BY Anja Dorn in Reviews | 12 NOV 00
Featured in
Issue 55

Out of Space

Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany

BY Anja Dorn in Reviews | 12 NOV 00

'Out of Space' is not a particularly exciting title for a show and neither is it the first time an exhibition has dealt with life in the city. However, the curatorial team from Projectspace Schnittraum handled their subject well. The show opened with a very sparse hang which focused in on small details, but every week more work was included to examine the idea of the city as a whole.

Francis Alÿs' video Time is a Trick of Mind (1999), a diptych wall projection, is an animation of a man walking along hitting a high iron fence with a stick. When the show opened, the movement of this man dominated the almost empty gallery. Yet, as new pieces were included over the following weeks, it was the video's rhythmic sound that took over the space: like the clattering of a beer can being kicked around, or skateboard wheels, it seemed to describe how a city is experienced by adolescents, testing its boundaries.

Breaking up the, until then, cool character of the show, Moshekwa Langa's installation Temporal Distance (with a criminal intent) you will find us in the best places... (1997/2000) was exhibited next to Alÿs' work. A web of colourful woolly thread was spread across the floor. In between spools and bottles, arranged like groups of houses, the thread seemed to follow the complicated courses of social relationships: toy cars lost in the tangle, plastic animals which had found their way into these declining urban structures.

Like Langa's piece, and like the irregular development of a real city, the exhibition provided fertile soil for the exchange of views. Although some issues could have been dealt with less half-heartedly, pieces such as Lucy Harvey's video Unterhaltungsstrategien fur Alleinlebende (Strategies of Entertainment for Singles, 2000) or Cosima von Bonin's Blazons of a Hashcountry (1999-2000) offered up possibilities of side-stepping current developments towards a more and more staid, controlled system of urban living. Harvey's video humourously eroticises private space ­ the artist's finger is seen running along the edges of furniture in a flat. Bonin's blue woollen plaids, sketchily embroidered with motifs of country houses, look like flags from a fictional commune of slackers. They curled into the space as if inviting the viewer to sit underneath them and smoke some dope.

As spectacular gestures of rebellion have become fashionable and turned into products, the possibilities of subversion seem to lie in peripheral and stubborn niches. In his guided tours around Cologne, Boris Sievert ambivalently drew attention both to problems of urban development and to the overlooked nooks of freedom that reside in them. Sievert's tours had something in common with Jacques Tati's film Playtime (1967), shown on a monitor in the exhibition, in which Tati affectionately observes a seemingly functional city, that constantly fails, thus creating endless opportunities for comic situations.