For their second exhibition at Galerie Isabella Czarnowska the Antwerp-based artist duo Carla Arocha and Stéphane Schraenen chose the (binding and somewhat deceptive) word Trace to title their neo-minimal, site-specific installation of immaculate furniture-like objects, propositional architectural interventions and patterned works on paper. Placing the works on view within the category of the ‘trace’ foregrounds their pristine quality, emphasizing how they are in fact devoid of any forensic value. Contrary to traces – representations pointing to former or historical existences – these encoded works seem rather like fabricated indices of time, place and activity.
Trace is bookended by two wall pieces, Frieze II (2015) and Persiana I (2007). Installed in the middle-upper area of the entrance wall, Frieze II is a low, narrow relief work. A white horizontal band creates the illusion that a wall segment was sliced off, softened and curved. A glow of pink paint from the space between the work and the wall becomes, it seems, a metonym for an indefinite three-dimensional volume that might lie beyond and at the heart of the two-dimensional wall.
Indexical forgery also recurs in Persiana I – a grid configuration of white rectangular window blinds suspended in the gallery’s back room, in front of a wall adjacent to the window. The work neutralizes the utility announced by its title (meaning ‘blinds’ in Spanish): the window blinds, though, of Persiana I cover no window and block no light, while the shadows on the wall behind them are not real but painted.
Rooms II (2010) is a floor arrangement of sequential, low-lying marble blocks that runs through the three rooms of the gallery. Instead of following and amplifying the structural grid of the given architectural divisions, the work suggests an alternative spatial delineation. Rooms II may seem like a theatrical setting of an archaeological site, or staged evidence of a forgotten site that was lost underneath the existing gallery site, but also a primary outline of future construction, such as an in-situ 1:1 floor plan. Unlike Carl Andre’s expansive sequences of building blocks, Arocha’s and Schraenen’s notion of ‘sculpture as place’ incorporates fictional, playful scenarios, connecting the structural with the speculative.
Credenza, Cabinet and Bedside Table (all 2013), are a group of pristine MDF sculptures disguised as furniture pieces (disguised as sculptures, and so forth). Scattered through the gallery these objects are sealed, lacking handles, doors or drawers. Rather than useful objects, they are like shells of objects, or representations thereof. Their deadpan inaccessibility is interrupted when the viewer discovers they were penetrated with a round hole that crosses from one side to the other. Similarly to the blinds in Persiana I which draw the viewer to see that there is in fact nothing to discover, the round holes in Credenza, Cabinet and Bedside Table function as strange peepholes, transforming each of them into an absurd optical device.
While the works in Trace signal the possibility of a secret, their ‘secret’ nonetheless seems absent. These works are, instead, empty structures of concealment, showing us the means through which expectation for revelations take shape: through a surreal incitation of voyeurism, and through intimating past and future.