Eran Schaerf

Eran Schaerf’s works function by overlapping different modes of production. Schaerf, who was born in Tel Aviv but lives in Brussels and Berlin, is a media artist in the most literal sense of the word. He is concerned with how situations condensed into an abstract symbolic language offer innumerable associative links to the viewer. The essential act of production lies not in the isolation of images but rather in their linkage, if not the sedimentation of their inherent levels of meaning. How else could the veil be simultaneously cast as cultural artifact, feminist insignia, and military camouflage (as in his Recasting catalogue from 1997)?

Under the title “Scenario Data,” this exhibition combines things that hardly seem to belong to the same context. In Scenario Data #34 (continuity, cut, fold), 1999, Schaerf took a photographic image of a carnation-and-lyre motif from a dress by the fashion designer Pelilla and had it serially printed as wallpaper. Whereas the dress clings to a body, the printed paper is frozen, glued to a wall. What was a harmonious whole as an element in an article of clothing here becomes a fragmentary ornament—thereby becoming a new material to be reconfigured. In Scenario Data #36 (knotless location, bag), 1999, a bundle of blue plastic bags hangs from an elastic rope strung around nine nails to form a cartoon speech-balloon. The assemblage is held together without knots, merely by the pull of the tightly wound rope. The balloon thereby created appears, in turn, as an empty surface deluging the viewer with implicit references. René Magritte repeatedly used such symbols from the world of comics in order to demarcate the divide between signified and signifier. The missing word suggests that the content of an act of speech lies more in its pragmatic treatment than in its formal representation. Thus the problem of the philosophy of language becomes a problem of communication.

Schaerf also shares with Magritte the break in logic between designation and the world of experience. In Scenario Data #33 (beginning, end, access), 1999, ropes of different thicknesses, each one meter in length, are spliced end to end, tightly joined to one another on the floor. The craft of fishermen and sailors is translated into a spatial situation in the gallery, with the rope forming a two-ringed circle. Schaerf converts crafts production into an image of artistic processes. At the same time, the rupture that becomes apparent in this conversion of action into visuality is symptomatic of Schaerf’s way of working. It is always in the break that conditions for new associative links are found. One moves, so to speak, from plateau to plateau, from territory to territory. Exactly this change in levels transforms the apparently visually formed space into an imageless space of thought. This rope made of countless winding strands has substance—yet can easily be unraveled into a thousand threads with a few turns of the hand. It is through the interpretation of materials that Schaerf achieves this kind of unraveling in art.

Harald Fricke

Translated from German by Elizabeth Felicella.