São Paulo

Leandro Erlich, Lost Garden, 2008, metal, bricks, glass, mirrors, fluorescent lights, artificial plants, dimensions variable.

Leandro Erlich, Lost Garden, 2008, metal, bricks, glass, mirrors, fluorescent lights, artificial plants, dimensions variable.

Leandro Erlich

Luciana Brito Galeria

Leandro Erlich, Lost Garden, 2008, metal, bricks, glass, mirrors, fluorescent lights, artificial plants, dimensions variable.

Argentinean artist Leandro Erlich’s show “La Invención” comprised three works, each of which highlights the way that ordinary things can become uncanny when, recontextualized, the quotidian is transformed into a space for inquiry. Because the show was split between unconnected rooms—an upstairs exhibition space and a ground-floor office—it was difficult for the viewer to realize that the video Global Express, 2011, playing in Luciana Brito’s office on an LED screen housed in a metal structure resembling a train window, was even part of Erlich’s show, especially since an exhibition by Brazilian artist Tiago Tebet was installed in the adjacent main gallery. In Global Express, Erlich edited together footage of Paris, Tokyo, and New York into a seamless view of passing cityscapes so that changes of locale are noticeable, if at all, only to viewers who are familiar with the architectural fabric of the three cities or in the rare moments when an icon such as the Eiffel Tower appears.

In Elevator Pitch, 2011, and Lost Garden, 2008, two installations that appeared upstairs here, Leandro similarly relies on seemingly mundane tropes to create disquieting situations with permeable boundaries. Elevator Pitch is a faithful reproduction of an elevator door that opens at ten-second intervals to reveal video footage of people—actors—in an elevator in Buenos Aires, accompanied by generic music that plays while the doors are open. Among the twenty-two different vignettes repeatedly shown are those of a mother and two children; a crowd of people trying to avoid eye contact with one another; a couple kissing; and a teacher with a group of school children. Many viewers probably didn’t keep looking long enough to perceive the loop. But even for those of us who did, the scenes went by too fast for us to fill in the narrative suggested by the fact that certain faces appeared more than once: When was the elevator going up or down? Were the kids holding balloons going to, or coming from, a birthday party? And so on. Temporality is deconstructed and the elevator is stripped of its function. The red light of the call button never goes off and, in the artist’s own words, the elevator is “a machine that has no rest.”

Lost Garden, the only work of the three in the show without any video element to it, was the least entertaining but the most intriguing. Two windows look out onto a small skylit courtyard with plants. With the use of mirrors, Erlich makes the visible space appear much larger than it really is and brings viewers into the work as their reflected bodies filter in and out of one’s field of vision. The participatory role of the spectator clearly gives the work its strength. In each of these three pieces, Erlich establishes a space in which to question the permeable boundary between reality and fiction, but Lost Garden in particular epitomizes his exploration of perceptual frontiers.

Camila Belchior