Ian Waelder, Leben und sinn (Armchair)
Ian Waelder: Here not today
Apr 18 – Jun 9, 2024
Super Super Markt
Berlin, Germany

I. Language

We could say that this exhibition begins with the artist’s daily walk to buy the newspaper at a kiosk. In his book The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau describes the city as a text shaped by the people who walk in it daily. A vast text we write with our steps but cannot read – “the networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely other.” What would it take to be able to read this collective text if not the meticulous recording of footprints and traces? If in 1960 Stanley Brouwn distributed sheets of paper through the streets of Amsterdam to record the footsteps of anonymous pedestrians, On Kawara archived his routes daily in the series I Went, which began in the late sixties in Mexico City. For eleven years, the artist archived his own movements, rescuing them each day from an almost certain oblivion. On each of these maps, one of the routes always corresponds precisely to the walk to buy the newspaper.

Language, journeys, traces, and archives are themes that have always been very present in Ian Waelder’s work. Based in Frankfurt, his practice addresses biographical and historical memory through the poetics of the accident and the reuse of the discarded. Here not today at Super Super Markt is his first exhibition in Berlin and it brings together a series of recent works on newspaper and raw linen, displayed in an ephemeral cardboard architecture that transforms the exhibition space and conditions the reading of the works.

[ . . . ]

IV. Archives

With the right distance, that figure remains visible on the linen. The work is composed of several layers that add corporeality and depth to it: the printed image is superimposed with a layer of raw linen, and on top of this are oil stains and small images ripped from the same newspapers. Gradually, we perceive large hands manipulating a car’s tire. For some years, the artist has used an archive of images of hand gestures from a car manual. The same car model was owned by his grandfather, a pianist living in Stuttgart who had to sell it to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany. In the images found on newspapers, manuals, or films, Waelder constructs a growing archive that allows him to simultaneously engage with the echoes of family genealogy and collective history.

Upon closer inspection of one of the small newspaper fragments attached to the linen, we find anonymous hands resting on a piano… as if we subtly glide from the footprint to the fingerprint and from the journey to the tactile, those hands lead us back to where we started: to the trace, the index of what has been, but is no longer.

At least not here, not today. – Esmeralda Gómez Galera

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