Marte Eknæs at Between Bridges

Before relocating to Berlin, the exhibition venue/studio of Wolfgang Tillmans hosts its final, not-to-be-missed exhibition through the end of October.

In recent years, the London art scene has shifted its focus eastward. Hackney, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green are now saturated with commercial galleries and nonprofit art spaces. So, while London is in ferment preparing for the annual edition of Frieze, going to a show at Between Bridges is almost a refuge that can help us reconnect with art through a more intimate experience. This small exhibition space at 223 Cambridge Heath Road, a short walk from the Bethnal Green station, stands out from the others because it is also Wolfgang Tillmans' private studio, coordinated and managed by the artist himself.

Born in 2006, the project took its name from a photograph taken by the artist in 1999 and refers to the studio's physical location between two rail bridges. Between Bridges lies in a sort of limbo between the public and the private—a space with direct access from the street massively occupied by a staircase leading to the first floor studio. With Between Bridges, Tillmans decided to confront the art world in a cross-cutting way, underlining his active participation in the dissemination of political and social messages. The artist has managed to convert an entryway leading to his studio into an exhibition area while maintaining all the characteristics of a circulation space.

Tillmans himself chooses the artists who are shown sporadically; often the works and artists are not present on London's institutional circuit but for Tillmans, they hold significant political value—in the broadest sense of the term—because they raise current issues. His main purpose is to shed new light on what the mainstream has forgotten or simply dismissed. David Wojnarowicz, Sister Corita, Charlotte Posenenske, Isa Genzken and Gerd Arntz are just some of the names shown in the past.
Top image: The entrance to <i>Between Bridges</i>  (former studio of Wolfgang Tillmans in London). <br />Above: The video <i>Visions (Bollard)</i> projected on the opaque glass of the gallery, visible from the street and from within.
Top image: The entrance to Between Bridges (former studio of Wolfgang Tillmans in London).
Above: The video Visions (Bollard) projected on the opaque glass of the gallery, visible from the street and from within.
From September 24 to October 30, Between Bridges is hosting the last show in its current location. Escalate is a site-specific installation by Marte Eknæs , Tillmans' former assistant and co-manager of the space; for her first solo show in London, the young Norwegian artist finds herself on the other side of the fence. The show's title, Escalate, refers to the presence of the stairs, the dominant architectural element in the small room, moving toward the idea of circularity. It is not by chance that the image chosen to communicate the exhibit is the work depicting an escalator that bears the same title as the show.

Visitors ring the bell and announce themselves at the door. Looking closely, they can see that Eknæs' actions appear even on the outside of the space. Visions (Bollard) projects images on the gallery's opaque glass and is visible both from the street and from the interior; by taking advantage of transparency, it blurs the boundary between public and private. While preparing to enter, visitors must stop on an almost invisible piece, Anti-Slip II , in which the artist has applied anti-slip tape to the front steps.
Marte Eknæs <i>Anti-slip II,</i> 2011,
Marte Eknæs Anti-slip II, 2011,
Marte Eknæs' sculptures and installations are minimalist assemblies of elements taken directly from the every-day urban fabric, like anti-slip tape, stakes, fences, Plexiglas, plastic laminates and fake wood—objects and materials designed to educate, change and shape behavior in public space. Relocated and re-adapted, they subvert their original purposes to reveal their ideological character through formal research.

Once inside, visitors must step around a battered bollard to come face-to-face with a metal and plexiglass sculpture which, despite its apparent instability and lightness, hinders access to a small room, partially obscuring the view of the piece within. Every object has a strong presence; even the projector, often hidden from view, becomes an integral part of the exhibition.
Every object has a strong presence; even the projector, often hidden from view, becomes an integral part of the exhibition.
In the foreground, Marte Eknæs <i>Bollard,</i> 2011; behind the wall, <i>Panic Bar,</i> 2011; on the right, <i>Enhancement,</i> 2011.
In the foreground, Marte Eknæs Bollard, 2011; behind the wall, Panic Bar, 2011; on the right, Enhancement, 2011.
The space around the artworks coincides with the visitor's range of action, its form charged with content insofar as it conditions and forces us to look at elements and materials encountered daily from another point of view. Even the simple act of climbing the stairs is interrupted by the presence of Production and Transgression, a photographic collage depicting two small bollards, inkjet printed on a material that simulates wood. In this way, the visitor is forced to stop halfway on his/her way toward the only piece on the first floor: Escalate. At the top of the stairs is a picture of an escalator printed on aluminum which, precisely because it refers to a cyclical continuum, ironically ends this one-way journey.
Left: Marte Eknæs, <i>Visions (Bollard)</i> (detail), 2011; on right: <i>Bollard,</i> 2011.
Left: Marte Eknæs, Visions (Bollard) (detail), 2011; on right: Bollard, 2011.
The imminent relocation of Wolfgang Tillmans' studio to Berlin will close this small exhibition space and the project will be reborn in a form that is still unknown. The last chance to visit the London branch of Between Bridges is a great opportunity to encounter the work of Marte Eknæs, an artist who can actualize modernist issues of form, sculpture, materials and urban space in a layered way. In her installations, the artist creates small shifts in meaning that place the visitor at the center of the artwork; she manages to offer a shared experience—similar to a short journey—that raises awareness about how our movements are conditioned.
Left: Marte Eknæs, <i>Verticalia II,</i> 2011. Right: <i>Verticalia II,</i> (detail), 2011.
Left: Marte Eknæs, Verticalia II, 2011. Right: Verticalia II, (detail), 2011.
Marte Eknæs
On view through 30 October 2011
Between Bridges
223 Cambridge Heath Road, London
Marte Eknæs, <i>Escalate,</i> 2011.
Marte Eknæs, Escalate, 2011.

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