Something in Space Escapes Our Attempts at Surveying

Ester Vonplon
Samuel Beckett, Quad I and II
Selia Kameric


From February 23 to May 4, 2014, the Württembergischer Kunstverein is showing the exhibition Something in Space Escapes Our Attempts at Surveying. The title has been borrowed from the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

The exhibition spotlights several aspects of the topic of space. It collects the works of nineteen international artists from the sixties till today who approximate this topic from very different vantage points. They focus on general phenomena, as well as on the social, political, imaginary, or aesthetic constitution of space.

Besides iconic works—such as Juan Downey’s video installation Video Trans Americas, which will be shown for the first time in Germany in its entirety, or Samuel Beckett’s teleplay Quad I and II—the exhibition presents works by young artists like Ester Vonplon, who explores the living space of a Roma family, or the artist duo Mona Vatamanu & Florin Tudor, reflecting the politics and poetics of space shifting between games and the struggles of distribution.

Space appears to be the most familiar thing surrounding us. We would not think of doubting that space reflects the place we are situated, nor could we imagine anyone or anything without space. But what concurrence leads to us imagine ourselves together in space? Is space divisible? And what does it mean that space presupposes a number of (social, aesthetic, political, technical, physical, mental . . .) agreements that we are only able to fragmentarily survey because “something in space escapes our attempts at surveying”?

The works in the exhibition range from fundamental questions about the phenomenon of space—for example, the relativity of space and time as is dealt with in Bill Spinhoven van Oosten’s intriguing time-space machine It’s About Time or in Olga Chernysheva’s endless passages through train compartments—to political contexts like the annexation of space as a basic motive for state-building. Sejla Kameric and Manuela Ribadeneira refer to this subject in their ironic wall objects featuring a shirt and a knife.

Other artists appropriate the purportedly objective methods of assessing space (diagrams, maps, etc.) to introduce radical subjectivization. The spectrum ranges from subjective diagrams (Ricardo Basbaum) to collectively produced dream maps (Susan Hiller), to even a grotesquely enhanced geographic survey of the “axis of evil” (Charbel Ackermann).

A number of works take up the contradictions and conflicts of marginalized human habitat, such as that of the homeless (Francis Alÿs) and the “stateless” (Ester Vonplon) and also queer living spaces (Peggy Buth). While these places with their microstructures may be capable of providing home and protection, their presence as marginalized zones still puts them at the mercy of violent attacks.

The loss of the right to space is thematized in the exhibition by citing political changes in systems, neocapitalist urban development, and the spatiotemporal suppression of traditions. Moreover, various works touch on motifs of travel, which are explored as odysseys among spaces, times, cultures, political manifestations, and mythological projections.

Works in the exhibition…

Schlossplatz 2
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Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart