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Events 2010

Exhibition in the Cabinet

Sonia Leimer
No Site to Fall in

Opening: February 3, 2010, 7 p.m.

…The departing crew clearly had mixed feelings about leaving. Although they were doing a little happy dance at the thought of big greasy hamburgers in Hanksville and hot showers in Grand Junction, they seemed a little misty-eyed as they piled into the van and headed back to Earth. (Journalist‘s Report, January 9, 2010)

In the exhibition “No Site to Fall in,” Sonia Leimer dealed with the simulation of space missions on Earth. There are currently only a few “Mars analog sites” on Earth; these are places that are used to simulate space missions because of their similarities with the red planet. In the exhibit “No Site to Fall in” this place, which could be described as a place in between, appeared fragmented, creating a tight network of formal and narrative elements that mutually permeate one another.

The Cabinet housed an architectural fragment: the “Support Structure.” It could be interpreted as an excerpt from aerospace architecture, the technical condition necessary to make life on another planet possible. The piece divided the space into multiple areas and creates different spatial situations.

The video “Maybe a Diameter of 20 Miles,” showed the landscape around the “Mars Desert Research Station” in Utah. Geological and biological field research takes place in this Mars-like habitat. Different crews from all over the world meet here to simulate Mars expeditions in this landscape. This research station was founded by the well-known science fiction director, James Cameron, as well as several astronauts. The video shows landscape clips of this very cinematic environment that has served as the setting for a number of science fiction classics, among other things. The video material was filmed for TV as part of a “Mars Desert Research” documentary, but not used in the film.

The piece “2017 (2009)” is composed of three screen prints on aluminum-coated Kevlar, a material developed for the Mars mission. There is only a limited amount of this material, as it is still in the test phase. The images printed on the material were recorded by the satellite “Mariner 4,” which was the first to pass Mars and transmit pictures of the planet's surface to Earth with a television camera. Due to the technical conditions, the images appear encrypted and abstract.

Analyzing relationships of staged productions and visual cultures with the obvious physical space is a central theme of Sonia Leimer's artwork. Architecture is examined as the effect of a medial state of contemporary society and its narratives. Space/time and the image of space engage in a heightened interplay. In Sonia Leimer's work, the artistic intervention is formulated as a re-staging of events, as a fictionalization of spaces and their social and ideological structure.

Sonia Leimer, born 1977 in Meran, lives and works in Vienna

Opening speech by Övul Durmusoglu, Istanbul/Viennese based curator and critic:

“If it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space” is one of the taglines for a popular science-fiction drama called “Contact” (1997) based on a Carl Sagan novel with the same title. The protagonist of the film, scientist Eleanor Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, searches for high pitch sound frequencies to prove that other beings exist on other star systems and that they can be communicated. She is always around sensitive satellite dishes placed side by side on a valley in New Mexico, attentively listening, waiting for that ultimate contact which has been her dream ever since her childhood.

Sonia Leimer’s “No Site to Fall” in welcomes us with a similar satellite structure in the Cabinet space of the Salzburg Kunstverein. This structure itself is inspired from a fragment of “Mars Research Unit” found in Utah, not far away from the site of Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”. This idiosyncratic landscape carries a double identity; it is used not only for advanced scientific research for that ultimate sign of life in outer spaces but also as a film set where science fiction films such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” were shot to make audience imagine what it is like “out there”. Thus the site performs an approximation between the Earth and the space, between here and there.

What attracts Sonia Leimer, in this case, is an active state of merging, a many worlds in one world situation, which keeps here and there together. Humankind’s positivist ambition of progress has always involved the contact with outer space. The first step on the moon still symbolizes one of the most groundbreaking moments of human history. However, it is never sure if our unsatisfied curiosity is fundamentally about that outer space, since in science fiction outer space becomes another site where our humankind problems are reflected in a different language. The zones of past, now and future, here and there are intertwined in another similar process of approximation.

Thus, Leimer mimics the particular gesture in her installation, “No Site to Fall” in. The silkscreen images she uses are taken from the first shots of Mars, taken by an old tech camera of the sent satellite. These vague images are silkscreened on a material in progress that is designed especially for spacesuits to be used for future mars expeditions. The film material she has borrowed temporarily from a TV station archive shows general and detail still life shots of the site. These images can be part of a science fiction movie we watched in our childhood we may subconsciously remember. They actually do form a certain generation’s public imaginary of what planet Mars looks like. There we are standing on the blurry limits of what is considered as imagination and what is considered as real.

We need a space out there to talk about what we have here. The “Support Structure” she built obstructs a total physical access to Cabinet space. It reminds me of the satellite dish Jodie Foster listens and “Tilted Arc” of Richard Serra, which has obstructed Grand Army Plaza at the time. The curve of the structure divides the exhibition space but it also extends it. The extension is suggested to be the wish of the artist making her visitors realize that the site they stand on is more than the exhibition space with four walls. It encourages the visitors to multiply the field of the imagination to the point where it is not possible to remember anymore where real ends and imaginary begins or vice versa. It is the process of approximation that holds together where we stand and vessels our desires.

Photo: ÖWF