bitforms gallery is pleased to announce a second solo exhibition in New York with German sculptor Björn Schülke. Luftraum features a selection of drawings and the debut of three interactive works.
Tools of modern observation and precision are evoked by Schülke’s new sculptures, which utilize the gallery’s airspace, as well as its floor and walls. His constructions delight, disrupt, and disorient the viewers’ expectation– staging an unpredictable behavioral exchange between the audience and the machine. Drawing attention to the viewer’s own corporeal experience, Schülke’s work is characterized by its lively interior consciousness. Revealed through a complex cycle of communication and movement, each object possesses irrational character traits or distinctive emotional features.
All three ‘creatures’ on view are suspicious, vulnerable subjects that are awakened by motion sensors as the viewer approaches. Psychically charged, these automated works seem fantastical, inheriting an odd performative humor from Valie Export, one of Schülke’s mentors at the Academy of Media Art, Cologne. A dark palette and sinister mood unify the work series, as each piece provokes a fight or flight response pattern.
Perched in a corner of the gallery space, Spider Drone #2 subverts the common idea of surveillance, turning the machine into a technological parasite that performs its own control parody. Extending from this sculpture’s insect-like body are two attached camera arms, which advance according to the detected movements of the audience. The object’s sleek surface finish suggests militaristic perfection and homogeneity, while its exposed wires and screen-display pose a constant threat of inspection. Targeting the viewer, Spider Drone #2 pivots protectively, and absurdly “shoots”, performing the function of automated warcraft.
Luftraum #1 is a solar-powered mobile that uses a wing-paddle for propulsion. Its looming cycle of retreat and approach musters a predatory atmosphere. As the sculpture’s energy stores are filled by natural light in the environment, Luftraum #1’s slow and deliberate rotation evokes the fluid language of drawing, beautifully considering the mass and weight of form. Is the spectator being lured? Is the object before us a security device, or perhaps a trapped being attempting to flee in vain? Also on view, the floor-bound Supersonic #5 hybridizes the shape of a zeppelin airship with the stance of a bull. A theremin embedded within its body aggressively beeps and rumbles, suggesting the possibility of liftoff. Tethers of snakelike industrial cabling flow from its base, punctuated by one singular wheel - or ‘tail’.
A strikingly animist worldview emerges in Schülke’s work, including his drawings. Figures are depicted with gestural sensitivity, exploring automated behavior and challenging the boundaries between animate and inanimate. On view are plans for a range of works that have been commissioned privately and publicly, including Space Observer, a monumentally scaled interactive sculpture for the San Jose airport.