Christoph Schäfer & Cathy Skene

Tom Backhauss

Arcadia is a never-never land that transcends reality and into which values and notions of happiness have been projected. The only possible realization of this world is esthetic; its model goes back to Virgil and Theocritus, but its conception is flexible enough to adjust to the social and esthetic conditions of any period. Here Christoph Schäfer & Cathy Skene make use of arcadia as a malleable topos. It is both the title of the exhibition and an associative signpost. Schäfer & Skene combine the vita activa of urban hustle and bustle with the vita contemplativa of a natural idyll in their own version: a skateboard ramp, a water fountain, and a three-minute videoloop (a photo-wall multiple is also presented, separate from the installation). The video shows a brief scene from François Truffaut’s film L’amour en fuite (Love on the run, 1979), in which two women misuse the room they are in—a record store—not to sell, but to meet their lovers. The transvaluation of places is more obvious in the object of the skateboard ramp, since skateboarding can stand exemplarily for the conversion of urban surfaces.

If the installation seems to steer us toward one specific reading, it blocks it simultaneously, for the wellspring challenges us to engage in a different sort of viewing, from sculptural to associative. Thus, its steady gurgling, together with the music of the video, transform the gallery into an idyll, hence transcending its usual function. On one hand, the gallery is presented as a correlative of arcadia, since, as a commercial entity, it excludes never-never land while still integrating its esthetic realization. On the other hand, the correlation is canceled by the vita contemplativa, and the gallery itself almost becomes an arcadia. But contemplation is only one side of the transvaluation, which is also formal, expressing itself more resolutely in the passage from the determination by others to self-determination.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.