Inspired by the COVID-19 lockdown, Garage Rotterdam created a group exhibition in its window featuring work by Silvia B., Antye Guenther, Steven Maybury, Jochem Rotteveel, Olivier Scheffer and Lavinia Xausa. In this exhibition, entitled Through the Looking Glass, the fragility of life is unfurled through the eyes of art. This frailty reveals itself on many levels, such as health and the security of work and income, but also the delicate world order, with its rising tensions both within and between countries. We are living in the Anthropocene, an age shaped by humankind, and yet nowadays we feel more like pinballs. The six Rotterdam-based artists use their work to reflect upon these inauspicious times, and in doing so transform the gallery window into a bizarre universe in which the world is turned upside down.
Through the Looking Glass, in this case through the window, can only be seen from the roadside, and is visible to passers-by and visitors, day and night. It includes a new series of sculptures by Silvia B. that evolved from the paradox of our current times. Her work depicts the fragility of nature and culture. The brain vases by Antye Guenther are a poetic reflection of these uncertain times. To what extent are our brains able to recover or even restructure themselves when the world suddenly seems to have turned on its head? Steven Maybury’s monuments also represent man’s ability to put memories and the past into a new perspective. Also in the gallery window, Lavinia Xausa shows a video that stems from a study on the way populism compares with religion, and how people interpret and become familiar with symbols. Her work examines human behaviour and offers a confident view of the world we live in.
Exclusively for this exhibition, Jochem Rotteveel has created a large mural that forms the backdrop against which these fragile works are exhibited. Ultimately, Jochem’s work is always of a temporary nature. After an exhibition, the work is taken down from the wall, and it is gone. This serves as a statement to show that art does not necessarily have to last for ever – a perfect metaphore for these unstable times. From the street, we see Olivier Scheffer’s large shrub smiling cheerfully at everyone, as if asking them to stop and look for a moment, at this exhibition, and at this moment in time. The title of Scheffer’s work If plants could talk? is not only a question, but also offers an answer as to how we can look at today’s world.
The artists make clear that it is time to reflect, given the uncertainty surrounding what the future holds, be it individually, economically, politically or culturally.
Through the Looking Glass evolved as a result of an open call organised by Garage Rotterdam offering Rotterdam-based artists a stage at a time when this seemed impossible. The artists’ work was originally intended to be shown elsewhere.
With Steven Maybury’s work, 7 Allen Park Drive (2020), the exhibition is part of Unlocked/Reconnected, an initiative celebrating the reopening of museums and other ‘houses of art’ that now have permission to open their doors following the lockdown.
Image: Stephen Maybury