A poster in a Museum

In Kristina Ierobalieva

Illustration: ©2014 Kristina Ierobalieva

Piece realised on the occasion of the exhibition:

20 Years of the creation of The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Carnet de Bal at Fonderie Kugler, Geneva 2014

After Denis Oppenheim
F4 poster for Kristina Ierobalieva for 20 years of the MAMCO exhibition

Relaunching structure 2014, After Dennis Oppenheim, poster composé pour l’artiste Kristina Irobalieva, présenté au MAMCO, Genève.

The Content of The Poster

A Way Station for Launching an Obsolete Power (A Thought Collision Factory in Pursuit of a Journey) (Clip in a Rifle – A Weapon), 1979, (air ducts, turbine ventilator, centrifugal blower, conveyor belt, wood, fiberglass, rubber, cable, pulleys), was a monumental art work by American artist Dennis Oppenheim (1938 – 2011). The piece was built in Brooklyn, New York and installed at the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc. P.S.1 (now MoMA PS1) in Long Island City, New York in 1979. In 1980 the piece was bought and stored on one of the floors of a building situated on the Avenue Général Dufour in Geneva, Switzerland. The owner of that building, Mr. André L’Huillier, was a famous Geneva art collector and a co-founder of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Mamco), Geneva. He was one of the people who gave Oppenheim the opportunity to create a new piece while staying in the city.

This first version of A Way Station… is one of the so called Machine Works by Oppenheim. It celebrates the passage of thought into physical shapes and forms. These works are equated with “mental factories”, “blast furnaces”, or “service stations” for the mind. As Alain Joyaux * writes, “The Machine Works series, despite its visual emphasis on technology, sees the construction of an object as a metaphor for the artist’s exploration of creation and its reliance on implication uses the object as a metaphor for the creative process.”

The trolley is charged through the top (the entrance to the piece) with “ghost bullets”. The curved conveyor belt is composed of metallic wheels that suggest a way out. A centrifugal blower blasts cold air that makes the blades turn at the top of the air ducts. A conveyer belt offers another way out on the left and functions continuously in the direction of the side window. This launching structure refers to the delivery process and the assembly line, where different elements are added in sequence. It highlights Oppenheim’s concern with making a physical representation of the process of thoughts and forces that precede art making.

In an interview given to Steve Wood **, Oppenheim commented on his tendency to draw on systems outside of art (for example, physics) in his work, “It is possible to see equivalents for many of the actions of the machines in extra art systems. It really has to do with how art can be used […] I see the art process, like the machine process, as operating with an energy flash, as the mind does when producing an idea. Launching structures such as the conveyor belt in ‘Way Station for Launching an Obsolete Power’ […], which refer to delivery, thought delivery – also in ‘Diamond Cutter’s Wedding’, the assembly line, the processing system, the coupling of elements emphasized my concern with the internal dynamics of thought process, making physical the extra-visual forces that proceed art making, that form thoughts.”

Unfortunately, during the renovation of the building, this first version of A Way Station… was neglected and destroyed in 1980. Later, Mr. L’Huillier asked Oppenheim to realize a second version of A Way Station… in 1981 based on the drawings done previously. As the curator and art historian Hendel Teicher *** observes, “Contrary to the usual practice by other sculptors, Oppenheim’s drawings do not help him to “solve” explicit problems but are source of other “interpretations”, other possible utopias. They are always done either after the “model” or object have been built. The model is certainly a subject for study but it is, above all a “subject of utopia” and thereby becomes a work of art.”

What interested me was the instability and the mutability as well as the different states (levels) of existence of the artwork: from sculpture to drawing, from two dimensional to three dimensional, from project to physical existence, from accomplishment to defeat and from destruction to renewal. These conversions of the existence of form make me think of some of the early earthworks of Oppenheim like Annual Rings (1968), a series of rings carved in the snow on the U.S.A./Canada border, that imply the subjectivity of time and space and the durability of an art piece. By his own act of re-making A Way Station… in 1981, the artist demonstrates that his sculptures even though entirely autonomous works, are actually not fixed in time and space, but are to become or are to evolve.

Following that reflection, the creation of Relaunching structure 2014 was motivated by a desire to work with notions of inheritance and the active intervention on existing structures. With the drawings of A Way Station… as a starting point, I reconstructed the entire piece in white, matt pvc. That lack of differentiation between the different parts and their original function gave the “prototype” appearance I was aiming for.

By bringing the original piece to a state of synthesis, this model makes us think of the “maquettes” created by architects before the construction of a building. A model is usually a miniature of an object meant to be produced in the dimensions of its projected reality. This condensed presence relates to its possible achievement in the future. Its hermetic and compact aspect expresses a desolate surface and makes us think of a “box” or a “lattice from some virtual world”, pointing at the same time to the future and casting us backward in time.

Relaunching structure 2014 is a sculptural manifestation of memory, not of melancholy or mourning, but of radical potential. This transfiguration process gives evidence of a state of permanent metamorphosis, an intermingling of objects and reference systems. It is a material expression and a way of releasing ourselves from logical chronologies, and linear temporality.

In order to continue the existence of the piece beyond its three dimensional, sculptural presence, this “printed – matter” that you are reading at the moment, has an entropic role. Time is compressed within it and information could be read or just “seen”. This “printed – matter” accentuates the fluidity between the various incarnations of the work and involves resistance to a single space and time, even to a single physical form. In his Theses on the Philosophy of History, Walter Benjamin **** writes, “History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled by the presence of the now (Jetztzeit).”

* Dennis Oppenheim: Accelerator for Evil Thoughts, Alain G. Joyau, Ball State University Art Gallery, Ball State, Indiana 1985

** An Interview with Dennis Oppenheim, Steve Wood, Arts Magazine, vol.55, June 1981

*** Dennis Oppenheim, Hendel Teicher and Alexandrine Neury, Catalogue published by AMAM (Association for modern art museum) and Eric Franck Gallery, Geneva, 1983

**** Illuminations, Walter Benjamin, edited and with an introduction by Hannah Arendt, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1968

All of the above pictures were reproduced courtesy of The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the artist