„Flood“, Alternative Art London (solo show)
Installation in the basement oft he gallery: false sloping floor construction of metal grids and metal supports; underneath: expanse of tracing paper with black and white drawing, illuminated from underneath; 14 neon tubes switched on and off by computer

Diese Installation erforderte vom Betrachter zwangsläufig als Teil in die Installation einzutauchen.

Die im ersten Kellerraum anfangs noch aufrecht zu begehende Gitterebene, zwingt den Betrachter bereits im Durchgang zum nächsten Raum, in gebückter Stellung weiter zu gehen. Zum Ende erreicht die Gitterebene die Decke der Galerie.

Der Titel verweist auf den Eindruck der Flutung der Räume und unregelmäßig aufleuchtende Neonlampen scheinen wie Treibgut aus der Oberfläche heraus zu ragen.

Dennoch entbehrt diese „Flutung“ einer vordergründigen Dramatik. Der eingefrorene Zustand impliziert eher ein poetisches Nachleuchten. Das auch akustisch hörbare Aufflackern einzelner Neonröhren wirkt wie das Aussenden letzter Signale nach der Flut. Vereinzelt hört man ein scheinbares Antworten an einem anderen nicht sichtbaren Teil der Installation.

Es ist überraschend und in der Folge für meine Arbeit prägend zugleich: ein Objekt wie die Leuchtstoffröhre, das man als Inbegriff des gesichtslosen, standardisierten Industrieobjektes ansehen kann, entwickelt eine poetische Kraft, die in einem trostlos gewordenen Raum noch Hoffnung entwickelt.


1994, „After the Flood“ (englisch), Adrian Searle

veröffentlicht im Buch "Kodierter Raum/Coded Space" 1997

Adrian Searle

After the Flood /

As we approach the end of the twentieth Century, it is diffcult not to be affected by a sense of crisis. The terminology of crisis has become pervasive in Western culture. So much so that it has become a matter of routine to paraphrase both political events and cultural phenomena as portents. The collapse of communism and the rise of nationalism and xenophobia; the AIDS epidemic; the reappearance of bubonic plague; even the crashing of a comet into Jupiter – all have been seen as signs of imminent, perhaps Biblical catastrophe. The symptoms are everywhere, not least in the minds of those who care to see them. The millennium as well as the century is ending, and although the arbitrariness of the calendar may give pause for rational doubt, its psychic resonance is perceptible.

And one registers, too, something of a crisis of the imagination. For the artist, for the poet or the novelist, there is a growing recognition – as Harold Bloom put it – of belated­ness: a wide­spread feeling that everything has already been done, that there is nothing new to be said, and that the past century has led us, not to a brave new world, but to a state of exhaustion.

It is, perhaps, not so much a notion of crisis that should trouble us, as a sense of stasis, a feeling of interminable, perpetual ending.

A great deal of contemporary art can be described as a

matter of revision: the reworking of themes and forms from

the recent and not so recent past. Today's artists have been

born too late – after Duchamp, after Beuys, after minimalism,

after Arte Povera, after conceptualism, after post-conceptualism, after modernism. Continuity ­ in the arts as elsewhere in culture - has been replaced by closure, a kind of internal collapse or implosion. The condition of postmodernism, rather than ushering in a new or progressive view of the world, might be described as a state of permanent implosion: »From now on«, the critic Stuart Morgan once remarked, »it will always be like this.« The Utopian dream of progress has all but ended. We come, as it were, after the flood.

The work of Till Exit, from Leipzig, dwells on this dystopian theme. For the past year (1994), Exit has been working in London. In September, after a long period of planning, he built an installation in the disused basement of a shop in Marylebone High Street. This enormously complex work, entitled ›Flood‹, turned a quite ordinary building – a temporarily unoccupied and empty shop and its basement – into a space filled with real and imaginary dangers and surprises.

›Flood‹, with its dramatic lighting – reminiscent of Fritz Lang – and its narrative progression, which led the viewer from a featureless shop, through darkened corridors and back rooms and finally into the basement, deeper into the heart of the work itself, constituted a journey into a terrain which was as much psychological as physical. Cheap plastic slide projectors were used as theatrical footlights, signalling the route to the false, sloping floor which filled the basement. Computerprogrammed strip lights flicked on and off at irregular intervals and a second, hidden light-source swirled underfoot, illuminating sections of a vast membrane stretched underneath the metal grilles of the false floor and inscribed with hand drawn vortices and semibiological fragments. These elements were orchestrated in such a way as not simply to disorientate or confuse the viewer, but to lead one into what can only be called a mental space. ›Flood‹ was a baroque, expressionist navigation of the territory of the imagination, but one which led the viewer further and further into a shunted, narrow, darkened wedge of space – to the limit of a cul-de-sac, an endpoint.

A number of colour photographs showing partial views of a stark interior are spread before me: concrete corridors, vacant alcoves and niches, iron doors, receding pillars and scuffed walls; an abandoned, industrial cloister standing empty and unpopulated; a cement prison of pale light and massive shadows.

Yet one can still imagine the hum and throb of machinery, the whirring turbines and the echo of boots on concrete, doors slamming, commands yelled over the noise: the clamour of what was once a power station, the city's electrical heartbeat. Till Exit's newest installation, a companion piece to ›Flood‹, is located in this melancholic building in Leipzig, in the heartland of an equally defunct, ideologically bankrupt state – a state, moreover, that was built on a dream of progress and human betterment.

Rather than merely using the building as a convenient but arbitrary site for the work, Exit incorporates both the original function of the power station and its current state of desuetude into the metaphoric structure of the work. For Exit, this modern ruin is a core image, and his rehabilitation of it reinvests the building with a certain kind of paradoxical power. Interestingly, plans are afoot to use a similarly defunct power station on the River Thames in London as the site for the Tate Gallery's new Museum of Modern Art. Exit's intervention, however, is no such optimistic enterprise. In common with the metaphysical landscapes and architectures of the novels of J.G. Ballard – with their forgotten nuclear silos, abandoned block-houses and bunkers, collapsed motorway bridges and overgrown military runways – Exit is seeking to explore that territory which Ballard describes as the fundamental area of enquiry of modern science fiction: not outer space, but inner space. The late twentieth century, post-industrial wasteland is the country of our dreams as much as of our waking hours.

We live, it seems, amidst the wreckage of the past, amongst fragments and remains. That this terrain should provide the language of some of the most important (as well as some of the most moribund) contemporary art is inevitable. One might see a continuity, even in fragments, a play amongst the ruins – whether in Eliot's poetry, Tarkovsky's films, or the work of artists such as Miroslav Balka and Ilya Kabakov. It is a peculiarly European strand in contemporary art – not surprisingly, given that European history is, as much as anything else, a history of violence and destructions.

Exit's work deals with the vulnerability of the human presence amidst this topography: the fractures are as much internal as external. In his work, the buildings he occupies become models of the mind itself: just as, in the nineteenth century, the city was seen as a projection of the human psyche, writ large on the face of the world. The world is a grimmer, less hopeful place now, and there is no exit.

Adrian Searle — London, Autumn 94