Art and the city: The public installations presented during Frieze Sculpture 2022
by Vatsala SethiOct 04, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Rahul KumarPublished on : Mar 08, 2023
A visual art exhibition is meant to be an experience. Though artworks by themselves convey a message, an expression, in the context of a show, the presentation should aim to extend beyond just visuals. Flow of the exhibits, lighting, smell, sound, additional props—all add to create a sensorial environment. In certain contexts, the site, too, adds an added layer of perception to the exhibits or installations presented.
It is in this context that artists Lolo & Sosaku showcased their exhibition titled De la Tierra, a site-specific piece, whose very concept required a disused space, to be carried out. Adding to this, the artists specify, "a place containing traces that prove human presence in the past." In the vast plain of grey concrete, where their installation is set, there is water spilling through the space, outlining grooves similar to the lines in the palm of our hand. A drop falls, repeatedly, coupled with the click of the machine closing.
"It seems to rise, as you rise, with unusual slowness. You might believe that the machines that inhabit this place have been put in place by man long ago, but what happens here seems more like a miracle. You go through the space wanting to touch the metallic rhombuses, which are refracted in a geometric choreography that shines. But no matter how hard you try, you can't touch them, they radiate in such a way that something holds you back,” the installation artists explain. On the walls and the pavement, there are signs of obvious use—cracks, scratches, or chipping—all traces of the industrial archaeology of the city.
STIR speaks to Lolo & Sosaku about their ongoing art exhibition in Barcelona, Spain, why they chose a decaying site for the exhibition, and how they integrate sound to their installations.
Rahul Kumar: Why have you chosen this dilapidated, crumbling, and decaying site for the exhibition?
Lolo & Sosaku: A recurrent theme in our work is the absence of the human, alongside things occurring in the crevices of our space-time, which escape rational understanding, shrouded in complete hermeticity. That's why we find it so complicated to decipher and explain our pieces. We consider ourselves, above all, to be beings of a destructive nature. We find it hard to do warehouse work in our studio. Once a piece has made its way to the studio, the way we see it—it's rarely the case that it will be safe from being modified or destroyed.
We spent two years visiting abandoned factories and disused spaces in the area of L'Hospitalet before coming across La Veloz—an industrial building designed in 1967 by the architect Jordi Figueras Anmella. It featured all the traits we were after, and there were, preserved, unmistakable traces of its former use: indentations, scratches or chips; probably caused by machinery, hinting at industrial archaeology.
At the time of the installation, several inexplicable things took place. A perfect conjunction between its materials and the setting that achieved a balance point where all constituents coexist, activating a direct gateway into a different temporal space. There are things that happen, at times, owing to the location of objects or people, as in the Luis Buñuel film The Exterminating Angel, in which the characters find themselves trapped in time until they become aware they can get out by returning to their starting position.
Rahul: The work itself is minimal in nature, a metal rhombus installed on the floor with a complex system that makes it move. How does this layered with the play of natural light, form meaning for the viewers?
Lolo & Sosaku: The natural light indicated the placement of some works in the space, to us. Because this is a building containing many windows, it doesn't require artificial light during the day. It's the interior whose lighting relies on weather conditions. Light, water, the rhomboidal pieces and the fog are all linked together at all times, behaving as a single entity. It is the solitary and exceptional viewer who completes the work.
Sometimes, while inhabiting the work for several hours, it becomes difficult to adapt to the outside world, upon leaving, as if something in yourself had become stuck or caught up in the light and sound of water. Your eyesight flooded as if by fog, the breathing slow. We are sure it is the light, most of all, what catalyses such effects. The rhombuses are portals that one must not cross under any circumstances while they are active.
Rahul: Your broader practice involves industrial processes and materials, often using found objects like discarded car frames. Please talk about your artistic journey and how you began using these objects?
Lolo & Sosaku: Ever since our early beginnings, our artistic research has evolved, mutating, as though it were an almost uncontrollable matter, expanding, blurring and pushing aside the boundaries of classical art disciplines.
While working in our pieces, the materials are transformed, transcending their materiality. It is not what you can see but rather what you cannot see. De la Tierra is a fine example of that, in the same way as the mechanical objects we use in our performances, which deviate from their functioning, as if they were devoid of memory.
As we explore further in our work, it feels like penetrating into a thickly foggy space where pieces, machinery parts, sounds, echoes of what surrounds us become unveiled. The materials are instruments or keys which make it possible to decipher this place.
Rahul: How does sound, music, and performance integrate with your practice?
Lolo & Sosaku: Much as we try, it becomes impossible to control anything during our sound art performances. It's like an untamable thing; it is maximum tension and electricity. We switch on machinery connected to the electrical wiring of a welding machine. There's an impending danger of death, and an infernal noise that engulfs us, simultaneously becoming a sound barrier that prevents all thought from the viewer, one that invades and possesses them.
We could say that we are the machine, just another cog in its complex functioning. Extreme noise, alongside silence, are the two ends, meeting at the fold. They become absolutely tied together, not owing to their opposition but the other way round. They are the same, inhabiting the same space. That becomes self-evident during our gigs, which turn into an almost spiritual experience, in which the sound goes through you and empties you out.
Rahul: What’s NEXT for you?
Lolo & Sosaku: The current exhibition De la Tierra coincides with an installation at Barcelona's Auditori, opening on February 17, in which there will be two pieces involving pianos. We will play at Sonar, introducing a very violent and danceable new show. Right after that, an exhibition at the Double Square Gallery in Taiwan, amidst several shows and art fairs. Due next year, a site-specific at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu, and several other things we cannot yet anticipate.
De la Tierra is on view at La Veloz, L´Hospitalet, Barcelona (Spain) till June 18, 2023.
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