Installation Zero by Ethel Gutmann

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installation view, 5 front


installation view, back grey and white paint on existing door, walls, and floor tiles white niche, red tape on paint floating fluorescent tubes operated by light timer in a loop




Throughout the year, I worked on ways to inscribe myself in the space based on my new location of the studio, influenced by personal history and geographic topography. I started to make wooden cubes patterns on the walls, painting landscape curves on the floor, composing objects like maps. But although my desire was to collect auto-biographical reliable traces, I soon realised that they were staying on a boiling surface, as organic illustrations of a still covered-up deeper discourse. I therefore, felt invaded by my own protection expression system, - a metaphorical answer, unsatisfactory in my artistic state/ment. The major turn came from moving from the answers to the questions, generating a main peel-off of the studio physically and a mental seek of liberating coordinates. Freed from the design effort attempt, I understood that my quest for home 1 [neither as the starting place like origin nor as the arrival spot as comfort - but as dynamic point zero from which all can emerge, influence and return] was only to be found in a tense moving dwelling, defined by individual dis/placement and dis/locality. I chose to concentrate my practice around that so-far hidden concern, the apparition 2 in the appearances , and work on how to contain and control its arrival, stay and disappearance. 1 - John Berger, The Meaning of Home, Originally published in And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos, by John Berger, ed Pantheon Books, 1984, pp 55-57 2 - Jean-François Lyotard, 1993, Bracha L. Ettinger: Des traces diffractées / Bracha L. Ettinger: Diffracted Traces (“Anima Minima”). In : Herman Parret (ed.) Ecrits sur l’art contemporain et les artistes / JeanFrançois Lyotard. Writings on Contemporary Art and Artists. Vol. IV. / Textes dispersés sur l’art et les artistes / Various Writings on Contemporary Art and Artists. Leuven University Press, 2011. pp. 550-560



My process is permanently punctuated by the confrontation of essential questions that arise from granted answers. Not the opposite. Accompanied by the idea that space is doubt 3, I question the so-called given certitudes. How do the latter behave in the void, bare from the elements that validate them? In the human process of conquering, naming, thus appropriating; is there a space, and a time, for space? What can we learn from the gaps and intervals? Is there a possibility of spreading out space when controlling it from the inside? Are there such spaces of otherness 4? How do we react when our knowledge of territory borders is defied, or in danger? What creates vertigo?, - what is control? I try to meet this challenge by rethinking around the human models and systems; space-time, gravity, geometry, balance, function, perception, call for survival and habitat - neither neglecting nor rejecting them, but precisely, using their references and resistances as many dynamic points and invitations for new equations. Therefore, I am interested about the conversation and tension between absence and presence, fullness and void -, not in a binary nor antagonist mode, but as collaborative forces. Not as states but, as processes and actions over time; both filling and emptying. And this navigation from unstable to reliable, from fear to trust with the different corrections and traces that those back and forth journeys take or leave on us, is more of a luring narrative string to me, than the outcome of a comfortable destination. I have therefore chosen to be part of this navigation, as I needed to adjust my actions [painting, installing, disassembling, cleaning] 3 - Georges Perec, Espèces d’espaces, Paris, GalilĂŠe, 1974, p 179 / Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, ed. and trans. John Sturrock, London, Penguin, 1997. p. 90. 4 - Michel Foucault, Of Other spaces, trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics, 16:22-27, 1986


to the geography and the care of the room. From the furthest corner of the studio to the closest corner of the outside door, often locking myself out of the space -, for drying or looking back process. Working in the space became a metabolic activity, a fluid circulation inside out and outside in, producing energy and eliminating waste, in a permanent dialogue with the surroundings.


I have decided to rethink the lines, angles and perspectives of the room; adjusting, sometimes modifying the measurements; thus questioning their function in their interaction with one another. The walls continue in the floor that can now open a dialogue with the ceiling. My idea was to give the impression of a small but drastic switch of angle, which would operate like a Photoshop filter, changing the different layers of the space. The basic space/habitat elements [room’s composition and order, door, window, base-line, centre, corners, gaps] don’t disappear; they move, interact with one another, and change quality responding to the new filter.

cube plastered in the wall

compass-object: wood, paint and plasticine


The symbolic object of this process can be found in the compasspiece-of-land on the floor of the installation. Its aesthetics, form and materials comes from a prior life of the studio, but its questioning function articulates in the new space. It represents the engine, the motor in charge of shifting the lines, angles and perspectives as much as the possible reference for a point of balance -, a zero point. I chose to leave it in situ for its qualities; it survived through the stages, witnessed the changes, and can now offer guidance. The use of the white colour in my work is essential, as I see it both as an addictive and subtractive element of a gradient formula. White is the dynamic organ, a possibility for devoid of, as well as a promise for, containing. When the white moves freely from ceiling-to-wall, from wall-to-floor, and from floor-toceiling, and vice versa, it dissolves the lines, therefore diffuses and stores light and energy differently. There is a possibility for a new corner-niche to emerge and host, nevertheless, the punctual on and off light points out the different stages and shades of becoming full, as much as losing quality. It shows its need for breathing and refuel by suggesting the threat of its death. The red and green lines along with the blue tone of the grey, function on the basic elementary chromatic system. It was a semi-unconscious choice, but looking back, I noticed the parallel with the RGB colour model, based on the human’s retina as three independent channels for conveying colour information. Interestingly, in this additive colour code, the sum of the primaries [red+blue+green] makes white. In this concern of simplicity and coding, I have used only basic materials [such as paint, plaster, tape, wood panels, drawing pins, plasticine, PVC paper], as many extensions of the pre-existing ones.



installation view, side


Analysing my own practice, gestures and behaviour in the space, I decided to impose subtly but firmly the same experience to the visitor. Alone, he is asked to close the door behind him, to progress, to stand, stay, bend, move forward and backward along the perspectives and angles, around the obstacles. The tension and resistance between solids and voids in a modified spatial geometric environment force him to adjust to his new locality coordinates. The given represented frame of space has changed, challenging the viewer’s sense of distance and depth, and knowledge of highs, downs, left, right, front, back. According to natural individual parameters [measurements, flexibility, balance, vision and eye correction, sensors, emotion, patience‌] the visitor can decide to spend the time he needs to be carried along, - or not. The light intensity and timing is a scansion indicator. It is necessary to enforce the un-comfortableness of viewing a space from raw-to-tamed and/or from tamed-to-raw. That gradient interval is the point where one can meet the core of my work. Its life-span is then modified by duration and adjustment as it moves from my control to the visitor’s container and memory. In acceptance, rejection, interpretation, or simply pleasure he will, hopefully, hold a trace of the experience. At exit, the visitor is asked to leave the studio open, responsible and caring for the next visitor.



detail: white canvas and staples on wood, white plasticine




detail window: rolled PVC paper on white blind, painted wooden pannel

detail: drawing pins, polystyrene ball





works, texts and lay-out: Ethel Gutmann photo credits: space photoshoots Matan Mittwoch, portrait Ariel Reichman

special thanks to B.L.E for inspiration and support Š 2013, all rights reserved


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