Paranoid notes on the exhibition of Richard Wiesner

So how about mobile phones? Scientists cannot come to an agreement. Some of them publish studies saying that frequencies transmitting the telephone signal may have a serious effect on our health, while the others reassure us and say there is no need to worry and that we shall not suffer from cancer. But if they do not come to an agreement soon, it is possible that there may not be anyone here left to tell. Even among the population of that damned North Korea there is a million of mobiles.

The core of the exhibition of Richard Wiesner in Ferdinand Baumann Gallery is an installation of concrete blocks inside which the artist embedded functional, tuned up radios. A sound apparatus transmits a cocktail of radio broadcasts from the closed, glass exhibition room out into the passageway where the sounds create an emotionally disturbing acoustic environment.

The exhibition called Radiation asks questions about the invisible world and threats that come from this invisible world. The word „radiation“ is usually associated with disease and death. The older generation, when hearing the word, will most probably associate it with the nuclear mushroom cloud destroying the organic growth on our planet. Richard Wiesner was born in 1976 and so he still witnessed the „peacefully armed“ rhetoric of the final years of the cold war, so he, in fact, also belongs to the older generation. The younger generation will most probably recall the Fukushima disaster. However, the ambivalence in Wiesner´s use of the word „radiation“ (not only in the name of the exhibition but also in the text in one of the showcases in the gallery) is the fact, that, technically speaking, indicates all types of radiation, including electromagnetic waves used for radio broadcasting. Similarly as in the case of the inscriptions in other showcases it is the naming of „components“ of the central installation consisting of concrete blocks and radios, in this case it is invisible naming, but hearable items

Wiesner focuses on a crack that arises between the evidence of the formal aspects of the displayed works, the emotional effect of the disturbing noise and the charge of the word and what associations it calls forth.

Every now and then the media inform us about the growing interest of people in the West in bunkers as possible shelters in case of disasters. The concrete blocks in Wiesner´s installation imperfectly screen out the receipt of electromagnetic waves of the radio broadcast and also the audibility of the acoustic waves. But by amplifying the sound Wiesner plagues the passageway.

Wiesner´s work also includes critically engaged interventions. Four years ago he painted over the flaking off inscription on the building of Veletržní palác housing the collections of the National Gallery as a gesture to help an ideologically and economically disintegrating institution.* Last year he attached an access platform to the wall of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, from which people could look into the cemetery „from a different angle“ (Angle of View, 2013). Enthusiastic tourists with cameras did not realize that besides other things Wiesner aimed at criticising the commercialisation of the cemetery. The above mentioned two examples perhaps illustrate well how the concrete articulation of a critical programme considerably differs in Wiesner´s work. Radiation cannot be understood as a piece of work arousing concern over a specific problem. The aim is to excite emotional disturbance, neurotic reactions and light paranoia, which Wiesner, as an artist, considers to be characteristic features of contemporary life.

In this regard we ought to mention Wiesner´s longstanding cooperation with Krištof Kintera whose use of intensive, disturbing audio-visual media is close to the way Richard Wiesner used them this time.

Jiří Ptáček

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