A Swiss artist, Roman Signer’s work has avoided the category of “process based” art; yet in suggesting previous interactions between established objects, he, like others, deconstructs your sense of art as a finished work. However, his pieces avoid such categorizations through their inclusion of a visual aftermath; the depiction of the development process and finished work has equal importance. The viewer begins to experience this sense of “before and after” in the first room of the exhibition at the DCA through the feeling of an alternation between motion and stillness.
Upon entering Installations you are first greeted by a strong scent of pine. The smell is coming from identical wooden beams, which are positioned across the otherwise empty and neutral space. Some of the beams towards the far end have been dismantled, and are now lying horizontally among the others. The directional flow of the fallen beams is reminiscent of how a remote river might move in contrast to its calm surroundings. Each object is uniform, but their irregular placement creates a sense of tension and precariousness which provides atmosphere for the works that follow.
In the largest of the three rooms a pair of boots stands upright in the centre of a slightly surreal and impractical ladder. The boots are trapped between the small rungs in a way that makes you uncertain of the stability in the placement of these objects. Aside from the ladder positioned close to the entrance of this room, there are two kayaks. Although initially ambiguous, the process which accompanies the first of the two soon becomes apparent. The kayak has been released as if it were in a slingshot, by a candle which now sits between the frayed ends of a rope. This process of burning through the rope has resulted in the kayak moving forward with such force that a dent is visible in the opposing wall. The scene contains hints of control and release, traces of the activity that has taken place.
The second red kayak contains a murky liquid: whisky donated by William Grant and Sons Ltd. Nearby, partially filled whisky bottles are suspended above large metal fans, and are swinging in an unsynchronized chaotic manner. Whilst both installations remove whisky from its usual context, the kayak contains only a trace of previous activity, whereas the swinging bottles constitute the action unfolding in front of us.
Finally, the piece that stood out and captivated me was the short film work in the third and final room. The film opens on a mountainous scene, at the centre of which is a lake. Within the lake there is a small wooden platform. As the film progresses, we begin to see traces of movement. There is a small fly to the left of the frame, and two vehicles move in the distance. Gradually one of the vehicles, now visible as a helicopter, looms toward the foreground. With ever-growing dominance, the helicopter becomes the focus of the scene. It arrives above the floating platform, which is now visible as a floating stage. Immediately an eruption of dramatic movement occurs, the air from the rotors blows down with full force on a man who is playing a piano with enthusiasm on the platform. Then, almost as quickly as it began, the movements start to recede, and all becomes calm. The rippling water serves as a reminder of the burst of energy experienced only moments before.
Throughout his career, this artist has continued to successfully utilize concepts of tension and release. These concepts are portrayed in this exhibition with a kind of visual narration that results in an overwhelming feeling of anticipation throughout.