Places Unknown, Spaces In-Between
To what extent do the walls we hide ourselves in protect us or hinder us? In their exhibition at Egg ZHdK, Slow Burner, César Axel and Sebastian Eduardo explore the facets of vulnerability through technological nostalgia.
Egg’s cycle of exhibitions titled Intervening Spheres is an effort to bring together emerging artists from around Switzerland and internationally, providing a platform for these artists to connect and collaborate with two different artists. Axel, whose sound installation appeared in the previous exhibition Slowdown for the Baby alongside Peilian Li, now shows an altered version of the work. The first iteration was installed on an existing ceiling pipe of the same material; subtle sounds were emitted from the wall facing opening, inviting viewers to try to peer in. The pipe now lies on the floor in a state of disarray with a tangled mess of cables, some of which dangle from the ceiling. A warm, radiant light emanates from the opening with an anticipatory scratching sound, perhaps of some creature emerging.
For Axel, whose work often centers around isolation and the refusal to let things go, this work revolves around the human desire to take shelter in protective shells, questioning what we might be sacrificing to remain safe. And if, as the cables suggest, the structure is not as stable as we once thought, what could be gained by revealing our vulnerability?
Musician and BA Fine Arts alumni Sebastian Eduardo’s installations, Visions of You 1-6, contain similar elements of sound, cables, and light fashioned on a smaller scale and with a more intimate touch. Six electronic picture frames with adjusted screens play images that face the wall with their ghostly reflections hovering dimly over the white paint. On the back of the frames, decorations that resemble mosaics have been placed seemingly at random. Some are adorned with stickers, others with small paraphernalia shaped into miniature altars, redolent of the carefree moments of childhood.
On the surface, Eduardo’s work seems opaque, reflecting his intuitive process intended to prevent overthinking. Yet to meditate with him on the work is to discover deeply personal reflections on emotion and identity. Much of the work is tied to his relationship with music. To follow a feeling in a song is only the beginning, in these strains of sound lie the path to nostalgia, anemoia, and even what could be understood as “fernweh,” the longing for a place one has never been or barely remembers— a feeling known to every child of immigrants.
Axel spoke of the paradox of technology, a cold and often unnatural material that we have grown to accept as familiar, which can even function as a vessel of our own memories and emotions. In Axel’s installation, with cables spilling out distended, or in the delicately exposed spines of Eduardo’s sculptures, susceptible to damage, parts of ourselves are captured and reflected back to us.