View of “Nick Oberthaler,” 2015–16. Photo: Georg Petermichl.

View of “Nick Oberthaler,” 2015–16. Photo: Georg Petermichl.

Nick Oberthaler

Galerie Emanuel Layr | Vienna

View of “Nick Oberthaler,” 2015–16. Photo: Georg Petermichl.

“We turn around in the night, consumed by fire.” The Latin palindrome “In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” had as powerful an impact on the sensibility of Guy Debord and the Situationists as it did on the German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten. The sentence delights the Austrian artist Nick Oberthaler, too. If you ask him about it, he’ll enthusiastically start elaborating on German Romanticism, Heidegger, eternity, seduction, and the dangers that arise when a person wants to touch the sun. “The highest form of artistic expression is writing,” he declares. Maybe that’s why he’s pulled no punches in titling his recent show “Distinct Features of Fast Oscillations in Phasic and Tonic Rapid Eye Movement.” It sounds like a scientific article by neurologists studying visual phases. What Oberthaler is referring to, perhaps, is that illuminating moment of awakening that casts

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