Critics’ Picks

Eran Schaerf, Scenario Data #50 (Mercedes, de-chromed), 2001/2012, bungee cord, Mercedes hood ornament, bracelet, curtain accessories, key rings, nails, dimensions variable.

Eran Schaerf, Scenario Data #50 (Mercedes, de-chromed), 2001/2012, bungee cord, Mercedes hood ornament, bracelet, curtain accessories, key rings, nails, dimensions variable.

Berlin

Eran Schaerf

Zwinger Galerie
Mansteinstrasse 5
September 7–November 3, 2012

Everything seems suspended in Berlin-based Israeli artist Eran Schaerf’s latest exhibition: Found objects are threaded vertically onto chrome chains while, nearby, angular and empty speech bubbles have been drawn using black elastic cable from which other objects dangle, all coming together to create a room-scale bricolage. Scenario Data #50 (Mercedes, de-chromed), 2001/2012, includes a dechromed Mercedes hood ornament that the artist found in a Jerusalem market. During the 1970s, many such items were ripped from Mercedes cars as an anticapitalist gesture. Here, this one hangs from the cable and is attached to a number of other brass-colored interlocking rings. Throughout, reclaimed quotidian objects, bearing different languages and logos, create a babel that seeds Schaerf’s formally precise assemblages with echoes of speculative meaning to match the rhyming syntax of colors and shapes.

Schaerf lets any associations generated in his work retain ambiguity. Take Roundhouse, 2012, where a roll of black and white striped tape is looped onto the same chain as a batch of photocopies. Each of these features a single, tiny photograph of a vintage Adidas bag tightly slung over someone’s shoulder; the copies are there to be torn off and taken away. Underneath the bags’ iconic three stripes, in lieu of the name of the German sporting brand, is the word AL-QAIDA; a small graphic of an airplane is also visible. Some plastic sheets featuring Bauhaus typographic font posit a likely, though unconfirmed, origin of the A of the Adidas logo itself, further propagating the notion of connection or coincidence with an oblique, low-key delivery. Is a successful international sports company operating with capitalistic greed and oppressive hipness a currency that could mirror ideological violence and religious oppression? Is the export of German political terror of the 1930s alike, at least in kind, to Muslim extremism of more recent times?

The combination of previous histories among these used objects prompts several questions, primarily about whether we should see these as a plethora of intertwined stories, or as simple arbitrary conjunctions. Finding an answer may not be Schaerf’s intention; rather, this body of work remains skeptical about any received ideas about the order of things, which, when reordered, can be very revealing.