empathy

Alicja in Wonderland

Taking over the large exhibition space of Johann Koenig’s gallery, Alicja Kwade’s exhibit compels and mystifies. Upon entering, one first notices a large mirror – a solitary object on display. A bronze metal rod leans on the mirror with its pointed end creating a dent in the mirror’s surface. The dent creates an illusion, looking as though the mirror has a ripple in it, similar to the effect a stone would make when tossed into a still pond. This playful illusion is a taste for what’s the come in the exhibit.

Falling down the rabbit hole

Walking into the larger room, it’s as if you’ve entered into a spiraling new reality. A mixture of ordinary objects, including a cement street curb, pipes, windows, a bicycle, fences and a large gate, are all arranged in a circular manner. Part of this constellation includes an unhinged door – propped up by nothing, adding a surreal and haunting element to the installation.

The composition is much like a maze spiraling inwards, each loop getting smaller until reaching the center. Even if you don’t ask for it, the installation is set up so that upon entering the room, you’re suddenly submerged into the spiraling maze – each step you take guides you into the loops of the maze. You’ve become a part of the exhibit, a part of the circular orbit of objects.

The soundtrack also the room mimics a spiraling motion – it sounds like one of those gum ball machines: you put a quarter in, and a neon swirled gumball drops down a spiraling ramp until it reaches the bottom and falls into your hand.  The looping noise of circular motion gives you the sensation that you too have become part of this reality, as you continue to find the center occasionally catching a glimpse of yourself in the various mirrors that along with the other objects also makes up the walls of the maze.

No smoking caterpillars or mushrooms here…

Finally breaking out of the maze, my mind is perplexed by the sound – where is it coming from? The only possible location is a darkened side room. Sure enough, in the side room a spinning metal top is on display. Its constant spin matches up to the thundering spinning noise that echoes throughout the exhibit. After five minutes of being mesmerized and staring at the screen, trying to figure out if the movement is getting faster or slower, it suddenly stops and the screen turns black. Only to restart again and again. I step out, and nearly fall over from dizziness.

The last thing to see is hidden away in another small side room – a tiny porcelain female figurine trapped in a glass encasement. Could this be Alice, or Alicja? The trapped figure draws out your curiosity even more to understand the mind and world of the artist. 

  • Johann König – Alicja Kwade – "In Circles" February 18th Feb – March 17th Tue–Sat: 11am–6pm