Critics’ Picks

Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture No. 2), 2005.

Basel

Simon Starling

Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst
St. Alban-Rheinweg 60
June 11–August 8, 2005

Simon Starling's exhibition is called “Cuttings,” but “Global Transplants” would have worked too. By excising pieces of information from their original contexts, traveling with them and reconfiguring them somewhere else, Starling layers and conflates stories from different geographical points and different moments in history. A section of the sky over Spain's Tabernas Desert, for instance, rematerializes on the museum's ceiling (Three Day Light, 2004): Over a period of three days, the artist “stole” energy via solar panels from the sunniest place in Europe, just outside the secure confines of the Almeria Solar Platform, and brought it to Basel in two big batteries. The two hundred amp-hours of energy translated into one hour of power for a spray gun, with which the ceiling was colored blue. The relics of such circuitous yet poetic transformations are rather minimal, closely related to the Conceptual idea of dematerialization (think Robert Barry's Inert Gas Series, 1969), but with a certain geopolitical/ecological twist. For Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture No. 2), 2005, a wooden shed found some distance up the Rhine was dismantled and used to fashion a boat, with which the remaining wood was shipped to the museum, where the hut was reassembled in its original form. The absurdity of such excursions, fueled by various (art-) historical and local cross-references, playfully proposes basic questions about energy and entropy that are relevant not only to ecology but to the practice of art.