10437 - 20170108 - Kunsthalle Basel presents 17th edition of the Regionale exhibition - 26.11.2016-08.01.2017

Installationsansichten, Beyond the Real, Kunsthalle Basel, 2016. Foto: Philipp Hänger
For the 17th edition of the Regionale exhibition, Kunsthalle Basel presents seven young artists of the region. Their work negotiates the so-called “real” in diverse ways—documenting it, attempting to replicate it, or oneirically charging it so as to create works that can best be described as surreal. In each case, either a proximity to or a distance from the real equally suggests an engagement with it. Brought together in the exhibition, these various responses to reality—via interrogation, celebration, refiguration, or distancing—offer a keen commentary on our contemporary world. Beyond the Real looks at the productions of artists who use everyday materials to re- flect on reality as well as the possibilities for its reimagination.
Room 1
Othmar Farré’s video and sculptural installation you already know is the first work visi- tors encounter. It takes as its subject our contemporary fascination with the optimization of the self. Situated on packing-tape- covered couches are three screens showing “motivational” video clips collected from the Internet. The videos attempt to inspire confidence, provide help during life’s downturns, or boost self-discipline. They offer a vivid, critical picture of a society in which personal advancement, ever more material success, and smooth social performance are regarded as central aims in life.

Dominic Michel plucks images and objects from his studio and lays them on the surface of his digital scanner, transforming them from material reality into digital files, then printing the images, returning them back into the material world. This daily routine is an accumulative process, like keeping a diary, by which the artist records his concrete, quotidian reality while creating a different kind of reality by producing new relationships on the flat glass of the scanner. The prints, pasted to the wall, are actual- size representations of his working materials and simultaneously new objects with their own material and artistic logic.

Accompanying these is Finger, a series of sculptures made from emptied-out five- liter metal turpentine cans filled with sand.

Each brandishes magnets and a gaggle of metal wires, like a child’s attempt to re- plicate the telecommunication antennae of the adult world. The sculptures are positioned in different areas both within and just beyond the exhibition space as if they were computer network routers, says the artist, in order to visualize how deeply our daily life and work is based on a connectivity that reaches out, just as fingers do.

Danae Hoffmann’s army of metal sculptures are augmented with soft and pliable materials, like foam and fabrics, which seem to have been quickly painted, swiftly plastered, and roughly cut, and either tacked loosely in place or simply draped on the metal frameworks. The spindly structures balance on precariously thin legs, or reach out in a way that suggests both awkwardness and a strange elegance. One can recognize in all of them references to real things and situations. Their titles—Antennensporti, Stretcher, Personaltrainer—evoke sports training de- vices gone wrong, and thus a thwarted cult of self-optimization, recalling Farré’s work nearby.

Room 2
Deirdre O’Leary’s objects are related, according to the artist, to “language.” Alongside her writing practice and use of text in her works, she strives to compose artworks that are put together like phrases in a speech or poem. Here she presents pieces assembled from readymade elements such as fur gloves on a chain, or a baseball hat with its own built-in wind chime, confronting us with her own strange and poetic way of turning the ordinary into the surreal. A set of hand-blown glass sculptures, formed with her own breath, are containers for the whispered stories O’Leary filled them with. She pro- vokes us to wonder what her vessels would say if only we set her words free.

Room 3
Camille Holtz presents the installation Fétiches, comprised of photographs and trophies taken at dog shows in the Alsace. The images depict that world in a way that feels unreal; by focusing on the most garish details and creating compositions that highlight the hyperreality of the show atmosphere, Holtz captures the posturing and representational strategies of any such competitive event. The line of trophies won at these types of shows suggests that they are readymade emblems of a certain reality.

Room 4
Camille Holtz’s two most recent films, Big Daddy and En attendant, offer little in the way of spectacular drama; rather, we see her young subjects engaged in informal and incomplete dialogues, sparse or nonexistent narratives, and everyday actions. Holtz’s documentary style, calling upon untrained actors to perform in their native settings, focuses on the tiniest details of human inter- action, the anguishes of adolescence, the micro dramas of real life.

Room 5
Maude Léonard-Contant creates conversations among pieces that she forms, arranges, and places with no fear of pushing their materiality to its limits. And in these constellations, she reminds us of reality’s roots in the Latin term res, meaning thing, object, matter. For there is no reality with- out thingliness and Léonard-Contant is interested in precisely the inherent qualities of materials and in what happens when different materials, with distinct symbolic registers, encounter one another and appear as one piece. In her latest sculptures, con- sisting of felt and mirrored glass that is opaque on one side, soft and warm meets cold and hard: one side transparent, the other side veiling information.

Gregory Hari’s hand and face is a performance and installation inspired by a photograph taken in 1996, showing the artist on the balcony of his family home. Wearing a colorful girl’s dress, with a blue wading pool in the shape of a seashell in the background, Hari “performed” for the camera then as he performs for his audience now. The installation recalls the photo and includes a small plastic pool filled with talcum powder and water, two oversize terry-cloth towel banners suspended from the ceiling (with the words FACE and HAND on them), pieces of Plexiglas the size of the windows at the house where the photo was taken (sprinkled with talcum powder), and the original photograph taken by his mother. The performance reenacts a ritual of cleansing in order to clean, as Hari insists, “the surface and the inner life of the artist.”

Whatever their medium, and whatever their proximity to or distance from the real, the works in Beyond the Real remind us that there are many realities, existing or imagined, and that maybe one of the roles of art might be to help us to navigate our way through them.