Sabine Elsa Müller

Under the Pavement Lies the Shore, As Always

Something appears to have broken open. The silvery veins on the blank paving draw the eyes downward. Where do these lines come from? Is liquid escaping from the floor through invisible cracks and creating wildly meandering rivulets that will soon swell to a mirroring lake? In contrast to any first glance, the lines are not made up of a fluid substance, neither of lead nor dangerously proliferating quicksilver. On the contrary: the moving delineation can be walked on and even agreeably softens your tread. It is cut out of silver-foil coated with foam, which is specifically produced as floor covering. Only that this foil, which is on sale at every DIY market, is not considered a material for art and normally vanishes under laminate. The foil’s sense and purpose enjoys its own special term: footfall sound insulation.

When Heike Weber takes on the veneers of our modern existence, which are more or less spurious, basically banal and simulate rigorous solidity, something surprising happens. Not a façade’s ugly reverse side makes its expected appearance, but a thoroughly new and poetic world is revealed. Like Alice in pursuit of the rabbit or the children who use the wardrobe as a gateway to the fantastic land of Narnia, she discovers a wondrous magic world behind real things. An insulation foil becomes a shiny serpentine trail on the floor that at any moment threatens to turn into live bodies. At the same time it all shimmers attractively and seductively like the vein of a silver mine or an artful setting for a gem of gigantic size. Who cares that the softly flowing lines of its transcription are owed to a greatly enlarged fishnet? From its snares comes a carefully engendered walk-on labyrinth that points in different directions. Where do these paths lead? Which is the right one?

Some of the paths end in the shadows cast from the walls. By doubling and the painterly treatment of the undermost layer of the wall objects, the silhouettes cut from photo paper really look like an impenetrable thicket. The silhouettes of vegetation, formed from real twigs and branches, have no resemblance to the Biedermeier or Victorian harmlessness of classical paper cutouts. Something raw and archaic radiates from their light-absorbing darkness, which continues across the mirroring floor till far into the room. The quicksilvery movement of the ground already unsettles our feet that, when confronted with the projection of the deep black shadows, step into bottomlessness. An oppressive, furtive menace radiates from this thicket; at any moment a sudden horror may await us.

Other paths lead into a somewhat secluded adjoining room in which a quite different state of mind reigns. Here we witness a tragic-comic event: three video loops run parallel, but staggered, and show the presence, and the quite swift melting away, of three little snowmen. It is obviously summer; the snowmen stand amidst lush vegetation and atone for their inappropriate appearance with their unsung disappearance, only to reappear a moment later in another standup turn. Because of the time-lapse video, it looks as if the little guys are moving, so that they almost seem alive. And then meltwater seeps from the screens so that we finally discover the source of the marvelous silver vein on the adjacent floor…

Immediately behind the impositions of reality lies a magical realm full of promise, adventure and potentiality. Heike Weber is among those artists able to switch to the other side with an airy lightness. Happily, she takes us with her.

From the German by Jeanne Haunschild