Air Signs

an installation and performance by and with Stefan Pente and William Locke Wheeler, 2015

    For their 2015 artists residency in ausland Berlin ( Stefan Pente and William Wheeler developed an exhibition and a performance which they titled Air Signs. Shown in the exhibition were individual works by each of the two artists and a collaborative installation whose creation unfolded in tandem with the performance’s, which was created by Pente and Wheeler and was performed by Wheeler alone.

A subtle architectural intervention in the form of a room-length bench/pedestal for temporarily stowing objects, for providing a performer with a place to sit, and for framing/masking certain aspects and dimensions of the space, was instrumental in establishing contrasts between flatness and spatiality while suggesting the presence and/or absence of bodies and objects. We tried to engage with the space by developing a specific aesthetics for and with it, allowing the original space, which is primarily a concert and performance venue, to come through without being engulfed or overfilled.

While devising Air Signs, we focused on the question of how images (memories, photographs, portraits, abstract forms) can be addressed in ways that don’t undermine their non-linguistic nature. Perhaps the answer lies in space, and in movement. So we explored how a still image, how objects on a field, can be comprised and evocative of movement … after all, the last thing an image or an object wants to be is pinned down, in opposition to what might be thought when envisioning an image pinned to a wall or an object stranded in a display case – us perceiving it, wrongly, as “frozen time.” The recognition that it is always transforming in relation to fields, other objects and new contexts, leads us not only to wish to address the image/object as a living state with its own agencies, but also to wish to talk to the image/object that flashes through our heads, hands or eyes.

The measurement of space, and the zooming in on the miniature – and, conversely, pulling out for the gigantic –, the showing and telling of the history of a gesture or object by performing the gesture or simply showing the object rather than placing oneself at a remove and describing the object at a safe distance – are strategies that we apply in Air Signs.

To grasp at an image, to try and hold it in a solid form, is, in a sense, to grab out at an air sign, to try and grasp its impossible immateriality – since no image can be read in only one way by every reader and thereby become solid to all eyes. This impossible action of grasping out at the air sign, incidentally, also causes the air sign to arise and multiply. Layer after layer of remembered and recorded experience gathers, exists and transforms momentarily as signs in the air.

  Substantial Propinquities ................... William Locke Wheeler, 2015
Fictitious Symmetries (I'm curiously handicapped by the fact that there are no words in my language to talk about these events) ................................................. Stefan Pente, 2015
      Stefan Pente photographed by Evelyne Pente, 1972 and 1978 - and Three Cheyenne dancers in ceremonial dress bending towards water, photographed by Edward S. Curtis, 1926) .........................  
  Temporary Table Colloquy for a Roving Blue Light (detail) ....................................................... Stefan Pente/William Locke Wheeler 2015  
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