Friday, June 22, 2012

It's all about the there there

One of the themes* that stood out at the Basel Art Fair this year was artists amplifying context. Painters in particular were adding carpet, shelves, lights and barriers to give further dimension to the experience of looking at the work. And amplification by context is not just trending in the visual arts. 

Last night we attended 12 hours of a 24-hour theatre spectacular based on American David Foster Wallace’s book Infinite Jest. The piece played out across Berlin in incredible building structures repurposed for the event. Context on a mega scale lending depth and weight to what were often monologues or dialogues in conventional formats. 

The most amazing setting was a structure used to test models in preparation for building large ships. If you ever wondered where Franz West’s colour range and shapes come from, look no further than this pink metal eccentricity. In the basement are two massive pools used to set different experimental conditions. In Infinite Jest two actors stood (well, one was in a wheel chair) in red plastic skiffs delivering their lines as Maranthe and Steeply. This elaboration of performance by context continued throughout the night. In fact while the theatre part wasn’t that great… the context. Wow. 

*Ohers were cartoons, shiny surfaces, poles, antlers (still) and collage on photographs. 

Images: top Architect Ludwig Leo's 1975 Instututs für Wasser-und Schiffahrtstechnik in Berlin and bottom Infinite Jest being played out in one of the Institute's testing tanks