“What kind of image do you end up with?” asks the close of a draft of informal notes taken by artist Gili Tal and Sandy Brown director Fiona Bate for its recent exhibition, Panoramic Views of the City, that ran in Berlin from October 25 to December 13. From the images alone, it’s hard to distinguish which is a window and which is the screen featuring an image of an outside in the gallery space. It’s a sublimation print on MicroTexx hung from a railing on a front window featuring a ubiquitous archetypal heart. It bears little resemblance to the muscular organ but represents an almost universal symbol of human emotion adorning a view out from a spätkauf shop window on a Langese ® icecream umbrella, or a Lycamobile advertising sticker.
Next to the LED strip that lights up ‘Love and War’ (2014), the glass pane of the Sandy Brown front door looks out on to a street lined with autumnal trees, in contrast to the other’s summertime green. One wonders how distinct these images are from any other inner-city suburb, apart from presenting the German Heartbrand subsidiary of an Anglo-Dutch multinational, as opposed to the global brand’s ‘Wall’s’ in the UK or ‘Streets’ in Australia.
“…but the thing you represent when you come face to face with me has no heart in its breast. What seems to throb there is my own heartbeat.”
The above quote is Marx anthropomorphising a capital that “asks for our love” and identifies “our own heartbeat” as being at the centre of the Panoramic Views of the City exhibition. The sparsely adorned gallery walls present one curtain, two paintings and three blenders set across the small space, inspired by Tal’s observation of advertising that trades on a “high end emotion and urgency” that demands its consumer’s love (an “aggressive, emotive and manipulative” one). That’s where the three paintings ‘Cityscape Pictures (1, 2, 3)’ (2014) present an oil on canvas reproduction of a cityscape taken from a t-shirt from Dutch retail chain C&A. It’s text is stretched and distorted by shifting dimensions and superimposed on a metropolitan image that is “both generic and specific at the same time”. Inspired by the countless souvenir tops, canvas prints, mouse mats, towels, toilet brushes commemorating a time and place that could be experienced anywhere, it echoes Milton Glaser’s “I ♥ NY” design, become “I ♥ LA”, “I ♥ London”, “I ♥ Tokyo”, “I ♥ Ho Chi Minh City” and so on.
Distorted in such a way that they resemble Edvard Munch’s iconic angst-ridden expressionist piece ‘The Scream’ (1893) (also the subject on an earlier Tal exhibition Damage Control at Lima Zulu last year), ‘Cityscape Pictures (1, 2)’ become what the artist calls “a sardonic re-activation of this idea of speed and modernity that such images rely on and work on emotionally”. The absurdity of this notion – in light of the epically unexciting way this capital pressure is executed via homogenised self-reproduction – is emphasised by the fact that one of these stretched images is dropped on its side.
At the centre of all this is ‘But the World Keeps on Turning (Der Himmel Über Berlin Version)’ (2014). They’re three blenders, household appliances on a shelf above a rubber floor mat, mechanically altered and slowed down by an engineer to rotate at about 60 revolutions a minute: “blenders as sky, shelf as earth, floor mat as sea”. They lurk like the three clocks your likely to see at an internet cafe. Clocks showing the time across global capitals – New York, LA and London perhaps – from a space where your only access point is via the images conjured through arms on clock faces, computer screens and panoramic photos of an unttainable location. The ‘real thing’ is one reserved for those that can afford it; luxury apartments on lifestyle property websites where a window with a view becomes a trading point, the city as emblem of private wealth and patriarchal power structures. With that in mind Tal’s notes ask, “what would be my city view? >>>curtain?”. The exhibition answers, “I can’t have panoramic views. I can buy pictures of them”. **
Exhibition photos, top right.