Critics’ Picks

Neither, 2004. Installation view.

Neither, 2004. Installation view.

New York

Miroslaw Balka

Gladstone Gallery | West 24th St
515 West 24th Street
September 18–October 23, 2004

In this exhibition of new works, Miroslaw Balka removes the line dividing public and private experience, creating a space in which the humble materials of domesticity and the “unforgettable” events of history rub up against each other like uneasy neighbors who once fought on opposing sides of a war. In the dim gallery, flickering rings of gas are projected downwards onto shallow steel troughs full of salt—a material that, for Balka, represents the body. The implicit allusion to the Holocaust clashes effectively with the work's simplicity. Black-and-white film projections are accompanied by low, rotating wooden tables, each set with a single empty white plate. The films are of Birkenau in the winter: One, projected twice, offers a view through barbed wire of deer scavenging in a bleak, frozen landscape, and another shows an icy pond surrounded by black rows of trees. The movement of the tables and the jittering of the camera give the work a bewildering kinesis; the deers' startled, skinny figures bring to mind more recent images from Serbian concentration camps. By creating, and sustaining, complex formal and conceptual relationships, Balka coins his own language of remembrance, one that feels intensely necessary to the project of breaking the vicious cycles of history.