Magazine article Artforum International

Emanuel Rossetti: Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland

Magazine article Artforum International

Emanuel Rossetti: Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland

Article excerpt

IT SHOULDN'T HAVE WORKED: just some red carpeting on the floors and walls, speakers, five small bells, an image pasted on an otherwise empty wall, and sound. These were the sparse ingredients of Swiss artist Emanuel Rossetti's first institutional solo show, "Delay Dust." What might have been yet another display of smartly handled, minimal punctuations with limited meaning instead introduced a set of experiences ranging from the stunningly immersive to the unsentimentally disillusioning to--in the case of the unexpected gesture of independence just outside the carefully curated space--the utterly surprising.

"Delay Dust" was both a synaesthetic tour de force and an exercise in thwarting illusion. Entering the Kunsthalle Bern, you were instantly confronted with a deep and vibrating musical drone, a sound that, as you discovered later, tightly linked together the institution's seven spaces. Once you bought your ticket, you walked into the entrance hall, where the intense audio monotone was coupled with an equally invasive monochromatic visual attack: Usually, the kunsthalle's entrance provides access to four exhibition spaces, but for his show, Rossetti covered floor, walls, and all doorways except one with red carpet--a vast expanse of generic color. Whether by natural inclination or bold manipulation, you turned right, into the only open passageway, and entered a second red room. Impeding any sense of spatial continuity, here the floor was subtly elevated by just under five inches, with five electronically operated bells arranged on the carpet. They would randomly ring every twenty-five minutes or so. The ephemeral, almost comical sequence of chimes starkly contrasted with the disturbing reverberations of the drone. From this second room, you continued to the next exhibition space, this one entirely empty, and then to the main exhibition hall. Except for a loudspeaker, the hall was empty as well--yet it was filled with the intensely echoing drone. Finally, you walked through the last space to reach the entrance hall again, accomplishing--not unlike the persistent sound piece throughout--a loop. "Delay Dust" continued downstairs with the same emptiness filled by sound, to "end" with the only image in the entire exhibition: a print pasted onto the wall, which showed the digitally rendered shape of a doughnut-like form floating on a blue background--itself a constant motif in Rossetti's earlier work.

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The Kunsthalle Bern has, of course, a long institutional history of immersive, self-reflexive, and critical installations. Throughout the past quarter century, other artists have similarly transformed the galleries in simple if striking ways: In 1989, Sol LeWitt used the entire stretch of its walls as a continuous support for his hypnotic wall drawings, to trouble the viewer's perception of each perspectival space. In 1992, Michael Asher moved all of the building's radiators (along with additional connective plumbing) into the entrance hall, where he displayed them, fully functioning, as both heaters and sculptures. In 1994, Heimo Zobernig installed a white wall, about seven feet high, in front of the existing walls. In 1997, David Hammons changed, through window filters, the natural light to blue, displayed a few objects of no apparent value, and played recordings of music by legends including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Muddy Waters. The building was turned into an atmosphere as politically loaded as it was sensorially enchanting. …

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