Alma Tischler Wood
In the shuttered light of a loft in Picardy, “Être-là” (Being There) opens to the viewer like the first act of a theatre piece. Alma Tischler Wood’s installation – a witty amalgam of shapes, colours, and lights – occupies a dauntingly large floor area. At first sight, we see a constellation of inflatable globes and bric-a-brac, cradled by a ramshackle latticework of diagonal strings between floor and ceiling. One’s eye wanders up and down the patterns, looking for structure. The work becomes a long buffet table, crowded with wayward delights. Clusters of tiny objects in tawdry colours merge into shoals of things that are black and white. The small collections are interspersed with weightier globes and boxes, clad in newspapers. Old headlines contain signs revealing their directional momentum.
For all its apparent whimsy, Tischler Wood’s work is precise enough to permit patterns to arrive, settle and develop at each viewing. Like some types of free-form jazz, its rhyme is more apparent than its metre. Familiarity brings a broader perspective that transforms the string geometries into a sweeping recessional that gives meaning within the context of its outer landscape of wooden beams and loft walls. Surprisingly, the breadth of open space is diminished by string. Punctuated by occasional knots and tiny ornaments, this three-dimensional web lays open as much as it encloses. The boundaries it makes are innocuous and easy on the eye, enabling one's vision to remain centred on the structure without getting distracted by the beauty of the windows or walls.
After a while, small jokes, puns and riddles emerge from the collection, as if from a mist. The simplicity of the game creates different frames of reference that imply imaginary quotation marks. A pair of rocks hangs in the air, held motionless by two lengths of twine. Flat, rectangular paintings of two-dimensional spheres lie against the bright three-dimensional spheres; plastic drinking bottles stand shoulder to shoulder, each displaying a vividly dyed fluid. According to the artist these are ‘water colours’. Textual details snipped from cigarette packages and newspaper headlines provide a semblance of cohesion, based on their colour, shape, or their wordplay.
In time, one is permitted the narrative between the unnaturally bright globes and a few unadorned objects. What the artist affectionately calls ‘worlds’ are in contrast with the weightier, text-covered boxes. The ‘worlds’ are sprightly and luminous almost to the point of toxicity. Most are inflatables, embellished with polka-dots or bright orange. Some of the ‘worlds’ are ironic, as in the papier-mâché globe consisting entirely of the city of Paris, or bandaged meticulously in ‘Handle With Care’ stickers. The pathways between the ‘natural’ and the ‘poisonous’ makes for an edgy liaison, if not a tempestuous marriage. At times, Tischler Wood channels the Dadaist spirit. Without invoking any physical movement, her installation seems to rehearse the actions of going, resting, or acting, but within tenuous boundaries. Its playful resistance to a single interpretation is one of its many delights. Read it between the lines, over the lines, through the lines, and despite the lines. “Being There” is everywhere.
On arriving from London, in the early days of July, what first struck me about Sacy-le Petit was its seclusion. The air was soft and sweet, and the birdsong comforting. However, the beautiful surroundings were overwhelming. Sacy-le-Petit introduced me to a new sensation of solitude. On my first day, cycling through the panoramic countryside, I became lost for hours. This experience, as well as that of being here in the chateau, has changed my sense of time and space. For me, it means much more than simply “Being Here.”
‘Being There’ is the title of an American film about a gardener (Peter Sellers) who remains trapped in the estate of his guardian until his guardian dies and he makes the decision to leave, a fiction that reflects my own decision to leave London. It is also the term of a study of ‘Being’ by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. In his fundamental treatise, ‘Being and Time’, he attempts to access Being (Sein) through an investigation into the experience of human existence, in respect of its temporal and historical character, Being There (Dasein). With my installation, a large and intricate piece set in the loft of the barn, I have constructed a representation of my personal experience of Heidegger’s treatise. Because my medium is visual, the components of this ‘site specific’ piece reflect my wild and unpredictable first experience of “Being-There” at 1 rue Verte.
My aim was to make a wondrous microcosm, using both local and non-local objets trouvés, such as tiny lights, paintings, pieces of nature, as well as materials left behind by previous residency artists. All the items are sited close together and some are embellished with paint and English/French newspapers. I have also included spheres of different sizes, images representative of infinity, which have appeared in my work since I began, and which I call ‘worlds.’ To make a connection with my other work, I have added a piece from an exhibition held last year - a golden birdhouse that toured trees in London, Canada, and Berlin.