Critics’ Picks

Alicja Kwade, Der Tag ohne Gestern (Dimension 1–11) (The Day Without Yesterday [Dimension 1–11]), 2009, steel, black varnish, speakers, mixer, microphones, neon tubes, dimensions variable. Installation view.


Alicja Kwade

Dessauer Str. 6-7
September 15–November 7

Three works summon a powerful sense of the uncanny in Alicja Kwade’s latest exhibition, “Border Cases of Fundamental Theories.” The Polish-born, Berlin-based artist’s pair of installations and video share a Minimalist appearance, and together they evoke disquieting impressions.

Kwade’s video captures a few rocks falling slowly through pitch-black space. In reality, the stones are mere pebbles. Yet Kwade has filmed them with a high-speed camera that magnifies the objects to massive proportions on the gallery wall to create the unnerving sense that these simple, harmless stones are meteors plummeting toward an unknown and possibly fatal destination.

The creepy experience of watching the film is accentuated by the audio that emanates from the installation adjacent to the screening space. Here, Kwade has assembled eleven large, shiny black-lacquered curved steel plates that divide the space. In front of each one she has placed a simple black speaker. Visually, the effect is neat and nearly soothing. But each speaker is connected to the fluorescent lightbulbs in the ceiling, amplifying electromagnetic waves against the uniquely shaped structures. As the sounds echo around the room, one feels a physically sickening sense of disordered anxiety and panic, which stands in sharp contrast to the work’s banal, benign materials and cool, elegant look.

Less physical but perhaps even more effective is Kwade’s unassuming outdoor installation. At the gallery’s entrance, the artist parked two silver Nissan Micras next to each other. On first look the cars seem identical, but closer examination reveals that they are actually mirror images, with steering wheels on opposite sides and matching dents in their fenders. Without any overt justification, the sight generates a sense of dread, as well as admiration for Kwade’s pitch-perfect tweaking of reality.