Critics’ Picks

Markus Selg, Carpet, 2010, pigment print on seaweed, 75 x 57”.

Markus Selg, Carpet, 2010, pigment print on seaweed, 75 x 57”.

London

Markus Selg

Vilma Gold
6 Minerva Street
April 30–May 30, 2010

A jute curtain opens onto tenebrous rooms where artist Markus Selg maps the origins of aesthetic experience in a mythopoesis of the hero and the artist. Digital prints, sculpture, film, sound, and lighting combine in a contemporary pleorama, or “floating” panorama, which leads the viewer through a neo-Romantic landscape—from pigment, piezo, and sublimation prints posing as carpets, woodcuts, and paintings to reinterpretations of Caspar David Friedrich’s icy sublime in the Krkonoše Mountains.

Projected before a diorama of hillsides ablaze, Schicksal (Destiny), 2010, is the artist’s first film: A man struggles through hip-deep snow in the Bohemian hinterland with no evident intent, a flute plays a warbling tune on the sound track, and hands carve a crude wooden sculpture by firelight. In Die Grenze (The Border), 2010, a camera in a rowboat bobs with the waves, reminding viewers that they are indeed in the midst of a mindfully constructed spectacle: The unchanging point-of-view shot seems to suggest a heroic patience and the artist’s excessive observation of unspectacular surroundings.

Selg employs the lyric mode of Romanticism to structure his response to contemporary nihilism. While this strategy recalls the visual culture of colonialism and nationalism, it also evokes the passionate self-demystification characteristic of Romantic poets. Selg’s disorienting montage of archetype, kitsch, metaphor, and allegory builds interpersonal subjective states, tripping the viewer into critical reconsideration of classic problems such as the social distance between art and work, between self and other.