As its title suggests, Daniel Roth’s exhibition Drei Landschaften invites the gallery-goer to become a wayfarer and to roam across three landscapes. Strung out along an imaginary path, like three individual chapters in a story, a lake, the sea and a forest – “Der See” [The Lake], 2017, “Drifting Hulk – HMP The Weare”, 2004, and “Der Baron auf den Bäumen” [The Baron on the Trees], 2018 – come together to form a sensuous associative map of terrain. This process of extracting, liberating and …
As its title suggests, Daniel Roth’s exhibition Drei Landschaften invites the gallery-goer to become a wayfarer and to roam across three landscapes. Strung out along an imaginary path, like three individual chapters in a story, a lake, the sea and a forest – “Der See” [The Lake], 2017, “Drifting Hulk – HMP The Weare”, 2004, and “Der Baron auf den Bäumen” [The Baron on the Trees], 2018 – come together to form a sensuous associative map of terrain. This process of extracting, liberating and re-combining individual elements of earlier installations into new, barely linear narrative contexts is a central method in Roth’s artistic praxis. He himself understands the components of his individual works as fragmented conceptualizations for a larger, more comprehensive narrativity.
One of these fragments is the work “Der See”. Originally, it formed a component part of a group of works in which a net of fine threads had the function of linking body parts strewn across the landscape with various forgotten and long since moss-covered objects. The present wall work retains this attempt to make connections, to establish gentle but exploratory contact. Here a piece of wood from the jungles of Brazil, cast in aluminium, is hanging from a length of rope and being lowered into the depths. The length of the rope corresponds to the depth of the lake. A circular wall-drawing marks the place at which the wood dips into the surface of the water. The second object shows a part of the moulded arm of the artist himself, with the fingers broken off, embedded on a rock made of polystyrene. The two parts have been linked together, cast in plaster and are now lying on the imaginary lake-bed. A process resembling an introspective, magic science – before, after or alongside an indeterminate time.
The glass case from the spatial installation “Drifting Hulk – HMP The Weare”, on the other hand, is concerned with a peculiarity in the penal system of the British Empire at the end of the eighteenth century. Since deportation as a form of punishment was by then restricted in its application, the state had to resort to other measures. The two most important were simply hard labour and, for those no longer able to undertake this, corrective custody. From 1776 onwards, this practice led to the deployment of prison hulks – “HMP” stands for “His Majesty’s Prison” – which remained in use until their gradual abolition around 1875. Prison hulks were ships that lay at anchor in the River Thames or in Portsmouth and Plymouth harbours. The appalling conditions on board, in particular the lack of any form of supervision and the poor health of the inmates, led eventually to their being taken out of service. Nevertheless, the real estate assets of the British prison service still include one prison ship, the HMP The Weare, which is moored in Portland harbour, in Dorset. Since time immemorial, rumours have circulated about extra-territorial prison ships drifting on the high seas.
From this, the spatial installation “Der Baron auf den Bäumen” offers an escape into a world composed of concrete, forest and solitude. The drawings and watercolours on stone ground panels develop these microscopically enclosed worlds in both the metaphysical and the cartographical dimension. Diverse plants, river tributaries or undefinable limbs reminiscent of membranes, cells and bones suggest themselves – as if emerging from fog and dust – and are confronted with the remains of order and coordination, only to disappear again forthwith. What remains are just intimations, inklings of a certainty that in the final analysis fails to manifest itself – nothing more. In between, as if from a tree-house, bronze branches and rods hang down on threads. They point to the quiet attempt to make contact. Like feelers, they seem to want to palpate the surface beneath them or simply to just reach it. Here the hermit-like landscape commingles with body and mind, while the overall image becomes blurred and indistinct in a puzzling dystopia, of which the protagonist himself is probably in part unaware.
Mr. Rossi has been looking for happiness.
Translation: Richard Humphrey