Artist: Erik Smith
Berlin-based, American artist Erik Smith was an AIR – ARTIST IN RESIDENCE Niederösterreich guest from April to June. During his residency in Krems, he focused on developing a series of sculptures and real-time audio transmissions around the concept of “dead space,” the unused and largely invisible areas located between adjacent building floors or exterior walls. By giving perceptible form to peripheral or absent spaces, Smith subtly calls into question what is ostensibly given and real, and draws attention to the subliminal, hidden, or even “repressed” dimensions of such spaces and places.
Under a similar spatial-archeological approach focused on the non-visible, the present-absent, Smith explores in his exhibition Un-buildings at Galerie Stadtpark the unseen, hidden volumes, crevices, and gaps of the institutional building itself. The artist seeks not so much to make what cannot be seen visible but rather to make it tangible and conscious. With Smith, there is a paradoxical quality to the presence of the unseen—even if subliminal—in that it influences immediate perceptions on a latent, more mnemic, and affective level, and thus plays a role in defining the location’s present status and effects.
Erik Smith always thinks of the space behind the space, the wall behind the wall, and makes this visible either by exposing or casting it, or audible by transcribing it acoustically. This way of viewing and thinking always extends beyond these manifestations into the imaginary. Rather than mere visual seeing, represented here is a kind of perception rooted in thought, the imagination, and the senses. The artist utilizes this type of “stratigraphic seeing” to generate a place within a place, where a proliferation of varied locations agglomerate and overlap one another. This transforms the actual site of the gallery building into a heterotopic space (Foucault) that is manifestly multi-layered, multi-dimensional, and supratemporal.
Erik Smith’s work demands a way of seeing from the viewer that penetrates and transcends the site’s immediate, present status. The gallery building no longer functions as a supposedly neutral container for displaying art, but is the subject of aesthetic, indeed spatial-ontological and -archeological reflection and deconstruction. In this sequence of interpenetrations, of mental superimpositions, of activating different temporal layers, the gallery becomes a potential “time machine,” not, however, in the sense of a dispostif, in which art from various periods and contexts are presented, but as a place in itself, in which its own “repressed” secrets, its history, and location are considered within a far broader temporal context.
Text: David Komary
Translation: Erik Smith