Ikon presented the first UK exhibition by Swiss artists Andres Lutz and Anders Guggisberg. Consisting of video, painting, installation and sculptural pieces, made since these two artists began their partnership in 1996, it was a judicious survey including spectacular new work.
Epitomising Lutz and Guggisberg’s funny melancholy is Man in the Snow (2005). This faint video projection, shown on a lit white wall, loops the image of a silhouetted figure endlessly trudging through a blizzard landscape. There is neither start nor obvious destination to his struggle against the elements. The image is bleached, but then subtly integrated into the wall, as if to suggest an endless effort at this boundary between the space dedicated to art and the world beyond. It is romantic, funny, all-too-familiar, and shows there is no escaping the fact that human life (irrespective of art) is no easy-going.
Lutz and Guggisberg have a light touch on the profoundest truths; they understand absolutely that true words can be spoken in jest. Their video installation Wash the World (2007), modified according to its location, reveals the story of a mad technician, his laboratory being the place where irreversible phenomena are seen to go backwards. On monitor screens we witness waterfalls un-spilling water whilst a nuclear power station sucks exhausted vapour back into itself. By contradicting the laws of nature Lutz and Guggisberg are suggesting an ecological concern and remind us of a probable reality through overemphasised fiction.
Population (2007) likewise conveys a tragic-comic view on the world. Approximately 200 wooden birds, originally made for the Sharjah Biennial, it is a flock of wooden sculptures, subjected to the searing effects of a blow-torch. Their blackened, dysfunctional appearance signifies post-apocalyptic mutation and distress, but they are also ridiculous. They are, at once, Walt Disney creatures, Hitchcock’s Birds, and harbingers of an envisaged apocalypse.
A new site-specific work involves the modification of gallery spaces on Ikon’s first floor. A permanent feature here, a massive floor-to-ceiling block, is twisted on its axis, seemingly through the efforts of little ceramic creatures. We identify with them easily whilst recognising an unsettling heroic pointlessness.
An artist’s book, including a selection of new black and white photographs by Lutz and Guggisberg, is available for £14.95.
Developed in collaboration with Folkwang Museum Essen, Lutz and Guggisberg’s exhibition Impressions from the Interior was kindly supported by Prohelvetia, Swiss Arts Council and the Swiss Cultural Fund in Britain.