ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, 09|17|2011 – 02|05|2012
Matthias Gommel
* 1970 in Leonberg (DE), lives and works in Karlsruhe (DE)

Untitled (Passage), 2011

In public places, structures are sometimes set up that define the approaches and paths to which people are obliged to conform. Barriers and check points drastically restrict freedom of movement, but are supposed to ensure that people can move about in an orderly fashion and that everyone can reach his or her destination. For the exhibition The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds after 1989, Matthias Gommel developed a work that addresses an example of such order: the queue management system, with which we are familiar at airports and museums. In practical terms, these management systems are a nuisance. They constitute a barrier, a distance between us and our destination, whether artwork or airplane. At the same time, they point to something special lying beyond: once the labyrinth of ordering cordons has been passed, the world behind them seems to open up.
This ambiguity of promising obstacles could be interpreted as symptomatic of contemporary life forever in transit between new places and lifestyles. In this way, the non-place of the guidance system becomes a metaphor for the eternal journey, and the uniform play of the cordons like the play of ocean waves, through which the journey takes place. As in the old song A Life on the Ocean Wave, which can be read and heard here, the necessity of an arrival or a destination fades into the background of a life in transit. Such a life remains a romantic vision, yet one that bears within itself a certain tragedy; for pulling up one’s roots is still today often a flight from inhuman living conditions, followed by an endless state of transition amidst bureaucracy and illegality. Even contemporary art, which looks upon myths of faraway places skeptically, is caught between the romantic and the tragic. The name “Ocean Wave” chosen by the Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader for a small boat is an allusion to the song quoted here: in 1975 Bas Jan Ader sailed out into the Atlantic in it for the performance In Search of the Miraculous, never to be heard from again. (JB)



Untitled (Passage), 2011