Peter Downsbrough at Kunstraum Lakeside
Klagenfurt, October 9 – November 6, 2020
It matters where you draw the line. And that lines are not a matter of fact is what you find out, sooner or later, when you spend serious time with them. For one, they never come alone. One line needs another, becomes longer, shorter, thinner, thicker in comparison. Some lines meet, some end, others never do. When there are two or more the lines are no longer borders but a relationship — to one another, to the space they are on, or in, or go through.
It is these relations that Peter Downsbrough draws out at Kunstraum Lakeside, in what is a continuation of the work he has explored since the 1960s, both on the page and off, in the exhibitions and more than 116 publications he has made to this day. Kunstraum Lakeside, located in Klagenfurt’s Science and Technology Park, right by the Wörthersee, is a space for art with its own demands 1, hovering in a state somewhere between office, white cube and (with its many windows) reflection.
Downsbrough’s response to this challenge is nearly immaterial — but also its opposite. While outside, like a set of flagpoles that are too thin, Two Pipes spike upward, one to the standard maximum of six meters, the other, dwarfed beside it, to a human height, suddenly small, fragile, invisible. Inside, three of these pipes, in different lengths, come down from the ceiling, in one case virtually to the floor, and two others, a meter long, are drawn perpendicularly along the wall. Looking in through the glass pane, their masses flattened to one drawing, those hanging in the room are pushed back, while the ones behind seem to jealously come both on and off the wall. The disorientation that occurs, through this interplay of recession and progression, is difficult to describe, but impossible not to experience when you enter and foreground/background switch the places they had taken just a moment before.
Then the rules that appear to be at play – and that literally command the space as they would in a ‘ruled’ notebook – change. The setting on the right is translated (maybe corrected) on the left wall, by a single taped vertical line, the word ZEIT (time) stuck against it, and AND and its German equivalent UND, flipped, nearly sitting on the floor horizontally; instantiating that what starts in one language can be carried into in another.
The conjunctions and nouns Downsbrough uses time and again, three here and sometimes more in other settings, and/und and Zeit at Lakeside; or also as as he did in his show at àngels barcelona last year, are charged with a weight and depth they don’t normally want to carry but talk to each other within that repetition, in time and space itself. Realizing that and does more than enumerate, that as is not just a preposition that is used in a temporal sense alone, but also to compare, to associate and imagine, sets off a whole new range of possibilities. Less like Sol LeWitt’s (whom he is regularly compared to), the lesser known lines that Downsbrough draws come closer to those of Stanley Brouwn, asking passers-by to draw him directions on an empty sheet of paper. They do not instruct. They co-direct.
The pipes take on the air(s) of wind chimes, silently scratching the space. Or of black lights, suddenly winking at Dan Flavin and the for he dedicated so many of his neon fluorescent tubes with. DNU isn’t only automatically UND: AND also becomes DNA. You need to do a lot of staring, or just an iPhone to see it, but when you do, it is hard not to anymore.
Defined through an artistic and architectural intervention by Josef Dabernig in 2005, including two free-standing moveable walls, tables, shelves, chairs, a beamer that are not intended to leave the space. ↩