Martin Boyce : Martin Boyce, We are the Breeze
28 October – 02 December 2006
In many respects, the spectacular 1950s vacation villa that Michelangelo Antonioni uses in “Zabriskie Point” (1970) to represent the culmination of his film’s journey exemplifies the artistic strategy of Martin Boyce. In accordance with its role in the film, the fantastic house vividly symbolizes an age and its cultural ethos through only a few characteristic architectonic elements. By giving them their particular form, the director imbues these elements with the power to destroy the ideals of the period. In an explosion during the film’s climactic scene, Antonioni gleefully deconstructs this symbol into its individual components. Boyce designs his room installations in similar fashion, in particular citing the 1950s as a transitional period. During this time, the uncritical, naïve euphoria for the future that first coalesced in the postwar period and which Antonioni so deeply despised gradually became confronted with the insight that modern utopias had failed.
However Martin Boyce does not try to settle accounts. He utilizes emblematic designs from the period, so-called “classics,” and shatters their worn-out originals by combining the fragments in new ways or creating copies of them with similar, often inferior materials. Boyce confronts these elements with perfectly produced citations of individual, isolated aspects from the language of architecture and design. For passersby, the rectangular glass-curtain façade of a typical high-rise seems like a grid of vertical and diagonal lines. This motif appears in Boyce’s works in an almost baroque integration of different sign systems and variations, for example as patterns in his fence-and-gate works; perforations in his ventilation grating; a basic component of wall paintings and penmanship; or as the wire mesh of trashcan objects, which in turn refer directly back to the high-rise.
For his exhibition “We Are the Breeze” Boyce constructs an imaginary landscape, the archetype of a desolate space between park and lobby. With allusions to film sets, Boyce situates just enough clues towards an intuitive recognition within the interplay of few, but crucial motifs. For example, one of his objects, the reminiscence of a telephone booth, contributes to such a relaxed definition of public space. At the same time, in the age of the private cell phone the phone booth serves as a symbol for its own disappearance. Boyce’s citations are like a returning ghost, condensations of the collective memory. Rather than serve as critique, they evoke melancholy recollections linked to their originals. Boyce is less interested in the failure of their central ideas than in their continuing potential and the question of whether these earlier ideas and ideals still remain relevant for us today.