Lucas Lenglet

Magnus Müller

In a short period of time, Dutch artist Lucas Lenglet has created a unique and memorable trademark out of some familiar references: The geometric construction of the tank traps he uses in his installations appears to refer to Sol LeWitt’s metal grid structures. In the tradition of Dan Graham, Lenglet makes particular reference to architecture. The spaces he builds—their shelving systems, their seating arrangements, and the added photographs of buildings—are always conceived as an extension of what Lenglet calls his “archaeology of action.”

This exhibition brings together several ensembles of objects used in previous installations as well as new objects. Untitled, Panzersperren (Anti-tank Obstruction) (all works 2006), an asymmetrical pyramid built out of tank traps, dominates the front section of the exhibition space. Like an impenetrable fortress, the massive sculpture produces its own hermetic territory while also evoking the idea of borders and boundaries and their defense, and therefore of the bilateral conflicts that are played out in such contexts. Unlike Kendell Geers, for example, Lenglet does not attempt to horrify the viewer with symbolic violence. Instead, his tank traps are an architectural body that encroaches on and possesses the space.

Indeed, Lenglet is not interested in attempting to reproduce the horrors of war. Instead, the spaces he creates in his installations are artificial situations, a kind of “state of emergency” (in Carl Schmitt’s phrase) manifest in architecture that points out the unbridgeable gap between social laws and the radical intransigence of the individual. And so the title of this exhibition, “I Have No Gun, But I Can Spit,” is to be understood as an ironic comment on how in society intimacy and distance must be continually renegotiated while, at the same time, they continually create conflict: The installations are, first and foremost, logical gestures of self-assertion, objects whose design makes them aggressively stand out from their environment.

Here, the works become a kind of itinerary subdivided into roomlike segments. In Tool, Car Tires, a fragile wooden screen surrounds a pile of fifteen car tires. Some Thirty Inches from My Nose is made from a wooden shelving unit painted gray, to which have been attached a number of black-and-white photocopies showing apartment-building staircases. The shelving creates the structure that determines where the photos are pinned, thus increasing the tension between strict formalization and the fluttering character of the images. At the same time, the shelving unit is a domestic object, decorated here with images of anonymous, semipublic stairways and similar places. Private and social spaces are intertwined. Lenglet uses this staged architecture as a symbol for the locus in society where safety, conflict, and violence are negotiated.

This relationship between safety and conflict resurfaces in the photograph The Great Zimbabwe, which shows a narrow passageway alongside the tower of a fortress. The curve is so tight that the interior and exterior walls seem to knock into each other like two conflicting structures at the perspectival vanishing point of the photograph. This picture reflects all the paranoia behind the modern need for security: In times of a supposedly omnipresent terrorist threat, the fear of difference and of the Other is a pretext for building more and more walls until eventually protection becomes a trap. Being locked in—at least as Lenglet presents it—is no privilege; it is a road to nowhere. And it is a punishment for an excess of xenophobia.

Harald Fricke

Translated from German by Jane Brodie.