Article by Louisa Stark // Monday, May 7, 2018
Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs’ new show ‘Defying Gravity’ at KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art opens with a dual deception. A monochrome video of a man on a ladder is playing, reminiscent of a silent film. He is perceived at an unusual scale due to the placement of the camera and pretends to repetitively strike a series of buildings with a hammer, each of which has its own distinctive tone. Looking behind the wall the film is being played on, which appears to be a dead-end, actually reveals the sound to be live rather than a recorded soundtrack; it is produced by a mechanism designed to hit glass bottles in time with the man’s gestures, creating a playful defiance of the senses.
The exhibition is split over two floors and this marks a clear divide between Onorato and Krebs’ video and photography works. On the first floor the video works continue to convey architectural imagery. One cinematic projection shows a series of illuminated buildings at night, clad in neon, the visual language of advertising, yet devoid of recognisable brands and so appreciated purely as lines, patterns and colours. The sophistication of this modern architecture is captured with the same simplicity as the perspective trick from the opening video piece; the fitful flow of colour is the same pace as a stop-motion animation or slide show.
Smaller video projections in the central room exist as self-contained poetic cycles. In the 2018 video ‘Robots’, the robotic arms of a machine rotate in slow synchrony, a movement comparable to a gymnast’s limbs in ‘Snake Woman’, 2015. This video then transitions to a close-up of an artificially intelligent woman’s face, framed in the same format and black and white colour scheme as human faces in ‘Faces’, 2015. Other visual connections and overlaps are easily seen across these videos, potentially bringing to light profound meanings without ever explicitly spelling them out to the viewer. They are all shot on 16mm film, with the sound and paraphernalia of the projectors present in the gallery, giving the work further space for interpretation; they could easily be found documents from a past era, or contemporary works.
The artists’ preference for analogue processes continues onto the second floor of the exhibition in the form of film photography from three different series: ‘The Great Unreal’ and ‘Continental Drift’, from two road trips through the USA and from Zurich to Mongolia respectively; and the architecture of Berlin in ‘Berlin / Constructions’. In the latter series, buildings from the city are framed by three-dimensional structures installed by Onorato and Krebs on empty plots of land nearby. They are photographed aligned with the buildings as a flat extension of their geometry, like overlaid architectural drawings; this careful process of arrangement to create an effective visual trick echoes the first video’s lightness of touch.
Throughout their photographic practice, there is a sense of Onorato and Krebs as architects of scenarios, working as a pair to create works that appear to have a singular vision. ‘Defying Gravity’ mixes images made by the opposing processes of chance and direct intervention, and again highlights comparisons between separate works. Two different photographs of a white line created by water—an aerial view of the sea and water emerging from a well—displayed next to each other share visual similarities, while a sense of time is etched onto two other photographs as the mottled surfaces of a rusted car and film itself. These are images that, like the video works, can either be interpreted more deeply through their juxtapositions or appreciated for themselves as carefully executed aesthetic compositions and documents of unusual places.