The Videos in the Windows
It is with a sense of appreciation that I sit to write this Foreword in a cab that zips by the palm trees of Santa Monica and in the direction of Bel Air—in the legacy of certain Irish writers, it took emigration and success elsewhere for me to be invited to participate in an endeavour such as the present one. I had the great fortune of witnessing switch 2015 while on a visit back to Ireland, and was moved by what it embodied and signified. I also understand that this is the space that is traditionally reserved for the intellectual incontinence that is ‘artist babble’; instead, I shall attempt an honest introduction to the nature of switch as a whole on the one hand, and indeed the participant this year, Maria Vedder, on the other.
switch is something of an aesthetic Trojan horse, assuming the guise of ‘the videos in the windows’ whilst the town of Nenagh conducts its daily business. Passers-by wander through the streets carrying shopping bags or heading to the pub, glancing up on occasion at the moving images that switch hosts in shop windows year after year. The first thing to strike me upon a first glance was the manner by which the exhibition turns the divide between high and low art on its head, going so far as to silently mock the head-scratching of the conceptual artists who desperately attempt to extract both fame and philosophy from nothingness. Art, in its formalised sense, thrusts forward from out of the realms of representation and into a conversation that perpetuates its own existence, into which individuals are thrown and in which they absorb and internalise any associated systems of words. As something ‘over there’, art compels those not immersed in these exchanges to participate, thereby promoting the perpetual and incestuous practice of its appreciation. switch, on the other hand, brings the exhibition out onto the street without any fanfare or dreadlocks, presenting itself by way of the unassuming presence of images that morph and change. This is the magic that emerges from the videos, where occasional meaning is conferred upon them by a sideward glance.
For this particular year, artist Maria Vedder brings the breadth of her creations to Nenagh, with pieces centring upon obscure manipulations of space and time. Her self-declared preoccupations are with a minimalist presentation of issues surrounding sustainability, mass media, and chaos. Her works stretch from the geopolitical through to the tensions between humanity and the natural world and indeed general observations on everyday life, decelerating the motion process in order to achieve her ends.
Quite appealing is the piece entitled Die Regenmacher, which hovers from a topographical vantage point. What seems to emerge from this is a series of crop-circle-like rotating shapes, resembling something between boreholes and a vortex into a space that is, in her words, ‘divine or extra-terrestrial’. Whether this is a deliberate ploy by Vedder can be left up to the imagination, though the work exudes something of an ecological agenda that laments the appropriation of the earth (and indeed the sacred symbol that is the circle) by human civilisation. Indeed, peering at the pseudo crop circles, radar displays emerge by way of concentric circles, as though the ecological landscape has erupted on account of acts of war.
Another intriguing piece bears the title Das erweiterte Atemzentrum, comprising a number of floating, surreal three dimensional objects to a backdrop of minimalist symphony. This is mixed with random sounds that appear arbitrarily as the shapes follow no particular logic. No Senses, then, casts a somewhat sombre glance at the deprivation and silencing of the five senses, with the image reel rolling skyward through sequential pictures of individuals who draw attention to this suppression of fundamental human capabilities. Quite notably, each of the figures are driven by some form of high emotion to a place where the only feasible possibility is this very silence.
Perhaps fitting for switch 2016 is a mention of the work Berlin, which brings a gentleman in a suit and sporting a briefcase to the middle of a street, dancing. Curious passers-by stop and notice his antics, as the split-screen view is complemented by the chugging of the tram. Through importing behaviour that might ordinarily be reserved for alternative spaces to the public arena, the subject acts in such a manner that indicates a transcendence of the rigid barriers between suit and briefcase, and dancing as an expression of spontaneity. It is a similar collapsing of distinctions that takes place in the exhibition itself, where Nenagh becomes a gallery space for its townspeople, where the images are permitted to dance amidst the commerce and recreation that surrounds, and indeed the passers-by are entitled to both dance and contemplate the dance of the images before continuing on their way, ‘briefcases’ in hand.
This is but a glimpse at the offering of switch 2016, however, and I will conclude by inviting you to participate in what has become a truly wonderful annual event in the County of Tipperary. Again, it is an honour to have been asked to introduce the exhibition, where I expect that it will unfold as brilliantly as it has done in preceding years.
Amit Mediratta, Los Angeles, California.