February 2008, Urs Fischer: You @ GBE in New York October 25 December 22, 2007
Urs Fischer, You, installation view courtesy GBE, New York
Urs Fischer, You at Gavin Brown's Enterprise
Walking a few blocks down Greenwich Street from Urs Fischer’s exhibition You, at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise on a cool, December, Saturday afternoon, I was struck by three parked bulldozers flanked by orange cones. The bulldozers were parked next to a rare vacant lot, and seemed, obviously, to be waiting to begin construction on another all-to-common, unaffordable, homogenous glass tower residence. The excavation these bulldozers are on hold for stand in stark contrast to Fischer's excavation at GBE.
Entering the gallery, I am greeted by a wall where the space is usually open. The reception desk has a printed warning where press releases are usually located stating, “The installation is physically dangerous and inherently involves the risk of serious injury or death. Access is granted entirely at your own risk.” The warning also attempts to absolve the gallery, Fisher, and any other affiliated parties, from responsibility for your harm, damage or death.
In the gallery wall, a small, framed hatch is cut, which viewers have to squat down to enter. Moving through the hatch, I enter a small room where the once cement floor has been removed in an approximately 12 inch excavation of the earth below, and then pass through a larger door into the larger gallery space where the floor has also been removed and excavated to a depth of about 10 feet or so below the surface of the former floor. Structural wire and broken drainage pipes jet out violently in various place from the edge of the remaining perimeter of the gallery floor. As I cautiously enter the space, loose debris moves under my feet, and the temperature of the room gives way to the warmth and moisture of earth. I’m standing at the bottom of a massive 10-foot hole of rubble, wire and debris, surrounded by flawless white gallery walls and fluorescent lights overhead. Being that this work I’m in is in Manhattan, I immediately think of the cost of it and the price of real estate, especially in this neighborhood.
Climbing a ridge of the hole to one of the narrow remaining floor edges along the wall, I was struck at the sight of two young toddler-aged girls with English accents entering the space in half enchantment and apprehension. The two moved carefully down the ridge, and became delighted and started to run- just before their mother came in to yell at them. The sight of the two girls in the crater conjured the image of countless World War Two films with scenes of children playing in bomb craters. This image causes me to reflect on Iraqi children and wonder if they are playing in craters. Fisher’s timely gesture of excavation is destructive and excessive in a time of excess and destruction. Here in New York, we have the strange luxury of a crater encased in white walls, while in Baghdad, Karbala, and Karkuk, there now sit craters where homes once stood.
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Chris Kasper is an artist/teacher/writer living in New York City.
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He holds an MFA from the School of Art at Yale University and completed the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2006.