December 20, 2014
Artist invites viewers to his museum flat
For The Herald
Gabriel Lester’s Habitat Sequences recreates an intriguing apartment at MAMBA
The installation Habitat Sequences by Gabriel Lester recently opened at the Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires (MAMBA). Having started with film, Lester’s works are often considered cinematographic, and he does use aspects of film, yet directs the view of the spectator through his editing. At MAMBA, Lester recreated an apartment with local second-hand and antique objects, but the visitor never sees the whole picture, because of the artist’s use of light. The spotlight focuses a few seconds on the hallway of the recreated apartment, then, after a short fade-out, on a dining room, with leftovers on a plate, and then the living room with a library, where you may feel tempted to check out the books — but no, the lights fade again and your eye wanders off.
Lester has created an intriguing scenery and offers you one frame at the time of a movie, in which the location is set, but the story is to unfold in your mind. Who might the apartment belong to and what could have happened here? The framing of the space in time could suggest something to one viewer and something completely different to the other.
“I invite the visitor to be a participant in my installation, getting involved as an actor in the scenes,” Gabriel Lester says. So, the viewer may wonder: would I be allowed to go through the books, and sit on the chairs? “Well, do as you do when you visit someone’s place. I don’t know about others, but I don’t open the closets in someone else’s home. But feel free to sit down, as if you were my guest.”
This is the first time that an international artist is being shown at the renovated MAMBA, says director Victoria Noorthoorn, introducing Gabriel Lester, who gave a talk prior to the opening of the exhibit, placing Habitat Sequences in a broader perspective.
For the Dutchman, who has shown at the CAFA Museum in China, at the Sydney Biennale earlier this year and last year at dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel and the Venice Biennale, this exhibit is also his debut in Argentina.
Together with the staff, he has sought out the props for the installation in order to give the setting a local touch, so that the narrative would unfold before the participants in ways that are familiar to them.
“My work is about space and time. One example is a one-hour taxi ride I had in Hong Kong, which I may do here tomorrow, just going around a bloc. The scenery stays the same, but people who in one drive around the bloc stand in line for the bus, may have disappeared the third time I go around. Life changes, yet stays the same. I want to play with time. When the taxi driver asks about it, I simply say: trust me, I’m an artist.”
Partaking in his recreated reality at Habitat Sequences, which offers one scene at the time, a sequel of frames of a seemingly everyday setting — an apartment — leaves one wondering about one’s own visual selection of daily reality.
Where and when
The MAMBA, which currently also hosts exhibitions of Fabio Kacero, Eduardo Costa and works of the Deutsche Bank, is open from Tuesday to Friday from 11am to 7pm. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 11am to 8pm. Closed on Mondays. Admission fee: 15 pesos. Free admission on Tuesdays.