Roman Ondak’s Eclipse

Roman Ondak’s Eclipse

Fondazione Galleria Civica di Trento

Roman Ondak, “Eclipse,” 2010.
Preliminary drawing for installation.*

February 10, 2011

Roman Ondak

Fondazione Galleria Civica of Trento
Via Cavour 19
38122 Trento, Italy
tel. +39 0461 985511
fax +39 0461 237033

Eclipse is the first solo exhibition in an Italian public institution of the Slovak artist Roman Ondák (Zilina, Slovakia, 1966). This exhibition at the Fondazione Galleria Civica of Trento, is part of a wider survey project including the exhibitions held in 2010 at Villa Arson Centre national d’art contemporain in Nice (Shaking Horizon) and at the Salzburger Kunstverein in Salzburg (Before Waiting Becomes Part of Your Life). Mixing rarely seen or unedited works and new site-specific installations, the three exhibitions represent all together an articulate retrospective of the different phases of Ondák’s artistic production from the first 90s’ works until today.

Ondák’s artistic production consists in an analysis of the several facets of daily life, in its less loud details and in its more ordinary aspects, which emerge from the blurry background to which they seem to be doomed. The artist catches imperceptible, invisible moments, actual “non-events”, which suddenly become visible and feasible thanks to slight changes or small gaps of the point of view. He strengthens the most innocent, common or familiar side of things putting into them an imaginative charge which works on many levels—aesthetic, social and political, visual, conceptual—and transforms our everyday scenario into a continuous source of wonder.

By means of his sculptures, installations, videos and performances, Ondák puts into action continuous mechanisms of audience disorientation, where the artifice is, now and then, absurdly pronounced, or highlighted, in order to attract the attention on something or someone who, otherwise, would remain unknown. Disorientation takes place through the enlargement of an object or a space naturally small (or the reverse, as in It Will All Turnout Right in the End, 2005-2006, a three-dimensional reproduction of the Turbine Hall of London’s Tate Modern), as well as through the accentuation of a tiny detail belonging to an object—which does not appear “as we expect it to” (like a door leading to many, different directions). Disorientation takes also place through the decontextualization of the object or through the displacement of some elements from the place of origin and the consequent transfer of their meaning. As in the case of Loop (2009), the title of the big installation presented at the 53rd Venice Biennale, when Ondák transformed the pavilion in a way of passage, so that the audience could not notice the difference between the interior and the exterior, between the gardens surrounding the building and the interior hall of the building itself. Drawing the intimate contiguity (loop) between opposite elements (interior/exterior; nature/culture; micro/macro; everyday/uncanny) Ondák blurs the difference between the finite boundaries of architectural space and the indefinite space of imagination and potentiality, as on the occasion of the performance Measuring the Universe (2007), when the attendants of various museums such as the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, the MoMA in New York City and the Stedelijk in Amsterdam marked visitors’ heights, first names, and date of the measurement on the gallery walls, generating a work in constant and unforeseeable transformation.

At the Fondazione Galleria Civica, the artist presents a body of pieces that work as poetic counterpoints between the real architecture of the exhibition area and the imaginary architecture evoked by the artist. Each work merges into the exhibition space and cover the real architecture of the museum like a threshold that, when crossed, bring the visitor into a fantastic and dreamy dimension. The project culminates in the underground level of the museum where a new site-specific project, Eclipse, turns the museum, literally, inside out as well as upside down. These works are all details of some sort of imaginary building (which is also a small retrospective of the artist) where “what one sees does not coincide with what one believes to see”, and the appearance of a shape misrepresents the essence of an object completely different. This game of correspondences and crossed exchanges, which characterizes the artistic research of Ondák, results in a lenticular, unsteady, fluidly moving gaze able to catch the faintest shades of objects and attitudes, along with a certain ludic aspect which, in some cases, balances a thorough intense reflection on society’s conventions, culture’s criteria and architecture’s laws that “regulate” the human experience of the world.

In the ground floor Ondák presents a series of works mainly made in the 90s and, apart from a few (as Resting Corner, 1999, where a sofa and a shelving unit have been moved from the museum staff office to be installed as a work of art in the exhibition area), never exhibited in public until now: just past the entrance the audience is forced to go through a space suddenly changed, a narrowed corridor, where deception is revealed by the wood framing the blank walls from which several solitary electric sockets peep out, as if they are suspended in the air (Untitled, 1998). Ondák randomly scatters different works around, mounted on the floor or on the walls of the central exhibition space, wide open, and they all seem to be in a place they do not belong but with which they are able to interact nevertheless, pushing us to observe it with different eyes. Among these works: Bed (Southeast, Northeast, Southwest and Northwest), 2010, an installation made of four corners cut from a bed and then fixed to the wall to form the bed’s shape again (in vertical position), as well as the frame of an inexistent painting; Cubic Floor (1996), a section of a parquet floor which takes on the volumetry of a cube (that is opposite to the flat linearity of the concept of floor itself); Fossilized Longitudes and Latitudes (1991), a small globe made of a welded wire; Swapped Roles (1997), a work composed of two elements, a small section of another parquet floor cut out and attached to the wall (while it should be placed on the floor), and a portion of the wall “slid” into floor (therefore the positions and “roles” of the two elements—wall and floor—are reversed); Lying Wardrobe (1996), a wardrobe’s cut corners connected with strings and lying on the ground, as it was placed on the floor instead of being pushed toward the wall; Leave the Door Open (1999) and Went Out the Window (1999), two works made up of a door handle and a window handle respectively, fixed to the wall at the height they were before, while the door and the window disappeared and the visitor can only imagine them. Series of book cuttings (Cuttings, 1995) are spread through all the gallery walls, where the artist, through the combination by similarity or contrast of pictures, captures psychological situations and ordinary attitudes. In these works Ondák does not provide an alternative perspective to reality, but he rather gives the audience the access key to identify the variety of differences and interpretations that reality offers.

In the basement a new version of Insiders (2007), a three-channel video, is presented. On each video a woman and a man undresses her/himself, in the empty space of a museum gallery, turning her/his own clothes inside out and getting dressed again. This work, which analyzes our perception of the body—the other “architecture” explored and reinvented by the artist in the exhibition—sums up recurring core themes of Ondák’s artistic research as the reversal of perceptions and information that we culturally acquire since our birth and that shape our behavior. Ondák conceived expressly for the Fondazione Galleria Civica the installation Eclipse (2011), as the much unexpected finale that concludes the exhibition path, representing its spectacular condensation. Eclipse consists in the overturning of the basement ceiling of the Fondazione, realized with salvaged materials of the original ceiling and larch wood belonging to the forestry property of Trentino region and generally used for the construction of roofs. As in the most part of the artist’s works, also in this case the effect is equivocal, due to the contrasts and analogies of the work itself. Eclipse is not only the reversal of the exhibition area’s ceiling, which, instead of rising up toward the sky, sinks into the ground, but it is also a common roof, with tiles and chimneys. An architectural aporia, the more ambiguous, the more realistic, where what was high becomes low, what was external becomes interior, a closed and concluded place opens itself to the outside, an archeological legacy suddenly appears in the contemporary museum venue. An apex with which the search for a fantastic way through the real architecture of the museum reaches its peak, with a playful tone that almost turns the museum’s space-time into a fairy tale.

A freely-distributed brochure will be available during the show. By June 2011 a new monograph fully conceived by the artist in relation to his more recent exhibitions will be co-published by Fondazione Galleria Civica, Trento, Villa Arson Centre national d’art contemporain, Nice and Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg, with Mousse Publishing-Milan.

Press contact
skype: adicorbetta stampa
t. +39 02 89053149
corso Magenta 10, 20123 Milan

*Image above:
Courtesy the artist and Fondazione Galleria Civica, Trento.

Roman Ondak's Eclipse
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February 10, 2011

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