Alternative, attention grabbing and anarchic are just three words that could be used to describe the provocative display of work put on by Berlin based artist, Klaus Weber, currently at Nottingham Contemporary. The two distinct sections of the exhibition are both created by Weber, one his own work and one a selection of objects he has carefully chosen, which fit together to generate meaning, creating ruptures in what we perceive reality to be. Speaking about his exhibition, Klaus Weber himself said; “If people are open enough to receive what is happening here the show is sort of mind-altering.” How then does he create this effect, and is the exhibition in fact, ‘mind altering’?
‘If you leave me I’m not coming’
In galleries one and two, Weber presents a multitude of installation pieces of his own creation, and these unexpected collisions between art and nature make one question the role of the artist and his wealth of ideas, experiences and objects. As spectator, one is actively encouraged to enter Weber’s mind-set and consequently to explore the conceptual standpoint he takes towards art and the relationship it has with the natural world. A particular favourite aspect of mine was the title piece of the exhibition, which begins the spectators’ experience outside on the street, before even entering the gallery space. The large central window has been converted into what looks like a giant windscreen, with wipers and pouring rain on the inside of the window. The exhibit provokes curiosity to passers-by, whilst resembling a dominating vehicle, which seemingly battles through the challenges posed by the outside world. Another notable exhibit from outside of the gallery which you even see just going past on the bus, is the ‘Running Man’, situated on the roof of the Contemporary. This comic book like character looks as if he is running off the edge of the building, and gives Weber’s exhibition a quirky and satirical effect.
Once inside the gallery space, the spectator is confronted with the ‘Fountain’ video recording in the gallery shop space. Even before entering both galleries, Weber’s influence is conveyed, this time on the bookshop wall. The video series focuses on the idea of a fountain in a public place, as a representation of how water brings people together. This representation of a staged accident in Los Angeles, shows a theatricalised call for people to come together, and carries with it many layers of reality and simulations. In the centre, a car crashes into a fire hydrant which causes a fountain of water to explode in dramatic display. The authority of the car and the theme of drought is Weber’s way of sending out an environmental and political message, shown in a public space, which is not really used as a gathering space, but as a transition zone.
The second part of the exhibition, in galleries 3 and 4, is the collection of approximately 200 objects, spanning over a million years. These have been carefully chosen by Weber, to reflect one another and to create collaborative meaning. When viewing the exhibition, I had an overwhelming sense that the art within Weber’s work here was in fact the precise selection process, of an eclectic and seemingly random mix of objects.
I particularly liked the Bird Cage from Sussex Lunatic Asylum exhibit, showing strongly how the objects are given new meaning and life by being placed in the gallery space, which would be expected from a surrealist creator. This striking object within the collection shows notions of the psychological traits of Weber’s work and mimics the system of the mental asylum by representing a ‘cage within a cage’. Weber cleverly creates a new sense of social reality by selecting such objects, and importantly is not taking away the context but rather exerting it to make objects that are not considered to be art, into art objects.
Other artists in ‘Already there!’ include Nan Goldin, Richard Wentworth, Louise Bourgeois and Clive Barker, amongst others. What I found interesting about this section of the exhibition was the selection process, and the diverse areas from which objects had been acquired. From the Tate Museum, to the zoological collections of University College London, the accumulation initially seems bizarre and nonsensical, yet on closer inspection (and after attending the talk with Weber which I will reflect on in due course) the layers of meaning become clearer and it transpires that Weber has in fact been precise in his selection process.
‘Klaus Weber in conversation with Ian White’ – Gallery Talk
The gallery talk put on by Nottingham Contemporary provided a useful backdrop to the exhibition, and it was interesting to hear Weber talk about his art practice, the exhibition as well as his general interests. The conversation with Ian White, (an artist and Adjunct Film Curator for the Whitechapel Gallery) was beneficial to the understanding of the exhibition, which Ian White recognised as ‘generous’ and ‘overwhelming’.
The conversation picked up on the way in which viewers can take contrasting routes through the objects and installations, consequently creating individual responses and meanings. The talk also questioned Weber’s process of selection for the ‘Already There!’ part of the exhibition. This was particularly interesting, as some of the places from which Weber acquired objects seemed surprising, like the archives of the science museum. By taking these objects out of their original contexts and placing them with each other in an entirely different space, Weber has effectively amplified their meaning and situated them within a dialogue with other art objects.
The great thing about the exhibition is that you don’t have to be an art historian to enjoy Klaus’s collection. It is thought provoking and will cause you to respond to the diverse range of objects, and to question the approach of one of the most controversial contemporary artists of the decade. After all, where else would you see a tornado created by a vacuum cleaner, a painting assembled by bees, and a huge window which is constantly raining?
(The exhibition is on at Nottingham Contemporary until the 8th January 2012)