h = 400 cm
Esther Schipper is pleased to present h = 400 cm, the first solo exhibition of Karin Sander at the gallery. Within the framework of her exhibition, Sander reworks the space applying three mutually complimentary interventions.
Upon her encounter with the architecturally modified space, her reaction is radical: she transforms the space back into its former state. This is not an act of restoring, but can rather be seen as an analytical gesture. It allows the viewer to experience the ephemerality of the gallery space and the revision of a particular order the space was put under. Sander extracts the vertical plane and brings it to a horizontal position, thus making the walls into something that communicates between floor, ceiling and the other walls.
On the very “base” - the floor - in the second gallery space Sander however adds something: a rug that has specially been made for the space. It shows the invisible lines and measurements of the gallery’s floor plan. In this way Sander not only intertwines the different functionalities of construction planning and architectural design, constructive rationality and ornamental décor, but also occupies a definitional space in between.
In addition, Sander placed three canvases with source codes that contain their own volume.
Karin Sander, born in Bensberg, lives and works in Berlin and Zurich. She studied art and art history at the Kunstakademie Stuttgart and at the I.S.P., Independent Study / Studio Program, I.S.P. Whitney Museum, New York. Her solo exhibitions include: Kernbohrungen, nbk, Berlin (2011); Gebrauchsbilder und Andere, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen; (2010); Zeigen. Eine Audio-Tour durch Berlin, Temporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin (2009), 1:9, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Deutschland (2002).
She took part in various group shows, including: Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012); Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen (2011); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; 9th Sharjah Biennale, UAE (2009); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2006); Skulptur. Projekten Münster (1997). Karin Sander holds a professorship at ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule / Department of Architecture) Zurich.
No stuntmen were used in silent films, nor were dangerous scenes created in a cosy studio on the computer. Steamboat Bill, Jr. by the great Buster Keaton, filmed in 1927/28, includes a long, surreal sequence in which Bill Jr., played by Keaton, wanders through a raging storm. Trying to get his bearings, he stops and looks around. A large house is behind him, with a small gable window, about 60 x 80 cm large. The storm breaks the house apart, and the weighty facade falls on top of Keaton, who of course is standing exactly in the spot where the small gable window is located. Bill Jr. looks around, slightly startled, walks over the wall now lying on the ground and begins wandering again. Nothing in this scene was faked. The wall really did fall – it weighed several tons, and the window only provided 5 cm of clearance space for Keaton’s body. The scene was difficult to calculate, for the storm actually played the starring role. Nobody knew what would happen if the strong winds were to slightly alter the wall’s calculated path. “You can’t film such a scene twice,” Keaton replied laconically, when he was asked what would have happened if...
The effectiveness of the scene was based on technical perfection, but the viewer’s stunned reaction relies on the fact that the protagonist, who had just escaped death by a hair’s breadth, was not even aware of the danger surrounding him. In sum, Keaton went to tremendous effort – even risking his own life – to ensure that it looked like nothing had really happened. The fascination lies in a combination of accuracy and casualness; the maximum effort at calculating something that is little more than a fleeting gesture. But one that has a crucial effect.
The works of Karin Sander frequently have a similar outcome. Like her polished wall pieces, they seem at first glance almost invisible. Like walls coated with water, they seem to acknowledge their speedy disappearance. Double gallery floors or altered layouts adjust the viewer’s position; huge exhibition halls are used to present a polished chicken egg. Or, as is the case here, her works allow walls to crash down. The artist is not interested in a dull “investigation” of the spatial conditions or an equally tedious “survey” of the viewer’s situation, but instead discovers what is also present in a situation that one normally wouldn’t even notice. Usually, the effort she takes to achieve this is quite high, though the result is laconic: an exhibition, which would display works on the walls if the walls were still standing. Instead one sees a picture of a source code, forming a virtual sculpture of the intact room, which is now destroyed before one’s eyes.
In many ways, the artist shows something that does not exist. And this is the casual gesture that has such a great effect. The artist creates the paradox of an exhibition that does not even exist. Only it could have existed. Sander also explored the idea of creating exhibitions that only exist in the imagination of the visitors in her series “Zeigen”. Works of art were ‘depicted’ via audio guide in the imagination of the visitors, but did not exist in real terms. Here, the principle has been expanded into duplication: one sees two shows; one which exists, and one that doesn’t. This correspondence between the real and the imaginary is part of the poetry of Karin Sander’s work. And what is most amazing is how she manages to create this correspondence under a wide variety of conditions.