WILL THE MOON...?
ANDRES THALMANN GALLERY, ZURICH
MARCH 22 - MAY 11 2013
Films and fairy-tales often feature crystal balls as a kind of magic telescope that affords a glimpse of the future. No hocus pocus is involved, however, in Katja Loher's glass balls and their complex reflections of our world. All one has to do is look inside them to perceive a colourful, riotous video cosmos.
The Swiss artist, who resides in New York, calls this series of worksBubbles. Designed by Loher and hand-crafted by a female glass-blower, the fragile, perfectly clear glass orbs evoke air or soap bubbles. Three-dimensional video images float weightlessly about inside them. Luminously-clad dancers form kaleidoscopic patterns and ornaments, chains of letters and words that configure themselves into intelligent, poetic, subtle questions inspired by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. They linger on in the mind of the beholder long after the visit.
Loher's art has great immediacy yet remains as elusive as a seductive mirage. Recorded from a birds-eye perspective, the videos turn us into modern Gullivers who clumsily tower above a miniature paradise. A similar fate befalls the characters inToybubble. In a piece reminiscent of digital toys such as Tamagotchi chicks, two spheres each display a dancer in short video loops. Here, however, the toy characters rise above their designed repertoire of movements when they discover each other in the adjacent sphere and become sentient creatures trapped inside their art(ificial) world. The piece alludes to fairy-tale spirits and human characters that are to be found in the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, in E.T.A. Hoffmann's novella, The Golden Pot, or in Blade Runner, the science-fiction classic in which organic robots disobey the man-made rules and become humanity's terrifying foe. Loher's work is about control, about people who function like machines or machines that function like people; it is about the darker aspects of life, power and isolation. While fairy-tales rely on magic, Loher relies on technology – which can be used for good and bad in equal measure.
Using precisely co-ordinated and harmonised music and costumes, Loher composes her magical world in co-operation with professional dancers and choreographers. While most of our living-rooms feature highly visible electronic entertainment gadgets, Loher's video sculptures obey the old artistic principle that a perfect work of art will never betray the effort that has gone into its making. Her exhibitions, therefore, conceal the paraphernalia of cutting-edge video technology. This is as true for her Bubbles as for her room installations and herVideoplanets, in which weather balloons provide the projection surface.
"Aggressive beauty" is what Loher calls her brilliant concept of creating artificial worlds whose flawless images lure spectators in – only to confront them, seemingly in passing, with weighty issues. Her video tables set for two invite visitors to take a seat in the art world. Videos are projected in wine glasses, a carafe and circular openings the size of dinner plates: it is a feast for the eyes that strongly alludes to physical and spiritual nourishment. In Last Supper a ballet troupe of merrily dancing bees stand for natural growth and maturing. Opposite them, pills and dried food allude to scientists' warnings of the impending extinction of bees and its likely impact on our nutrition. In Supper for Two the plate-screens display rows of dancing letters that assemble themselves into questions that may at first glance evoke an old couple chatting aimlessly at the end of their day. But a small absurd note leads the conversation towards the abyss of everyday life: "How many hours had your day?", "What didn't you do?"
In parallel to the presentation at Galerie Andres Thalmann of Loher's most recent pieces, Miniversum, an overview of her works is being held at the Haus für Kunst Uri in Altdorf, Switzerland. Especially for the two exhibitions the artist has created a multiple, Are the Bees Looking for Gold?