Installation at MATERIAL



A cluster of projectors playing back video material of a fire, spotlights in different colors, ventilator fans, emergency blankets and a smoke machine are arranged in the exhibition space. During the opening times of the exhibition, the smoke machine fills the space with artificial smoke, creating the illusion that the front of the bookstore is on fire. Depending on the density and circulation of the smoke, the installation is more or less visible from outside. Three framed photographs in the window show the arrangement by daylight without the smoke, offering an insight behind the illusion. Each image is accompanied by an empty frame right next to it, representing the view of the space behind it. After the exhibition is over, a photograph documenting the installation including the smoke and the visiting people is added to each of the three remaining frames. The door being opened when visitors enter the space lets smoke escape to the streets. In advance of the exhibition invitations containing ashes from the fire which had been filmed in order to produce the used images were sent to friends of the artist, fostering the expectancy of a fire on location.

A Room filled with Smoke

Two channel video, 2x 16:9, color, sound



In order to give visitors the ability to unmask the illusion at play during Brennmaterial, the artist‘s goal was to keep a balance between the illusion and its workings or as it was put in the exhibition text “to allow the viewers to stand next to a curtain, able to see what‘s in front as well as behind it.”

Following this, the architecture of the room remained unchanged except for all objects being packed in plastic foil, as if they had been prepared for exposure to fire or smoke. To enhance this stance of levitation between illusion and reality, the installation was not built to emit sound or smell.

However the factor that proved to be most crucial for perceiving the exhibition as an artificially produced situation instead of an actual fire were the people standing in front of the store, looking at the supposed fire. Especially with an audience present enjoying themselves, talking and drinking beer during the opening, the installation failed to make passerbys believe that an actual fire was going on.

In order to document this phenomenon a two-channel film called A Room filled with Smoke was produced. The images shown in the film have been filmed from inside as well as from outside of the gallery space during the opening and the exhibition times and are displayed on two projections next to each other, often juxtaposing the visitors and their view side by side.

Images: Fabienne Koch

Art © Gregor Vogel 2020