Exhibition: Soothsayers, Dittrich & Schlechtriem
With Charrière's fourth solo exhibition at Dittrich & Schlechtriem in Berlin the artist continues to explore post-romantic constructions of “nature,” staging tensions between geological timescales and those relating to humankind. The viewers are confronted with an installation focused on materiality and light that induces a meditative, trance-like state. By way of these sensory enhancements, they are prompted to explore the depths of their inner beings and a complex geological matrix. Soothsayers develops the artist's interest in disturbing collisions between earth systems and applied science (as well as hallucinatory night-club aesthetics). Through an immersive display that comprises two new sculptures Soothsayer and Vertigo, the exhibition stages visions of world(s) near and far that oscillate between Traum and trauma.
Soothsaying is the ancient art of prophecy. In the exhibition’s title piece, Charrière re-imagines one of its classic methods—divination through the reading of entrails (haruspicy)—through a poetics of stone: This major new work features a large block of coal encased within a steel plinth, as if the former had grown inside the latter’s three-dimensional grid. While its irregular shape disturbs the metal structure’s rational form, the coal lump—recalling something between tuber and tumor—also appears compressed by it. In symbolic terms (qua augury) its black mass stands for the guts of the earth. More to the point, as the grid indicates, it is modernity’s bowels; a fact that must be read more deeply if we are to extract our culture from it. To this end, Charrière’s coal bears a carved hollow, into which visitors may insert their heads. All the better to hear their own voice, or attempt to see in the dark …
The second part of the exhibition in an immersive scenography, centered around an igneous dream-machine (Vertigo, 2021). Set amid an ensemble of curtains, haze, and a fountain, Charrière remixes the tripped-out spirit of Brion Gysin’s original device (1962) for our twenty-first-century crisis. The first historical object was a rotating metal cylinder out of which beams of light were shot through various apertures. The visual stimuli given out by its stroboscopic flickering (meant to be viewed through closed eyelids) was supposed to produce an alpha wave mental state in the user. Building on such play of flash and darkness, Charrière’s stone version incorporates an architectural element to facilitate group sleep. Here, in the round, users must rest their heads on mineral pillows in order to receive the vision—a hard or otherwise disciplined version of repose and revelation in tune with our times.
Soothsayers circles around dream states and world pictures enabled by the strange light of extractive modernity. Throughout, Charrière’s exhibition stages a confrontation between the hardness of stone and the porosity of our imagination.
(The above are observations by Nadim Samman. The exhibition catalogue published by the gallery and available this October features all images and installation views alongside an expanded exhibition essay by Samman.)