Roman Ondák: Objects in the Mirror at BASE

During a brief conversation about Roman Ondák, the artist Enrico Vezzi told me how much he was impressed by his experience at the Venice Biennale in 2009, when Ondák turned the Czech and Slovak Pavilion into a botanical environment that merged seamlessly with the surrounding gardens at the Giardini. At first, I didn’t remember that exhibition; later I went to google it, and everything became perfectly clear. The artist Roman Ondák is known for making artwork so subtle that many people don’t realize they’re there at all. An experience of incredible normality, something that overlooks the regime of visibility to invoke a state of experience. Objects in the Mirror is an exhibition project that Ondák conceived for BASE / Progetti per l’arte in Florence. The twenty year old artist-run space is organizing a number of special exhibitions this year to celebrate its birthday, and after the Richard Long exhibition, it keeps work on the line of conceptualism, hosting the site-specific project by Roman Ondák.

 

Roman Ondak, Objects in the Mirror BASE / Progetti per l’arte Arte,

Roman Ondak, Objects in the Mirror BASE / Progetti per l’arte

 

Objects in the Mirror is a perfect mimicry operation. The Slovak artist worked on displacing the metal rolling shutter that is the door to the gallery, opening an unknown view of the exhibition space. At a first glance, the occasional visitor might feel confused; it might happen that she/he is unable to recognize the very exhibition space that has been laying in the same place since 1998. As matter of fact, Ondák relocates the house number “18” from the street to the interior, and the small book collection from the shelf to the window. Then if, on the one hand, the viewer is able to see what is inside the place, on the other she/he can see from the outside what the exhibition space collected within these 20 years of activity.

 

Roman Ondak, Objects in the Mirror BASE / Progetti per l’arte Arte,

Roman Ondak, Objects in the Mirror BASE / Progetti per l’arte

Roman Ondak, Objects in the Mirror BASE / Progetti per l’arte

Roman Ondak, Objects in the Mirror BASE / Progetti per l’arte

 

The exhibition title comes from “Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear,” a safety warning that is required to be engraved on passenger side mirrors of motor vehicles in some countries such as the United States and Canada. In this case, the artist makes use of this statement in order to create a surreal situation. Something at the same time concrete and immaterial, an attempt to shift the viewer’s attention from place to space. It appears to be a re-formulation of the subject’s interaction modes with a world made global by electronic communications and that may potentially be made “visible” with a click.

 

Roman Ondak, Objects in the Mirror BASE / Progetti per l’arte

Roman Ondak, Objects in the Mirror BASE / Progetti per l’arte

 

Roman Ondák plays with ideas of relocation, representation, and the duplication of experience. He reflects on the system of recognisability, on the mechanisms that feed it. His subtle intervention appears to be a smart shifting, something that crushes the viewer’s attention to everyday life. Thus, I have to admit, now I’m able to deeply understand what Vezzi confessed to me, because just like at the 2009 Venice Biennale, also in this case Ondák worked to build a show that is a question more than anything else; something that doesn’t urge for an answer, but just a further reflection.

Roman Ondák: Objects in the Mirror at BASE / Progetti per l’arte will run until May 21, 2018.

 

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by Vincenzo Estremo
in Focus on Europe

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