The elevator continued its impossible slow ascent. Or at least I imagined it was ascent. There was no telling for sure: it was so slow that all sense of direction simply vanished. (…). But let’s just assume it was going up. Merely a guess. Maybe I’d gone up twelve stories, then down three. Maybe I’d circled the globe. How would I know?
(Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World)
Josée Bienvenu Gallery is pleased to present Fabian Birgfeld’s second solo exhibition in New York. The exhibition is composed of City Garden, an installation of twelve video sculptures, and Interior Landscapes, a collection of twenty-five photographic triptychs.
Fabian Birgfeld’s work reflects on the culture of mobility. Since 1998, he has been exploring a particular typology of global interiors such as airports and subway stations, bank and hotel lobbies, offices and elevators. The works trace the artist’s own journeys around the globe, places temporarily inhabited en route to somewhere else. The exhibited photographs and video footage were shot in France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Interior Landscapes consists of twenty-five small photographic triptychs. The project is a survey of international transit spaces, installed as a narrow strip across the wall. While the photographed sites vary, the formal framework is always the triptych. It allows the spaces to be experienced sequentially, along a kinetically constructed path. A narrative is thus created across the three panels, functioning not as a panorama, but as a storyboard, a dynamic image in-between cinema and photography.
Spaces of transit have a rhythm regulated by timetables. When a train or a plane arrives, these spaces get suddenly crowded to become empty again right after the departure. The photographs are shot quickly and intuitively, responding to the dominant visual characteristic of each location and mostly when the human presence has left behind only a trace. Bright lights reflect off smooth hard surfaces, curved and angular walls recede abruptly, and bits of primary colors jump into the foreground of geometric compositions that often border on abstraction.
City Garden is an installation of twelve video sculptures that play short loops of elevator interiors in different types of buildings such as hotels, malls, airports, offices, museums, and subway stations. The camera is fixed on the elevator doors, which briefly open and close to reveal fragments of generic architecture. The 8 feet tall wooden towers stand at random in the gallery and tilt in different directions. A small monitor is embedded in each and the image is viewed on an inserted mirror. The varying heights of the screens and the shifting angles of the towers set the installation in motion. Here, video footage is used as a spatial quote, and the sculpture as its framing device. For Birgfeld, the elevator has become the garden of the city, a place where the space and time of the everyday are suspended and collapsed.
Fabian Birgfeld lives and works in New York. He was born in 1968 in Hamburg, Germany. He received a BA in economics from Harvard University and a Master of Architecture from Princeton University in 1999. Recent one-person exhibitions include Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University, (Hamilton, NY) and Goethe Institut in Washington D.C. and New York. Upcoming exhibitions include Vanishing Point, curated by Claudine Ise at the Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH).