For over a decade Grubinger has focused on the manifold signifying potentials of quotidian objects, drawn from spheres including architecture, the stages of politics, and Minimal and Conceptual art. Through processes of estranging and encoding, and shifts of material, scale and context, recognisable things indict themselves or stand as metonymic for large, invisible sociopolitical currents and their subliminal effects on the psyche.
In Black Diamond Bay, Grubinger explores a cluster of abiding interests: the maritime as metaphor, colonial adventuring, correspondences between the world of a century ago and that of today, and associations of darkness. The exhibition title refers to an imaginary location in Joseph Conrad’s Victory (1915), as well as to a 1976 song by Bob Dylan. The connection between music and oceangoing – in a city well known for its nightlife and club scene – is here germane, as Grubinger’s sculptures intertwine references to concert/club culture (with the attendant pharmacological explorations that have historically attended it) and seafaring. In doing so they explore the ongoing appeal, and risk, of a drive towards unknown territories. They consider the idea of a psychological landscape and a physical or mental journey, escapism and the search for self, adventure and the testing of limits, materializing (inner) states of transgression, conquest, delimitation, drift and danger. Fetishised and supposedly safety-ensuring materials with regard to journeying, meanwhile, reflect a dualistic condition of human nature. We want to seek the unknown; we also want a safe shore to land upon.
In the darkened exhibition space, variously lit sculptures – resembling stages while also alluding to piers, rafts, pontoons, a spinnaker sail, a fish trap – sketch out an environment that constantly switches between the seemingly inexhaustible, beckoning promise of dancefloors and oceans. References percolate back and forth: the sail’s silk a shared point of reference for boats, the shell suits that sportsmen have worn through the ages, DJs, rappers and gangsters alike since the 1970s, while coloured lights allude to night navigation and club lighting. A raftlike sculpture is comprised in part of watercooler bottles that glow fluorescent via quinine-laced fluids lit by ultraviolet light, referencing the alkaloid’s malaria-relieving qualities, as used in tropical colonies.
In the foyer hangs a mooring ring, used to fix boats to harbour. It is positioned high on the wall, suggesting an imaginary waterline. Outdoors, a whale-like giant boat fender, familiar from supertankers and big container ships, appears stranded. Two other fenders occupy the balcony of the exhibition space, like leftovers from a party that has gone stormily out of control. Besides the fenders, which appear like big bumpers designed to hold the outside world at bay, there is a further, relatively small object in the exhibition that again refers to risks of and to the flesh, and various forms of travelling in and on liquid: a schnapps bottle containing a crew of creatures that themselves fluoresce under UV light: intertwined pickled scorpions.
Eva Grubinger lives in Berlin. She has exhibited widely internationally, with institutional solo exhibitions at, among others, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle; Kiasma Museum, Helsinki; Berlinische Galerie, Berlin; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt; Museum Belvedere, Vienna, and currently at Bloomberg Space, London. She has also participated in many group exhibitions in Germany and abroad, and is currently a guest professor at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
Black Diamond Bay is a collaboration with the exhibition series fig-2/ Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, where the exhibition was shown in a modified version in September 2015. The Berlin exhibition incorporates several new works. The catalogue was published by Sternberg Press.
This exhibition has been made possible by Outset and the Austrian Chancellor’s office.