by Temisan Okpaku
Human activity, through shaping, consuming, and repurposing the physical environment, is an accelerating process with cannibalistic dimensions and unforeseen implications. With a sense of subtle invitation versus a heavy-handed dogmatic approach, photographers Aleix Plademunt and Rune Guneriussen, represented by Waltman/Ortega Fine Art, examine ways in which we intervene and collide with the environment. Plademunt’s series entitled, Espectadores, and Guneriussen’s series, A Clear Epical Dominance, both feature documentation of temporary installations, both artists are involved with process, form, and conceptual frameworks. Yet, their strategies differ. Although the medium to large scale photographs record temporary interventions, their aesthetic and formal qualities go far beyond simple documentation.
Plademunt’s C-prints are shot in his native Spain: they are evidence of temporary installations utilizing sites of human intervention shaped for human utility. Here, he has added grid formations of folding wooden chairs. The arrangements of chairs invite observation. The shaped landscape and a recognition of the viewer’s participation are present, but there is also another effect. Espectadores #3 (2008) and Espectadores #2 (2008) show rows of empty chairs, create a striking formal composition with the feeling that something is about to happen or that some event has just past. There is a tension of absence, of being in between, further reinforced by the almost vertical shadows thrown by the chairs indicating the time of each exposure (approximately 12 noon). Perhaps he implies that we are cresting as a culture and the gains of the present are merely an early stage of future loss? Perhaps it is a feature of simultaneity, implying universality and scale? Several wooden chairs were installed in the gallery space, adding another opportunity to reflect or participate.
In direct opposition to the broadly engineered landscapes of mines, dams, golf courses, or nuclear plants, the work of Guneriussen ventures into the seemingly untouched natural world of his native Norway. He presents objects and elements suggesting a larger existence; the physical absence of the systems and support structures necessary for site-specific sculptures to be composed. Contrasting the panoramic views of Plademunt, Guneriussen tightens his focus, giving a sense of personal interaction versus the collective scales of Plademunt. Installing decorative sconce lamps wrapped around a tree trunk in the foreground of a damp forest (A Clear Epical Dominance, Guneriussen, 2009) or articulating desk lamps as a winding path on a frozen cliff (Along with the Weather They Came, Guneriussen, 2008), Guneriussen, forces civilization in to what appear to be virgin spaces. Whether it’s an architectural tower of books where scale becomes variable against the monochromatic icescape (Discipline is an Option, Guneriussen, 2012), or the illumination of consumer lamps touches seemingly untouched environments, Guneriussen proposes another approach to the balance between nature and human culture. By creating sublime visions as temporary installations (later removed without scarring the environment), Guneriussen offers an alternative dynamic. As the last trace of the site-specific sculptures, the photographs exemplify a technical proficiency that can be easily overlooked in a world awash with digital manipulation.
While Plademunt’s work invites and implicates a plural audience and Guneriussen’s photographs suggest a singular participant, both artists through process and form are exploring the proposals of reciprocity as we shape our world and, in turn, ourselves. WM
Temisan Okpaku is a nomadic artist and writer. After undergraduate study in philosophy at Georgetown University, Harvard University, and the University of Sydney, he continued his interdisciplinary graduate studies at the New School for Social Research, in New York; the University of Southern California; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the San Francisco Art Institute.
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