In the Secession’s Galerie space, American artist Michael Ashkin is showing a video work and a series of sculptures made of recycled cardboard representing proliferating settlements, designs for public squares, and prison architectures. His model-like topographies are characterized by the many ways in which they combine the realism of documentary inventorizing with a formal idiom of subjectivity and internalization. They pursue an approach already present in his early photographs of post-industrial landscapes shown, among others, at DOCUMENTA11 (Kassel, 2002).
At the Secession, in the large-scale work Untitled (where each new sunrise promises only the continuation of yesterday), ... (2009) tailored to fill the Galerie space, Ashkin explores the logic of urban spatial organization between social ideals, structural necessities, and uncontrollable contingencies. The sculptural installation consists of a sprawling, seemingly random accumulation of simple houses, huts, and sheds. Rather than revealing a sense of town planning, the way the detailed architectural miniatures are arranged looks unintentional, temporary, and characterized by an absence of community. As such, it refers to the explosive expansion of urban spaces and to the related dynamics of appropriating terrain and participatory architecture.
Like Ashkin’s other sculptures, Untitled (where each new sunrise promises only the continuation of yesterday), ... is based on abstractions from aerial photos and finished buildings, possessing no specific identity in space-time. The distancing from reality inherent in any model is amplified by the monochrome material and the predefined perspectives of the plan and elevation views. The viewer’s gaze is lost in the remoteness of the horizon. This presentation of the sculpture as a site for thinking about space has a counterpart in the video work Here (2009). In terms both concrete and metaphorical, it deals with the desert as a habitat, a threat, but also as a spiritual experience. By creating an interplay between the poetic, rhythmic text spoken by a voice-off and the visual representation of an empty interior, it becomes a space for projections in a double sense.
Michael Ashkin (*1955 in Morristown/New Jersey) lives and works in Ithaca/New York.