There is no Place Before Arrival

Curated by Luca Lo Pinto

Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna

July 13 – October 7, 2018

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There Is No Place Before Arrival focuses on issues arising from a particular “method”. This method not only determines the way Nicolai conceives and realizes his work, but also becomes a type of work itself. At Kunsthalle Wien Olaf Nicolai has commissioned several street and theatre painters to paint onto the floor a pool of twenty-two images of different kinds selected from his personal archive of newspaper clippings. The entire space is left empty without any artificial architectural intervention, presenting a gigantic “carpet” of images on which the visitors are able to walk over and around. The constellation of captivating and evocative images with both political and poetic connotations composes a tableau made of diverse sizes and scales. The audience is confronted with something that appears familiar yet it’s not exactly clear what it is. The conceptual gesture of translating photographs from public media sources into enlarged floor paintings is a way to incorporate these particular images into a different context, which affects the perception of them and thus their reception. Over the course of the exhibition, the installation will not only gradually change and slowly vanish, but it will also be activated by writers, dancers, choreographers, musicians, artists and performers invited to respond to this painted plateau and its individual images.

Another aspect demonstrating Nicolai’s methodological approach is the way he engages with the context of the presentation of his artwork. In order to reflect on this context and call it into question, the exhibition will continue to take place outside of the institution, and develop in the form of interdisciplinary projects, thereby multiplying the references and interactions the works make with one another and to their environment.

In cooperation with museum in progress, the exhibition will find an extension within media, digital space and Instagram under a project titled media loop (#medialoop). By publishing photographs of the painted images included in the installation in international newspapers and magazines, the imagery will be exposed to a contextual feedback loop.

The exhibition title There Is No Place Before Arrival is based on Nicolai’s work Don’t Spend Time Searching the Colorful Layered Flood of Leaking Information, or: There is no place before arrival. It consists of a large stone slab made of Precambrian quartz sandstone that dates back to a time before the first appearance of living things on earth. There Is No Place Before Arrival suggests that when thoughts, words, pictures and gestures are conveyed, they don’t arrive in some pre-existing place as such, but create it upon arrival. At the same time, the title is a poetic paraphrase of the dialectic of desire – “hoped-for duration and permanent delay in motion,” as the artist says, commenting on the title of his Vienna exhibition.

Olaf Nicolai not only discloses his method in There Is No Place Before Arrival. In fact, he will connect performative elements, works that will transform during the course of the exhibition, and motifs from pop culture – all of which will interweave to form a dense web of references alluding to iconic moments in politics and intellectual history. At the same time, the exhibition will stage a set of changing.

LAYR, Vienna
High Art, Paris
Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand
Der Tank of the Art Institute, Basel
Lafayette Anticipations, Paris
Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon
JTT, New York
Édouard Montassut, Paris