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SLEEPER

Otavio Schipper & Andreas Albrectsen
September 20 - October 26, 2019



SPECTA Otavio Schipper-Andreas Albrectsen Sleeper

Text by Art historian, mag.art. Lotte Møller

History resembles photography in that it is, among other things, a means of alienation.
Siegfried Kracauer, 1

"Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the earth." With this statement, the ancient Greek mathematician and physicist Archimedes named the concept of an 'Archimedean point', which is a solid point or a hypothetical vantage. The theme of the exhibition Sleeper, presenting works by Andreas Albrectsen and Otavio Schipper, is precisely the question of viewpoints, sights and perspectives and, in particular, that which the Danish historian Søren Mørch has called 'the railway vision' 2. According to Mørch, 'the railway vision' - or 'the modern eye' - emerges with the invention of the railway and photography. In particular, the new speed when travelling by railway provides a radically new view on the landscape, where the foreground is blurred and the horizon appears as a visual constant - a fixed focus.

And as the title emphasizes it is precisely the railroad and the lines of the landscape that are important common denominators in this exhibition, with the two artists working in their own expression and media.
The artists do not only have a common cultural point of view (Schipper is Brazilian with European roots and Albrectsen is half Danish, half Brazilian) but also a common artistic strategy which has made it possible to create an exhibition where the individual works interact with each other in a dizzying game of association playing with the concepts of history, perspective, perception, tracks, memory, constants, infrastructure, communication, modernity, rationality and subjectivity. Both artists work with the changes of meaning occurring when found objects are isolated, processed and inserted into new temporal and spatial contexts.

Albrectsen presents two lines of work. The first consists of three frottage-drawings based on film strips with photographic negatives from a trip to the Brazilian railway town of Paranapiacabia, southeast of Sao Paulo. Paranapiacabia is Tupi Native American for 'a place to see the sea', and the railway was built with the purpose of transporting coffee beans down the mountains to the coast by the British-owned Sao Paulo Railway Company. The city was built in the mid-1800s by Jeremy Bentham in a Victorian style that included a copy of Big Ben. However, the railroad had only a short period of glory and it was finally closed during the 1970s. Now, it stands as a dilapidated memorial to an era of transatlantic trade and industry. The frottage-drawings do not show the content of the negatives. They focus on the morphological characteristics of the film strip, which carries some similarities with railroad tracks. The film strips thus appear as 'containers' for a latent narrative of travelling.
Albrectsen's other group of works shows two larger charcoal and pencil drawings on paper. The basis of these works are snapshots found on social media, depicting rainbows but taken on the go through a car window. Albrectsen's slow method of working, where he works across the image - stroke by stroke - stands in strong contrast to the fast media from which the motives originate. The drawings add further distance to their motif in their black/white presentation, where one of them even appear as a photographic negative with a black rainbow - as a kind of demasking of nature's spectacles or a glance into another dimension.

Otavio Schipper's installation La Ciotat can be described as something in between a materialized coordinate system, a physics experiment, a painting by de Chirico and the Flying Dutchman. The work consists of a train rail placed horizontally on the floor with rail nails sprinkled all around, a vertical iron bar attached as a mast to the train rail, a long silver chain connecting the mast to the wall as well as a pair of glasses, or "pincenez" with embossed dollar coins from 1890. The title is a hint to one of the first films in history, by the Lumière brothers - L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat - showing a rushing train arriving at the La Ciotat railway station. The film has become legendary because of the allegedly violent effect it had on cinema-goers of the time, who were overwhelmed by the film's "realism". In addition, Schipper shows other smaller works such as the wall installation The Modern Eye. This work consists of a pair of antique eyeglasses and a silver chain which, as a medium appearing as something between a string for eyeglasses and a telegraph wire, connects a series of old handmade insulator clocks mounted on the wall.
Otavio Schipper has a background as a physicist, and his works are often inspired by, for example, Einstein's thought experiments that involved both trains as well as elevators, and which laid the basis for his theories of relativity. Similarly, Schipper's works can also be described as thought experiments, albeit in a materialized form. In his installations, he stages a selection of 'constants' (i.e., things found from an earlier 'analog' era, such as the telephone pole, train track, telegraph) in various combinations and contexts - as a new constructed alphabet of things.

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1 Siegfried Kracauer, History. The Last Things Before the Last, Princeton 2014, p. 5
2 Søren Mørch, Vældige ting – 63 fortællinger om verden, som den er, Kbh. 2009, pp 51-59

 

We thank The Danish Arts Agency
for supporting Andreas Albrectsen's research travel