The Bridge


YEAR: 1991



Collection of the artist


New York, Museum of Modern Art
Dislocations, 20 Oct 1991 — 7 Jan 1992

Bilbao, Sala de Exposiciones de Rekalde
El Puente, 21 Nov 1995 — 21 Jan 1996


Having passed through a small dark corridor, in all 2 meters long, the viewer opens an old door that has been painted green many times, and he immediately winds up, after ascending a slight incline, on a narrow wooden bridge with handrails which raises him above the floor. The viewer walks along this bridge to the center of the room, whereupon the bridge turns to the left. You can get down from the bridge only through the opposite door, which takes you out of the installation. The viewer cannot get off of the bridge and enter the room, he cannot walk around its floor – the handrails and the bridge are tightly pressed up against the doors – and it is only possible to go in one direction, toward the exit.

In the large room (15 x 10 meters) only the center is brightly lit by an oval of light. The corners and walls of the room are not illuminated, they are immersed in semi-darkness. This illuminated center, at first glance, appears to be completely empty. However, just outside the borders of the circle of light one can see all sorts of things in total disarray which have been pushed back against the walls – chairs, wooden benches, boxes, wrapping paper, a table covered with a green tablecloth. Behind all of this, flush against the wall and barely visible in the darkness, stand large and medium-size paintings that have not been hung. The walls themselves, if you look closely, are divided at even intervals by vertically hanging red panels, which lend the entire area a sort of ‘pompous’ air. And the very color of the walls and the table with the carafe containing water that is standing on it and the glasses, all indicate that, to all appearances, what we have before us is an official area intended for solemn occasions. But why is there such disorder and chaos in it?

A wooden board with an explanation is affixed in the center of the bridge at the very place where it turns toward the exit, and here the viewer may read to find out what is going on, or more precisely, what went on. From this text, the plot/theme of the installation becomes clear, as does the significance of the five pairs of binoculars which are standing along both sides of the bridge and through which the viewer will definitely look once he has read the text. Having looked through them, he will see that the illuminated circle on the floor under his feet, which seemed empty to the naked eye, is really covered in many places with groups of little white men. Their origin and their significance in this installation are still not quite clear even after reading the ‘explanation.’ Actually, the very installation itself raises this question: what are these little white men, how did they wind up here, where are they from? And what really happened here? And what’s depicted on the paintings, of which there are many (18) and which cannot be seen on account of the darkness and the chairs which are blocking them? But the viewer, perplexed by these questions, cannot linger for very long on the bridge. The bridge is narrow, and from behind other viewers are bumping into him, and he winds up already in front of the exit, not really understanding whether what was shown to him was done ‘in all seriousness’ or whether these damned ‘conceptualists’ were just trying to make a fool of him.


A rather ambitious attempt to establish the correlation between art and ‘mysticism’ is embedded in the installation.

Alas, the time has long passed, like in icons and in Gothic style, for example, when art was understood as serving a high, religious-mystical source and the separation of the two appeared to be simply impossible. In modern times, when first the artistic work – the painting – became autonomous, and then the artist himself, and finally his profession, having become only his personal affair, the connection between mysticism and art becomes highly problematic. In the art of the Late Renaissance, the first is still preserved in the form of subject and in the particular ‘lofty’ realm of the painting. But subsequently, with a change in the subjects depicted, it’s as though mysticism disappears altogether from the painting. (I am speaking here not about individual artists, but about the general state of affairs as a whole.)

But back to the subject at hand.

The subject presented in the installation The Bridge and described in the explanation is rather simple. An exhibit of paintings should have taken place in the room where the viewer finds himself, but as a result of the appearance of something mysterious, mystical, it cannot take place. The paintings, freeing up space for that purpose, wind up being squeezed to the walls by chairs, benches and the table, turned into common objects much like the furniture which obscures them. Art (the ‘paintings,’ of course, represent ‘Art’) must move aside to the edge, to the corners in the darkness, yielding to the mysterious, ‘mystical’ center which is brightly illuminated. That’s the story.

But then a new genre of art, such as the ‘installation,’ appears ‘on the stage’ (if, of course, you can consider it to be art, and this is still a question), giving everything a different slant. By virtue of its very nature, there may be united in the installation – on equal terms, without recognition of supremacy – not only various forms of culture (paintings, objects, texts) but in general anything at all and most of all phenomena and concepts that are extraordinarily far from one another. Politics may be combined with the kitchen, objects of everyday use with scientific research, garbage with sentimental effusions … In all probability, the installation as a genre is a way to give new correlations between old and familiar things. By entering an installation in these correlations, these various phenomena reveal their independence, their ‘separateness,’ but they may also reveal their profound connection with each other (which was perhaps lost long ago), which they at some time had and which they always needed. And particularly important is the restoration of that whole which had disintegrated into its parts about which I spoke at the beginning of this note.



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1991Megan BartonComment