Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Do Not Walk Outside This Area, Roman Ondάk, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (26 April - 18 June 2012)

A chance visit to Deutsche Guggenheim during a work trip to Berlin for DMY International Design Festival resulted in seeing a work of art, so simple yet so completely captivating in both its idea and installation that it has rejuvenated my interest in contemporary conceptual art.  As part of Slovakian artist Roman Ondάk’s exhibition, winner of Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year award, an entire wing of a Boeing airplane rested on the middle gallery floor, acting as a bridge and only form of entrance between two further galleries.

Such an unassuming object, taken out of its usual functioning context, became a true thing of simple beauty and walking across it momentarily transported me to a liminal space not quite in the gallery and yet not quite anywhere else – a complete immersion in a very similar way to that experienced recently in the Kusama installation (see earlier review).
The gallery’s website succinctly introduces Ondάk’s work:
“Travelling, moving through space and time, is a continuous theme in Ondák’s work. This is the case in do not walk outside this area, a project the artist conceived specifically for his Artist of the Year exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim. The path through the installation leads via the original wing of a Boeing 737-500, which enjoins two exhibition rooms like a bridge. In both rooms, works on paper and installations are devoted to the theme of “travel”. One of them is Balancing at the Toe of the Boot, 2010, a series of seven postcards and sixteen fictional newspaper articles based on a trip to Calabria. To reach the second part of the exhibition, the visitor walks over the wing in the area marked: “Do not walk outside this area,” entering the unreachable surface that otherwise can only be seen out of the window of an aircraft cabin.
Ondák not only plays with a reversal of inside and outside, but also with the conventions of the art industry. Everyone knows the prohibitions, barriers, and boundaries that lend artworks a valuable, exclusive aura and thus fetishize them: Please do not touch! Do not come too close. No photographs. But Ondák’s wing is not a hallowed sculpture. It is an object of use that we are supposed to enter and touch. This footbridge serves as a runway for our ideas, memories, and fantasies. In the age of global mobility, Ondák invites us to take an inner, imaginary journey”.
Very cleverly done Roman!