continue.

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Rivane Neuenschwander, Chove chuva (Regen fällt), 2001

Rivane Neuenschwander, Chove chuva (Rain rains), 2001

In Yang’s Series of Vulnerable Arrangements – Seven Basel Lights (2007), seven intravenous drip-stands are anthropomorphised: dressed individually with multi-coloured light bulbs, cords and an assortment of beads, charm bracelets, nets and tinsel. A scent machine in the corner of the room made reference to the calming techniques used by department stores while lulling the viewer into the work’s spectacle of slowly blinking coloured lights. In the centre space of the pavilion, Neuenschwander’s Anonymous Dialogues (2010) was juxtaposed with Yang’s collaboration with the German artist Peter Lütje, Engagierte Schönheit (Engaged Beauty, 2005). Neuenschwander’s work is comprised of framed typewritten drawings of generic images such as trees, cars and insects, as well as banal text works such as IN JESUS WE TRUST and FUTURE?, which were created by visitors to her previous exhibitions, using only the numbers and punctuation symbols on a typewriter set up in the exhibition spaces. Yang’s and Lütje’s work similarly reflected on artistic authorship: small stacks of seemingly unrelated second-hand German books which were bound together, in homage to Neuenschwander’s enigmatic treatment of found objects.

Building upon the dialogue that the two artists started at the exhibition Escaping Things and Words at the Kunstverein Lingen in 2011, this show revealed their performative approach to how things go, to paraphrase Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s video Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go, 1987). In the upper level of the pavilion, Neuenschwander’s The Fall (2009) offered a compelling example of how art works comprised of simple processes can yield sophisticated results. This looped 15-minute video depicts an egg in a spoon being carried through an out-of-focus forest. The sound of footsteps slowly moving through the forest blends with the sound of the egg tapping against the metal spoon – both sounds filling the space with an hypnotic rhythm and placing the viewer in the tentative position of the unseen protagonist carrying the egg. The work neatly condenses the underlying themes of the exhibition by foregrounding not only a fascination for the material presence of art objects but also an interest in the potential performativity of the viewer’s engagement. Balancing formal meditations with theatricality, the exhibition evinced Neuenschwander’s and Yang’s shared concern for a stylistic harmony, transcending their ostensible cultural differences.

Wes Hill

frieze d/e

Summer 2012
Issue 5

First published in Issue 5

Summer 2012

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