September 2007

Exhibition with Johannes Schwartz
Marres (Maastricht)
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Stair/Stare was the title of an exhibition that took place at Maastricht exhibition space Marres, between September 23 and December 16, 2007. Before we start explaining what our specific contribution to that exhibition was, here's first a fragment of the press release that was put out by Marres to announce the exhibition. This will clarify the context of the exhibition as a whole:

Part ruin, part interior. Johannes Schwartz' exhibition 'Stair/Stare' bridges two of the main themes that Marres has been exploring during its past seasons: the theme of the ruin (as expressed in recent exhibitions such as 'Raw'), and the theme of the interior, a theme that will play an increasingly important role in upcoming exhibitions at Marres.
'Stair/Stare' is centered around a series of photographs that Schwartz made in Egypt in 2005; photographs of dilapidated stairs. Unfinished stairs, steps leading nowhere: it seems clear that the images presented here explore the physical as well as the psychological realm.
In addition to showing these photographs, Schwartz has invited a couple of befriended artists to contribute to 'Stair/Stare'. Amsterdam graphic designers Experimental Jetset will create a minimalist construction that will act as a carrier of Schwartz' photographs, while simultaneously functioning as an intervention underlining the interior of Marres. At the same time, Herman Verkerk (of Amsterdam architecture studio EventArchitectuur) will construct an installation in the stairwell of Marres.

In short, photographer Johannes Schwartz asked us to cooperate with him on his exhibition in Marres. Our original plan was to come up with some sort of construction for him to hang his photos in.
Although Johannes' photographs focused strictly on stairs, we knew that the exhibition revolved about themes broader than that: ruins and interiors. So we wanted to make a construction that would refer to these themes.

We were looking at the floor drawings of Marres, and suddenly asked ourselves what would happen if we would overlay these drawing with themselves. In other words, if we would take the drawings, rotated them a few degrees, and put them on top of the original drawings - what would happen if these sketches would then be translated into an actual space? Shown below some maquettes (scale models) and drawings that we made, to explore this idea:
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In short, we translated the existing walls of Marres into an abstract three-dimensional 'line drawing', and placed this construction back in the space itself. The lines of this construction were echoing the walls of Marres, including its windows and doors.
The reason why we rotated the whole construction a bit was the fact that we wanted to make the construction more visible. We also decided that the construction should be black, to really refer to the idea of a line drawing.
As we see it, the construction is almost a 'ghost image' of Marres itself, appearing as if running right through the walls (comparable to the way ghosts fly straight through walls in old horror movies). Next to the image of the ghost, we were also thinking about the skeleton: in many ways, the construction was a reconstructed skeleton of Marres.

As we already wrote, the original plan was that the construction would function as a grid for Johannes Schwartz to hang his photographs in. It was always meant as a carrier. The moment the construction was placed in space, Johannes liked it so much that he wanted to keep the construction empty, and he decided to hang the photographs on the wall instead. We still see the construction as a carrier though. It definitely interacts with the photographs. The construction still frames the photographs, although in a more spatial way.
Shown below photographs of the actual construction as it appeared in the exhibition (photography by Johannes Schwartz). The exhibition consisted of four large rooms: three rooms on the ground floor, and one large floor upstairs (the maquettes above only show the ground floor). The construction ran through all four rooms, through the hallway, and even through the garden of Marres:
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During the installing of the exhibition, we were walking with Johannes through the space to decide where to place the photographs, and that's when we decided to hang the photos always on the 'inside' of the space. This is hard to explain, but we'll try it: the construction divides every room into an 'inside' and an 'outside'. So all the photos were hung on the walls that were on the 'inside' of the construction. In that sense, the construction acted as a pavilion that was placed inside Marres, with all the photos placed inside this pavilion:
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The theme of ruins might appear to be very 'anti-modernist', as it refers to notions such as antiquity, decay, etc., concepts that seem (at first sight) antithetical to modernism. In our view, however, the ruin is a modern concept. After all, ruins show the very essence of buildings. Ruins reveal the underlying constructions, the hidden structures. And this concept, of transparency, of making the viewer aware of underlying structures, can be seen as one of the main characteristics of modernism.

During the exhibition of Stair/Stare, there was also an installation by Herman Verkerk on display in the stairwell of Marres (not shown here).

We'd like to thank the carpenters who magically transformed our technical drawings into an actual spatial construction: Robin Gadde and his team, and the technical staff of Marres.

Other projects we did in collaboration with Johannes Schwartz include High Noon (2003), High Nature (2004), High Light (2005), High Rise (2005), High Resolution (2007) and High Ideals (2008). Other projects we did in collaboration with Guus Beumer (director of Marres) include NAiM / Edible City 1 and 2 (2007), NAiM / Jean Prouvé (2007) and NAiM / State Alpha (2008).

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