Balz Isler at the SAVVY Contemporary Gallery
Saturday, the 15th of October 2011
Curators: Cilgia Gadola and Raisa Kröger
The setting was rather pop: a neon light was hanging vertically from the ceiling and resting on the floor. On one wall there's a big poster-like image of the artist himself photographed in front of a photo of some overgrown vegetables (if I got this one right); the artist's eyes are covered by tape, so you can only watch his colourful outfit next to huge tomatoes (or the like). On the opposite wall there is a huge, cheap but golden looking necklace; the pendant has the word "sex" written on it. A glass or plastic frame has been placed in front of the necklace, turning the whole thing into a painting-like object of contemplation. Irony, playfulness, kitsch... you name it!
In the next room a 10 Euro bill has been stuck into the wall. Behind a glass frame, placed on a golden background there is an army suit which bears the labels "facebook" and "twitter" on it. The ghost of a soldier of everyday routine and conquered friendships...
Two small plastic rabbits placed on pedestals (one black and one white) are engaged in conversation.
A white wooden frame houses a small video.
The smallest room in the gallery has the word "Machthaber" (the one who has power) hanging from the ceiling.
This is just to let you picture the setting and my expectations about Balz Isler's performance to come. I thought it's going to be critical, political, kitschy, superficial, even not comprehensible...
I didn't expect it to be poetical and intimate.
Balz Isler stood on a chair in the corner of the room, laptop in his lap. People were sitting on the floor, their gazes pointed towards the screen. He made a short introduction, then proceeded to screen several very short videos. Sound-videos. He superimposed them, layered their images and their sounds on the screen. He sang accompanying the videos (with a high, soft voice from the 80`s), and he accompanied his spoken words with the projection of short word definitions from a dictionary. At the end he literally said "sorry" and "thanks"...
The atmosphere was cosy, with a hint of self consciousness and fun in the background that weren't disturbing.
At a certain moment his singing got accompanied by a woman's voice from the public (his performance partner) and that was, besides his own voice, another live surprise that added warmth to this edited and well-commanded piece of video& sound installation.
The intro I mentioned he made at the beginning brought in the question of genuine experience when you know somebody else has seen or been to the same place as you. Despite this announced danger of not being able to enjoy something on your own because of the influences of previous accounts about "the same" experience, the audience shared the sound of a fire camp
the squeaking of a gate
the rhythm build out of several audio-cuts
an African landscape (that's what it looked like to me)
the flying above ground and the abrupt landing
a beautiful woman talking (maybe a conversation between friends, artists or/and lovers)
and a few more images and sounds...
During the screening the images would travel from the projector, meet the chord of the thin neon in the middle of the room and make it flickr. A bit of a magic was in the air...
Link to savvy contemporary