Physical absence, rather than presence, is the focus of Nicolas Pelzer’s Custom Utility, where an immaterial ‘now’ is echoed through a gradient of futuristic forms replacing the human body. As a part of Future Gallery’s impressive roster of represented artists and his second show at the Berlin space, Pelzer’s practice works across disciplines, culminating in the installation, print and sculptural works exploring the limitations and substitutions of modern reproductive materials.
Filling a large part of the gallery floor, the tall glass panels of ‘Breathe Control’ (2014) stand connected and controlling the flow and breath of its viewer on entering its maze-like physical mechanism. Other works, viewed through the glass are clearly visible but refracted and slightly blurred. Prints of stones found via Google Search, are stretched and modified and hang on a wall, presenting an altered physical presence as the smooth, gradient edges of the stones become distorted and disfigured by the borders of the square white frames that confine them.
In contrast to glass and stone, another room employs more artificial materials, where three blocks of dark grey foam –the type used to package and protect fragile precision objects –hang from the wall. They’ve been carved out with a water-jet cutter to create a defined absence that, within their new customisation and outside of their original utilitarian context, become naturally devoid of their use. Similar to George Henry Longly’s marble tablets, presented during last year’s Frieze week fringe events in London, known and unknown objects create abstract compositions in the light grey material. Some of the cut-away outlines are easily recognisable, where there are screw driver and crowbar forms mixed with more organic shapes. The series title, Muscle Remainder (2014), conjures the physical exertion and labour that a tool both requires and produces in contrast with the machine-controlled cut outs of the piece.
Physical absence is echoed in the installation ‘Orthopedic Reconstructions’ (2014) situated in the middle of the space. A series of orthopaedic pillows are presented on a long, low base. Silhouettes of tools and related objects are stenciled on the blue sprayed-painted satin covering the pillows that the Custom Utility press release describes as standing for “physical limitation, inferring the change of lifestyle and working conditions in contemporary society”. The negative space of these objects, scattered across the ergonomic shape of their pillows, hint to a physical present, at the same time as negating it completely.
All the objects in the exhibit could have been made without the human touch at all, implying our physical present as an increasingly dispersed and disappearing reality, with the future offering only more (or less) of the same.**
Exhibition photos, top-right.
Nicolas Pelzer’s Custom Utility is on at Berlin’s Future Gallery, running June 26 to July 26, 2014.