photo : David Brandt

The long lasting pandemic and quarantine have changed every corner of our lives as well as the concept of time and art exhibition. Do Not And Cannot Are Different examines artwork, role of artists, and exhibit format in the times of rapid change and turbulence. This attempt starts with a question on the either/or way of thinking that divides system and deviation, resistance and freedom, and presence an absence. 

Do Not and Cannot Are Different

On the walls of the show are no pictures. On both sides are fences where banners are hung that act as the only pathways to lead to another space. Fences, usually used to divide spaces between private and public, and to protect people from danger at construction sites, are installed and incorporated into the exhibition. These fences higher than most men’s height are placed through the whole exhibition area at a distance from the walls, are used as a way to control the viewer’s movement. Usually banners on construction fences are things for advertisement or to display the buildings’s completed images. The banners in this show are the exhibition images of the artist’s own show Photography, Illusions, Space. The works were all photographs and also were exhibited only for the artist’s own view, for no one else’s.

The artist took pictures of the space from her point of view after marking center points on fences and calculating the ratios of banner. Although she took pictures of the photographs on the walls of the exhibition space, the pictures do not include photographs as a main point of interest, so they are sometimes cluttered by pillars, cut in half by frames. Depending on the positions of fence, the photographs taken at different view points may appear repeatedly through the pathways. The width of the pathway is less than 2 meters, thus the viewer cannot get the whole view of the banners, which are printed on a semi-transparent media, so depending on what the viewer gazes at the image may be overlapped with the actual exhibition space, or rather be separated. It was designed to have the viewer exert artificial, unnatural force on muscles to find one’s own optimal vantage point or distance to carefully gaze at the surface. Also it was designed for the viewer to get the idea of size by guessing three dimensional volume from the planes of banners, continually adjusting their relationships. The fences and the banners thus put limits on the field of view, and on the physical movement as well. This creates a crack in the inertia of belief that one can have a complete control over one’s own viewing on the works displayed, understand them to their will, thus leaving one as a powerless observer.

Depending on how one defines the concept of exhibition between the central and peripheral matter, one may regard Photography, Illusions, Space or Do Not and Cannot Are Different as the main exhibition, or maybe separate ones. One possible interpretation where one puts more weight on photography is that this is an exhibition where Photography, Illusions, Space photography show is embodied as an installation. As said above, the banners installed in this show are not real photo images per se, but rather copies that have already been isolated from the original. The banner pictures of the conventional photo exhibition were taken in a traditional way, the copied pictures are placed on fences and the walls are left empty. It means to extend the contemplation on the reproductiveness of photography and its limitations into an installation format.

Another possible interpretation is that the photo exhibition and the installation are separate. The conventional elements of an exhibition are art work, space and viewer. But it has dramatically and maybe forcefully changed during the past years. The pandemic has forced many exhibitions and concerts to be indefinitely delayed or cancelled at all. As an alternative many institutes had to create online contents, galleries show art works through windows, sometimes introducing that as a novel platform that transcends the physical limitations in these days of inconvenience. But with the online exhibitions viewing angles to look at the work and the flow of movement are very limited. Reversely the artist can control the way the viewer’s behavior regarding the show. Do Not and Cannot Are Different is a version of exhibition where one can experience an analog style offline show similar to that of limited virtual reality online form. Photography, Illusions, Space which the viewer can’t actually visit also leaves an online archive only. These two exhibitions function in different concept and form on/offline.

Thirdly, Photography, Illusions, Space works as a preparation step for Do Not and Cannot Are Different. The moment the steel wire fence and the banner usually used for construction sites are introduced into exhibition space, they are unconsciously granted and incorporated into part of the art work. Viewers can infer that the banner images were taken before the installation at the same space, and this inferred time difference acts as a process for the current exhibition, which makes the distinction blurred between the exhibition and the public area, also the relationship between before and after. Summing up, the two shows, Photography, Illusions, Space and Do Not and Cannot Are Different, can be interpreted differently depending on how much relative emphasis is placed on either one. With the former the artist tries to contemplate on how to deal with photographic medium as a contemporary artist when images are as weightless as ubiquitous, and to question the meaning of photography today when people are so accustomed to consuming and sharing images so fast. In other words she tries to give more insight to the fundamental aspect of photography and the interpretation of it in this modernized society.

Exhibition view of Seulki KI, Do Not and Cannot Are Different, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2021