by Rahul KumarSep 29, 2021
The conceptual thought of space - how to meditate and break - in an effort to lend it a new shape and novel meaning, has populated the works of abstract and minimalist artists alike. The idea of space shifted from geographical location to the social construct and societal orders as and when the American minimalists initiated the task to examine the engagement between space, object and agents. With the advent of digital technology, the space transcended to be more dominant as a virtual entity than physical. The exhibition Out of Space at Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg, Germany, curated by Ifee Tack and Jan Steinke acknowledges this transition when it presents the work by an array of artists including Jürgen Albrecht, Cabrita, Dan Graham, Jacqueline Hen, Armin Keplinger, Hubert Kiecol, Jan Köchermann, Robert Morris, Manuel Rossner, amongst many others.
The spectrum of artists leads the discussion of how spaces have been constructed from the 1960s to the present day. If the untitled performative work of the minimalistic artist Robert Morris invites the viewers to walk through 16 aluminium screens, then the new media artists Armin Keplinger and Manuel Rossner enable visitors to move around in a virtual extension of the gallery. In an interview with STIR, Tack and Steinke share their curatorial strategies to let the diverse range of work find the right thread of connection, “Our approach was influenced by three things: the collection of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the gift of the installation by Robert Morris, and the building and exhibition space itself, which was designed by Oswald Mathias Ungers.”
The collection of contemporary art at Kunsthalle since 1960 offers the curator-duo the prospect to focus on both aspects within the collection. “On the one hand the performative quality of works such as those by FEW and on the other hand the question raised by American minimalists such as Morris, on how visitors, artworks and space relate to one another in an exhibition context and the possibilities and challenges this space contains. These questions, even asked or especially asked in 2021, did not lose their significance and therefore we wanted to explore this concept of space through different artistic bodies of work and practices.”
The digital notion of space further achieved new meaning with the onset of the non-fungible token and blockchain. This entailed new opportunities and challenges not just for the viewers, but also for the gallery and museums to display these works in both engaging and innovative manner. The artwork How did we get here? donated by the artist Manuel Rossner is the first NFT addition to the collection of Hamburger Kunsthalle. The curator-duo expounds on the inevitability of the digital space when they mention, “We are lucky to be able to show works by Manuel Rossner and Armin Keplinger, who, even though they are using different strategies, are working with the junction of both the physical space and the virtual/digital space. Whereas Keplinger explores the possibilities of sculpture and objects in both the physical and virtual space, Rossner focuses on the digital space only. Rossner designs virtual worlds and digital sculptures in which he explores the effects of technological developments on society and art. With digital materials, he creates interactive architectures that are both spatial intervention and virtual extension. Especially for the exhibition Out of Space, he is creating the site-specific virtual reality installation How did we get here? which combines the atrium of the Galerie der Gegenwart as a physical space with a digital extension of the same space, which also extends the possibilities to interact with artworks for visitors massively.”
The space and spatial setting have played a crucial role to set the artistic-conceptual discussions in motion, where the viewers occupy an equally important place to understand their relation with existent and non-existent surroundings. Tack and Steinke state, “Even if seen in a museum, art today and in parts since 1960 is interactive - interacting with the surrounding space, with other works and most of all with the visitors, who for many years now have no longer been passive viewers but active participants.”
The curators are optimistic the exhibition, extending the horizon of the multifaceted definition of space, opens a possibility for the viewers to reflect on, “their experiences within the exhibition, within the museum and within the surrounding architecture and its city”.