artist / participant
For his second one-person show at Spencer Brownstone Gallery, Swiss artist Lori Hersberger will be debuting a new installation work designed especially for the gallery space.
The piece in the main gallery consists of three large words rendered in colored neon, each suspended just above floor level, a little further into the gallery than the last. The words animate in sequence to spell out the phrase “Not-Fade-Away”. The three signs exist in a staggered formation to the left and right of the space and, hanging at body height, give the words the character of barriers that need to be negotiated around. Further disorienting our interaction with the piece and doubling its ambiguities, the floor of the space is covered from wall to wall in shattered mirror glass that reflects, in however fragmented a form, the signs hovering just above.
If the naturalized context for neon is usually out of doors, out of reach, purely visual, and pointing to a meaning beyond it’s own physical qualities, here Hersberger subverts all of those expectations. As we make our way gingerly over the floor of shattered glass, we also feel uncomfortably close to the glowing and buzzing signs: are they hot, can we touch them, will we be electrocuted? This proximity mitigates against the necessary distance from which the work’s meaning will come into focus. We are literally in the sign, rather than looking at it. Ultimately, the work remains elusive: is it a warning, a passionate call to action, or a heartfelt entreaty?
In the backspace, through an opening in the partition wall that appears to have been hacked open with an axe, two further signs flash out the phrases “Death/Disco” and “Search/Destroy”. The artist sees the song titles that provide phrases for his neons as simply starting points for their linguistic and spatial play. For even the most casual of pop fans, however, the journey from Buddy Holly to The Stooges and P.I.L. (even if via The Stones) is a long one, musically and conceptually. Hersberger cleverly plays on these connotations. If “Not Fade Away” retains any semblance of optimism or confidence, this would appear to come to a defiant full stop in the backspace of the gallery, albeit one shot through with dark humor and a love of spectacle.
Lori Hersberger was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1964 and lives and works in Zürich. He studied Sculpture and Video-art at the Basel Art School. His many solo exhibitions include shows at the Kunsthaus, Zurich (2003), Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2003) or at the Swiss Institute in New York (2002). His recent group exhibitions include "Dream Extensions", at Stedelijk Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent, Belgium (2004) and "Go, Johnny, Go!", Kunsthalle Vienna (2004). Hersberger gained international recognition with ‘Archaic Modern Suite’, his outdoor harlequin-like installation with carpets for Harald Szeemann’s Aperto at the 1999 Venice Biennale.
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