The democracy of the symbol and other stories proposes interpretations and reconstructions of situations that transcend, in an illusory manner, the physicality of the works while underlining their fictional and narrative experience.
Erlich’s installations subject the viewer to paradoxical situations where reality and virtuality merge, inciting, through simulations, scenographic strategies and optical effects, contradictory perceptions. The sense of dislocation that his work tends to generate in viewers subverts the notion of reality as apparent truth and serves as a distinct reminder that the parameters of the perceptual world in which we operate are far more limited than we think.
Brooms (2015) is an installation that consists of two identical brooms leaning against each other, creating the illusion of the existence of a mirror and pointing to Erlich’s interest in the visual and conceptual possibilities of reflection. As usual in his artistic production, the viewer is trapped in a game of different perceptions of reality. In the words of the artist, these works aim to create depth in the banal experience of everyday spaces and common objects. A sort of disorientation of domestic simplicity is evoked, as a familiar environment becomes strange. “Therefore , it is not really the surreal, but the ´real` that interests me. The ´very real`: The ordinary and the way we think about our notion of reality. There is no better place to question reality than in the ordinary”.
Through this interweaving of associations, Erlich created one of his most ambitious projects of recent years The Democracy of the Symbol. For this monumental public art project, illustrated here by its scale model, Erlich forged the “disappearance” of the apex of the iconic Obelisk in Buenos Aires. The Democracy of the Symbol consists of two parts; firstly in the direct intervention of the Obelisk where Erlich made its apex disappear, to then reappear in the esplanade of the MALBA, via a full size replica. Contrarily to the original construction, that can’t be accessed by the public, this obelisk allowed the visitor to enjoy the view from the monument’s four windows, recorded in high-resolution videos projected in loop. “Artists of all stylistic and philosophical persuasions have employed illusion in their work” – as observed by Dan Cameron – “if only to privilege the act of sight as that which provides a gateway toward rational thought, philosophical contemplation, and the identification of aligned (or opposed) interests”. Taking into account these premises, “such as the fact that the view from the top of the Buenos Aires Obelisk is one that almost nobody has ever had the opportunity to enjoy, Erlich invites us to partake of that perspective without ever leaving the ground”.(1)
Pulled by the roots (2015) presents an intriguing structure of a scale model house with roots hanging from its underside. The work references a site-specific installation created for ZKM in the city of Karlsruhe, which has recently undergone a large-scale construction project to relocate its tram system underground. This project asks us to reflect on how the speed of technology and the increasingly virtual dimension in which many of us live only encourages this tendency to separate our inventions from the earth that sustains us. The installation Pulled by the roots highlights this tension. At the same time, underneath the tons of metal and concrete of our cities, a vital organic presence remains. As we consider our impact on the natural world, this piece reminds us that human culture and nature are intimately linked.
Another work in the exhibition, Maison Fond (2015) refers to Erlich’s installation in front of the Gare du Nord railway station in Paris. This striking installation, whose title translates as melting house, was created in the framework of the 13th edition of the Nuit Blanche. Maison Fond, which phonetically in French sounds like mes enfants (my children) reflects on what kind of future we will leave our children and is subtly linked to the global climate change conference held in Paris in November 2015.
The democracy of the symbol and other stories, is an exhibition that brings together works that transcend the observable, drawing the viewer to an ontological status similar to that used in fiction. Imaginary atmospheres that invite the viewer to contemplate, while questioning the nature and construction of what is perceived.
1. To accompany the project, MALBA has published a book with new essays by American curator and art critic Dan Cameron and by Argentinian sociologist Christian Ferrer, an interview with the artist conducted by MALBA’s artistic director Agustín Pérez Rubio.