The title of Tilo Schulz’s exhibition, Orbit, can be understood in two ways: astronomically, as a curved path of an astral body – a moon around a planet or a planet around a star – or in the mathematical sense: the collection of points in a dynamic system that map its progress over time. Indeed, the Leipzig-based artist’s exhibition makes good on both definitions, deftly taking advantage of the circuitous architecture of the Kunstverein Hannover. A barrier placed in front of the last room compels visitors to walk back through the exhibition in the other direction, which – just as an orbit in a dynamic system – necessarily entails a shift in the viewer’s perspective on the exhibited works.
The exhibition begins with Moments before the solution (the world isn’t ready yet) Version II (2014), which Schulz exhibited in a reduced version last year at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. White-coated chipboards lie strewn across the floor, sparsely painted in bright monochrome colours beginning at their edges, conveying the impression of puzzle pieces meant to be put together. Upon closer examination, this impression proves false. Nonetheless, the work spread across three rooms suggests the possibility of a coherent stretch that is being presented here in a fragmented and, as the title claims, temporary state. What is also interesting is that the boards are displayed lying down and thus in an unusual position for exhibited paintings, which in turn draws more attention to the clear white of the empty walls.
The two large white passages of the Kunstverein notably remain mostly empty. A monumental cylinder the height of the room, constructed of modular components coated in corduroy fabric, stands shyly in the corner of one gallery. One walks through it only to enter the next room through a repetition of the same cylindrical body. The rounded interior spaces of the two cylinders – coated in stuffy, soft sound-absorbing fabric – function as a cosy counter-concept to the white, angular sobriety of the rooms. This installation, entitled There is a circle in your life that needs to be repeated (2014), plays with the unsettling effect of duplication, an effect that is affected when the visitor has to walk back through the orbit and the two rooms are perceived in a reversed order than before.
In I built a desert under the bridge but didn’t cross it yet (2012–14), a third installation ultimately distorts the visitor’s path. Strings reminiscent of Fred Sandback, under which the visitor must duck at times, span three adjacent rooms. As a counter-point to these wild lines, a flat grid of mouse-grey linoleum tiles lies on the floor, giving slightly when stepped upon. With its references to techniques of spatial representation as well as to Carl Andre’s 5 × 2 Altstadt Rectangle (1967) and to Sandbeck’s work (as well as the inclusion of the ducking, swerving viewer), this installation is certainly the strongest piece shown.
This well-considered ensemble also definitively exposes the common thread running through Orbit: all of the works override spatial boundaries. Wherever one space of the Kunstverein physically opens onto the next, Schulz has installed an artwork. He interconnects the individual rooms, incorporating a transitory moment into his works en passant, implemented most clearly by the double door system of There is a circle … In the last room Schulz shows No smoke, no pipes, no glory (2012/14), the only deviation from this strategy, consisting of two upstanding wooden tubes painted with detailed colour gradients.
Behind the aforementioned barrier, the two pipes are inaccessible as if exhibited in a display cabinet. Due to the distance, the works’ evident richness of detail can only be surmised. By blocking the viewer’s movement, Schulz forces an external view onto the room-as-container and thus also a fixed concept of space that is diametrically opposed to the moving spatial continuum of his orbit. At the same time, this barrier marks the turning point in the dramaturgy of the exhibition, as it is not until the way back that Orbit can be experienced as a dynamic system.
Translated by Jane Yager
First published in Issue 17