empathy

Introspective Retrospective

The Robert Morris exhibit, which is the first to fill the whole gallery space in the Sprüth Magers, is not just a retrospective of the artist’s work but truly an adventure-filled experience for the viewer.

I didn’t expect that walking into the second solo exhibition in Berlin of American artist Robert Morris would really be such a journey for my mind. The first room I entered was filled with various pieces of shiny metals and matte material. This combination of felt, copper steel, led zinc, and brass aluminum, is an installation sculpture entitled, Scatter Piece (1969). Walking through the room turned me into a bit of scatterbrain myself, I couldn’t help but wonder what could be created from these raw materials if they were mixed and matched together. It was as if I was working in a factory at the peak of the industrial age, and I had just been given creative freedom to invent a new product, a puzzle that needed solving.
 

Am I in a tetris game?
 

The next adjoining room with its high ceilings and open space, displayed a number of installation pieces. In the center there are three L-shape sculptures, titled Steel Mesh Ls (1988). Which, I had to circle around to grasp. Although the room seemed cold at first, with its minimalistic aura, the longer I circled, the warmer it seemed.

 Robert Morris installations“Want to play Tetris?”, Robert Morris installations, Photo: Jens Ziehe, Courtesy of Sprüth Magers

 

I continued my journey through the historical retrospective, and as I walked up the stairs to experience the second floor of the exhibit, I was treated to not only a visual but also an audio surprise. As I enjoyed the sculpture, Chairs (2001), a set of small sized chairs, arranged in a circle, covered with lead material, resembling a sheet, I had the idea to bring a kindergarten class into the room, pull off the sheets and start a game of duck-duck goose. The image popped into my head as the classical music that filled the room sped up in tempo. After this lively imagined game, I headed back downstairs to explore the rest of the exhibit.


Someone get me a straitjacket
 

When I opened the door to the final room, I entered the 8-track sound installation Voices (1974). I felt like all eight voices were screaming at me, sending me a message that I could not translate. It was disorientating. And so I went close to each speaker to see if I could discern the message. No luck, I couldn’t. The recordings are spoken texts of material written by the artist himself as well as excerpts from Dementia Praecox (1919) and Manic Depressive Insanity and Paranoia (1921). This sound installation has an audio play lasting three and a half hours; too long for me, since after 5 minutes, I was turning my head back and forth as a snippet from one selection caught my attention over the others, already turning me into a manic depressive.

What a trip 

Having taken the ride through the space-related works of Robert Morris, I left the exhibit having thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Exiting the gallery I was in the middle of Oranienburgerstrasse, and I found myself turning my head back and forth again. Should I go left, or right? Either way I was in the middle of the city, on an awesome street filled with history, art, interesting shops and good food. My next journey had begun. Berlin was waiting.