Altenheim für Populisten
June 6, 2017 - July 28, 2017
In his second solo exhibition at Grieder Contemporary, Michael Sailstorfer presented a series of new sculptural works that continue his ongoing investigation into the alteration of common materials and the transformation into compelling objects that at first belie their complex.
Presented in a formal yet convivial manner, the works included in Altenheim für Populisten are imbued with a restrained power, deftly building an association of diverse themes that shift seamlessly between conceptual and metaphoric propositions.
Literally and symbolically underlying the exhibition is the work Teppich Zürich (2017), a series of what at first appear to be simple carpets woven from various hues of blue fabric. Produced in a typical manner to those used in many homes or apartments, these carpets begin to subtly shift the atmosphere of the typical gallery space into something more akin to a domestic setting, alluding to a certain coziness, comfort, or calm. However, these carpets are fashioned from decommissioned Zürich police uniforms, which in turn create an entirely new understanding of material as it relates to the form the works take, as well as the possibility for social commentary.
Almost immediately, our notion of sereneness is upended, as we are left to ponder questions of power and control. In previous works, Sailstorfer has entertained this idea of the transference of authority from one group to another by fabricating sculptures of drum kits from the body panels of police vehicles. In this context, we consider positions related to protest, rebellion, or a punk rock sensibility rooted in acts of aggression. In Teppich Zürich, many of these same feelings hold true, but reveal themselves in a more subtle way. In place of more direct hostility, we can look to the metaphors of sweeping something “under the rug” or other acts more associated with potential deception or concealment. In holding true to the original concept however, we are able to walk on these rugs, stepping on former uniforms that were at one time treated with reverence.
Positioned directly on Teppich Zürich, Sailstorfer presents three glazed ceramic sculptures resting on corresponding white plinths. Following their titles, these works (Unterkunft, Tresor, and Altenheim für Populisten, all 2017) are meditations on possible architectural spaces. Taking aesthetic cues from both Brutalist architecture and Modernist sculpture, these works retain the corresponding elements of utopian ideals present in these historical movements. Again referring to the titles, the works allude to ideas of safety, shelter, and that of populism, all more politicized by their physical placement and interaction with Teppich Zürich. Joining the previously mentioned works, the sculpture Ofen (2017), a modified Vespa scooter with a small wood burning stove and chimney replacing its usual motor. Gradually warming the space, this
work also initially adds to the overall sense of comfort. Reclaimed and repurposed, this work also retains a sense of rebelliousness, transition, and change. While at one time this vehicle was meant for movement, this sculpture remains static, defying the original and inherent sense of action.
In totality, the works included in Altenheim für Populisten uniquely comment on the movements and transitions of politics and power, and consider the associated personal, social, and cultural implications that these changes bring.
Text: Kris Douglas