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Roman Signer

Stiefel , 1990
black-and-white photograph on baryta paper
44.0 x 55.5 cm
Roman Signer’s short-lived performances require meticulous preparation yet the duration of that preparation is inversely proportional to the fleetingness of the performances’ execution and disappearance. These interventions in time and space are created with the help of a range of elements and objects, a corpus that has been the artist’s very own for many years now and includes kayaks, rubber boots, balls, tables, pails, umbrellas, cables and bikes.

To this list of everyday objects we should add natural elements like water, wind or the force of gravity : “I have certain elements at my disposal and I can combine one thing with another. The rocket can be associated with sand or water, the umbrella with the ball, etc. It’s like a language, with a multitude of combinations. And I like to play with the same vocabulary, trying to be rigorous.”

Like the traditional sculptor shaping clay or carving marble, the man who describes himself as an “emotional physicist” makes good use of these different components, his raw materials, to compose fleeting, volatile works of art that question common sense. What, for example, has become of that automobile that has left behind four wheels and nothing else in the middle of a country road ? That alarm clock sailing along on the water, who is it for ? What meaning are we supposed to give to that square drawn in the snow with four bottles of red wine ? And those boots abandoned by their owner right in the middle of a river, will they resist the force of the current for very long ?

Signer dreams up incongruous scenarios that take shape in the meeting of natural forces and everyday objects, humorously springing to life in narrative actions which are sorts of metaphors of life’s absurdity. Precisely calculating the desired event, the artist prepares installations that paradoxically end up escaping from his control in order to produce their effects. The accident that occurs or seems about to occur gives us the fleeting feeling that the existence of things is irreversibly swept away by the flow of time, and that to try to hold it back can be nothing more than an illusion.

The artist’s actions play out, moreover, in three distinct timeframes : the preparation beforehand, the action strictly speaking, and finally the result of that act. Through that action Signer reveals aspects of the surrounding world which we pay little attention to, like the weight of snow or the force of a waterfall, whilst mirroring the insignificance of our own daily activities, so quickly gone, and the emptiness of our aspirations to dominate the world. In this Roman Signer’s work assumes an existential quality.
Roman Signer, Stiefel , Bottes, 1990