The human animal looms large in Thomas Julier's second solo exhibition at RaebervonStenglin, The Nocturnal Appearance of Various Species of Furry Animals from the Neighborhood which engages with the the fast-changing Zurich-West ecosystem. The Swiss artist's photography-based practice — which extends to film, sculpture, installation and here a live action experiment — explores ways of looking, the propensity of media to alter perceptions and man's understanding and grasp of the world around him.
The titular work of the exhibition is located outside of the gallery. Aspecially-designed 'bait' containing industrially-produced animal food and smelling of 'attractant' will be set up attached to a surveillance camera that operates when activated by movement, relaying live feed footage to a monitor inside the gallery. Julier is confident that the bait will attract considerable night-time activity, citing “the near-by train tracks, the now-demolished football stadium, and the sprawl of the city in general” as the habitat of the city's furrier residents; yet in the day very little footage is likely to be generated and seen. Instead the gallery visitor witnesses a 3D model of the bait, images made of single frames taken from similarly produced animal footage and a monitor lying in wait for nocturnal activity. This set-up incites the viewer to reflect on the parallel and self-contained lives of humans and animals and their occasional intersections. Julier is concerned with the cultural construction of the animal, which in turn always and already entails a concept of what is human. At the same time, he re-defines the gallery space by inviting the viewers to adopt the view point of an animal, to ponder what it might see in the gallery. The fictional animal's perspective serves as a figure of thought, an alienation effect, that questions the actual and symbolic functions of the gallery setting.
If The Nocturnal Appearance of Various Species of Furry Animals from the Neighbourhood portrays the psycho-geography of Zurich's nightlife from a non-human point of view, other works in the exhibition equally disrupt the usual perspectives. Stuff (2015) consists of two broken but synchronised flat screens showing a video depicting logos of globally recognised brands, their colours and rhythms altered through the physical impact of the violence afflicted on the screens; while silk screen prints translate a digital image of an LED public display photographed at night into a print in the RGB colour model, manipulating an absence of light into physical matter. Moving between different and frequently incompatible modes of photographic representation, Julier's art seeks out glitches and inversions where the light and dark aspects of an image — much like those of surveillance — are two sides of the same coin, and which ultimately challenge the human-centric vision.
Photos by Conrad Frei.
Thomas Julier - The Nocturnal Appearance of Various Species of Furry Animals from the Neighbourhood
RaebervonStenglin, January 29 - April 1