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Germany : Daniel Roth

 

Wie die Leichen der Mafia vorbeitreiben -
How the Corpses of the Mafia drift by

 

A town in the valley has been covered with concrete. On display is a model of the buried town. Two points are marked on it: on the one hand, a former shoe factory which has now become a quarry; on the other, the power station, the first building in the town to become accessible via underground passages.

This house is now a museum for the exhibits displayed here. Thus, the spectator is confronted by two different narrative situations. In either case one is in a room where it is possible to visit various linked locations, settings and landscapes. Roth's drawings on board, paper and walls reveal their connections as one walks from point to point in the room. The configuration and appointment of the sites are based in reality, but are expanded through the artist's proposals and inventions. The spectator traverses the present installation while imagining the underground exhibition room surrounded by concrete, not yet discovered.

Daniel Roth's inventions spill out from this original premise: the town and valley covered in concrete, then excavated for exploration, habitation and display. As critic Holger Liebs comments:

"Concrete cast in a pre-formed bowl becomes a dense monolithic form that can only be sculpted by jackhammer. Concrete is an ideal disposal method for the Mafia and a favorite material of 20th century master builders, but it is also the subject of Daniel Roth's topographic fictions.

Perhaps it's something to do with the fact that Roth comes from the Black Forest, that mountainous southern German region whose melancholy springs from its dark pines and which teems with fairy tales and myths. If a village in the Black Forest were engulfed with concrete, as Roth suggested in an earlier exhibition, it might suffocate the stories that infest the place in a heavy grey avalanche and reveal, in the process, a new and imaginary architecture: a departure point for an archaeological fantasy.

[...] Virtuously, Roth swaps imaginary with real spaces, designs models that appear again in drawings on the wall and integrates the photography of real buildings into virtual landscapes. Following the path that the artist reveals in his storyboard, we move like remote-controlled Indiana Jones dummies through his landscape, falling through trap doors, swimming through a thick mass of goo, ascending mountains on a chair lift and stumbling through turbines, hotel rooms or holes in the ground." (Holger Liebs, "David Roth. Johnen + Schottle, Cologne", Frieze, June, July, August 1999, p.107-108)

 

These are like dream images, a reality "through the looking glass" where everything is possible and where the visitor is alone, undisturbed by others. It is a world out of time, both past and future time, where a just-disclosed "present" seems the only imagined and thus unreal reality.

 

Peggy Gale

 

 

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