October 29 till December 11, 2010

“Then I’m out of here!” or so the surfer magazine “surf” titled this year’s November issue. Flipping through the pages, the magazine does actually send the reader on a mental journey, its full-page photographs suggesting the existence of paradise on earth.

Rather than embrace a conceptual or art-historical strategy, for „IN SITU“ (the artists’ first group exhibition together at Galerie Clages) Owen Gump, Mikhail Pirgelis and Bernhard Walter play on exactly these associative, faraway spaces.

Looking at Owen Gump’s photographs, one thinks of a newly discovered paradise once thought to be lost. A surfboard, tropical plants and breaking waves lead the viewer to believe that the Cologne-based artist, born 1980 in California, has taken his environment in situ – in other words in that place – in its original state and natural surroundings. For Gump, photography serves as a means of indicating the conflict between association and reality, for none of his works were made in Polynesia: Gump’s interest in areas of the Pacific has led him to botanical gardens, ethnological museums in Berlin or to find elements in vintage photographs simulating the idea of a place that is not directly identifiable. Its paradisiacal existence is based on the image it has developed through selective representation that can be reproduced anytime, anywhere and thus exists exclusively in an associative, in-between zone.

Michail Pirgelis’ art deals with the de-contextualization of aircraft, as they are subject to the archeological process of searching, finding and preparing – which is where the term in situ originally comes from.

The pieces are disposed of their one-time function and original properties, their surfaces so heavily worked-over that the material’s silver coloring glistens through and are leaned ex situ against the wall or placed in the space. The 34-year-old, Essen-born and Greece-raised artist’s work temporarily unites principles generally kept separate: idea and realization, past and future. Even here the exhibition’s associative approach comes into play, for every one of Pirgelis’ pieces is a pars pro toto, refers to the whole and sets the mind on a journey in thoughts.

In-between space forms were used as raw material; created in 2008 as a byproduct of objects made earlier, minimal changes facilitate their sublimation into what appears to be a small, imaginary archipelago. Poetically called “Friedfertiges Inselreich“ or “Pacific Island Kingdom,” Bernhard Walter uses this analogy of location to characterize his latest installations and the German version also refers to the title of the earlier work. And yet, the new island kingdoms suggest something to the contrary: Born in Landhut in 1966, the Berlin-based artist chose materials with brazen patterns to cover variously shaped and proportionally different veneer panels, charging them with an informative, logo-aesthetic. “Hot”, “Center”, “Bond”, “Traffic” are just a few of the buzzword-like titles used for different variations in the 10-part series. Taken in combination with “island”, we see a new play of translations, subtly indicating social phenomena. This oscillating effect is also found in the primitive camouflage and skull and crossbones patterns in the worlds of Western trash and fashion. Far removed from any paradisiacal flights of fancy, the images nevertheless leave room for dreaming. So in that sense: “Happy Travels!”

Britta Rübsam