Erwin Redl, "Matrix XII," as presented at the Chinati Foundation (Marfa, Texas) 2003.
ERWIN REDL, Matrix XII
Plug In ICA, Winnipeg
Aug 11 - Oct 22, 2005
By Scott Barham
Austrian/New York artist Erwin Redel's installation at Plug In occupies the entire main exhibition space, defining the darkened gallery with a gently inclined grid of suspended blue LED lights. Since 1997, Redl has produced a series of similar large-scale LED installations whose purpose is to transform the experience of the site. As you enter the exhibit, the familiar references of ceiling, floor and wall give way to an array of more persuasive pinpoints of light. The lights form shoulder-wide and shoulder-high channels and you can move freely along any path in the grid that they, with rigorous regularity, define. In a short while you become more comfortable with the grid and less reliant on the floor, which seems to have disappeared somewhere beneath your feet. It is not always entirely clear whether you or the lights are suspended in space, and those stories of small aircraft flying into the sea through banks of fog spring to mind.
Experiential installations such as this, "work", because so much of our lives is predictable. When we are placed in a situation that we can't control and didn't anticipate, there is an initial tension between wariness and curiosity. Here the apprehension gives way to a pleasant disorientation, an enjoyable absence of things taken for granted. We move on, accepting the new framework provided for us by Redl.
The wireframe space and title Matrix XII lead us toward the inevitable filmic comparisons. But this is misleading from a technical perspective and somewhat embarrassing from a marketing one. However tidy the soldering, the parts of this whole are a bit more 'Red Green' than 'Morpheus'. But that is a good thing. The simplicity and directness of the execution complement the intent of the piece and the effect is more purely Euclidian. Overall, the experience of moving through the show produces an intriguing calmness… as if being in a quiet boat at night observing the flicker of a distant shore.
This sensory barrier between ordinary life and art experience is an old trick, the stuff of theaters, cathedrals and fun houses. In stepping out of the midday sun into Redel's construction, we experience a little of each.