Over the past several years, few artists have moved so effortlessly across media and concepts like Urs Fischer. From kaleidoscopic, cartoonish abstractions to surreal sculptural assemblages on to patient, gradual evolutions of form and space on canvas, his work perhaps best characterized by its willingness to never stay in one place for too long. This relentless invention finds a new outlet in PLAY, a new sculptural work at Gagosian Gallery in New York, created in collaboration with Madeline Hollander.
At the intersection of sculpture, performance, and choreography, PLAY is described as “an arena of chance encounters where visitors are invited to interact with nine office chairs that seem to have lives of their own.” The chairs slide across the space, motorized so that they snake in out and of what appear to be predetermined patterns. Yet, at a moment’s notice, the chairs will stop and turn, moving off in another direction as if prompted to avoid confrontation or collision. The same happens when a visitor gets close to the chairs, launching the objects back out and into open space.
The show describes itself as invested in the act of play, inviting the act of interaction and subversion of predetermined hierarchies or roles not as part of set aesthetic or political agendas, but rather as a feedback loop in and of itself. Fischer and Hollander’s work relies on this open space, a continually reinforcing and evolving series of interactions bound by time and place. The more the viewer seeks to control the chairs, the clearer it becomes that they are not pawns or pets but participants. By attempting to understand the choreography, the viewer ultimately ends up as a creative partner in the work, enacting the same patterns originally designed, and creating new ones at the same time.
These are works consumed not with the creation of a set, internalized language of aesthetic singularity, but rather how bodies and patterns move and evolve in space. Hollander’s work, so often interested in the environmental gestures of the human in engagement with the world around them, here is afforded a strikingly simple and elegant framework for expression, removing the human body from the equation while investigating the convergence between materials, players and objects assumed as “lifeless.” This convergence, so often sitting subtly at the heart of Fischer’s own work, here gets a distinct reworking, one that lets his ongoing interests and projects crystallize in the most poetic of ways.
PLAY is on view through October 13th.
— D. Creahan
Urs Fischer: PLAY with choreography by Madeline Hollander [Exhibition Site]