Fountains of Mountains
by Jacob Lillemose | 2002
When you enter Nikolaj Recke's new exhibition at Art Agents Gallery the gallery space will at first glance seem empty. And in an inverted way Frank Stella's often quoted saying that "what you see is what you get" applies to the exhibition. There is nothing to see in this modernist sense of the word.
But Recke has not emptied the gallery completely like Yves Klein did at Galerie Iris Clert back in 1958, although Klein's idea of the immateriality of art is certainly part of Recke's artistic baggage. What Recke has done is to minimized the object hood and visual appearance of the works in various ways in order for them to appear more clearly as conceptual interventions in
the gallery space in which a communication and an interaction between the general context of the work and the viewer's personal history and self can take place.
The works are not desirable fetishes or definitive statements but situations and spaces open to continuous interpretation from one viewer to the next. Hence as Recke himself suggests one should rephrase Stella and say that what you bring or invest is what you get.
This line of thought is presented most literally in the work which you find in a room at the back of the gallery and which is a cooperation with Christian Heide. When you enter the room you put on a headset microphone that records what you say and these recordings are then played back at you with a short delay by four loudspeakers which are placed behind a concave white wall. The pop song-like title with its intended emotional and romantic connotations says it all, the work is Touched by Your Presence. But also the viewer is touched by his or her own presence. It is difficult to recognize your voice when you hear it delayed and distorted in this way, as an echo so to speak, and it is Recke & Heides honestly optimistic intention that this subtle alienating effect will make you aware of or re-discover yourself as both a private and public person communicating your thoughts and emotions on globalism, relationships, art or whatever comes to your mind.
To access Touched by Your Presence you have to pass through the work Broken Kilometer. But you might not realize this, because the only immediately visible elements in the work are a series of small glass plates placed on the walls a feet above the floor. In a replay of Walter de Maria's broken kilometer in New York City Recke has "drawn" a one kilometer long laser line from one end of the gallery space to the other. Parts of the laser line will only appear if someone accidently blows smoke at it and as such the broken kilometer remains an imaginary size. The work is an example of Recke's humorous, yet serious twists of the monumental aesthetics of Land Art and minimalism. Like the artists of these two movements he is interested in increasing the viewer's level of perceptual consciousness, yet he is too humble to embrace their aesthetics in full scale. So instead of making a work that fills the gallery space his laser line lets the viewer fill it and reconsider the distances and dimensions within it. He shifts the focus from the exhibited object to the gallery space as a transformative, physical site.
Feel free to take a walk.
Or you can take a look out the window from Recke's own living room where he works that he has inserted into the gallery windows facing the street. The window is more than a biographical documentation, since it is often looking through this window that Recke is inspired to make new work, it offers the viewers an opportunity to reflect upon the moment of creation. Installed at Art Agents Gallery the window frames a piece of reality unfolding on the street outside. Metaphorically speaking the window works as a transparent membrane between the inside and outside and Recke is saying that this is where art (and the art of living) begins, by paying attention to the surrounding world and connecting it with ones inner self.
Recke is also taking a good look in a series of computer drawings made from photographs of his friends and fellow artists in everyday situations. The subject matter of the drawings is not the psychology of the persons depicted but the eyes that see, in this case Recke's, and how they relate to the persons through the drawing process.
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