On ‚Out of Balance‘ by Nadine Haegeli

Berlin-based artist Jenny Brockmann‘s current exhibition „Out of Balance“ is an invitation to a journey through different spaces, incorporating the visitor as an active participant into its areas of contention, prompting an exploration of altering perspectives.

In the main gallery space the visitor encounters head-on a gigantic aluminium construction. Resembling a colossal set of scales, two accessible containers loat in the air, connected via a tube afixed to the ceiling. The aluminium sheet-lined rooms (H280 cm x W160 cm x D160 cm) are open in the front and back. The sidewalls have 70 x 120 cm wide openings, which form the entrance on the outside, and from the inside a visual axis in the opposite room. In a balanced state, the open-meshed loors of the rooms are held at rest just above two pools of water – a central element of the installation. As the visitor enters or leaves either space via the two-step staircase, this equilibrium is upset, creating a motion that threatens immersion into „the tank“.

By entering the installation, visitors also enter into an interdependent relationship with their counterparts, since their own balance is determined by the weight and movement of at least one other person. The playful experimentation with one‘s own weight through motion can also be conceived as intentionally seeking a common balance together. But can such a balance be attained at all? And what if one side deliberately provokes instability? Will
a power struggle arise, a situation imbued with tensions, powerlessness and helplessness by the inaptitude to inluence one‘s own position? When will the awkwardness be so overpowering that one wants to leave the scales? And what impact will such a reaction have on the counterparts?

Idioms such as „get cold feet“ or „leave someone out in the rain“ generally imply something unpleasant and describe a situation or relationship that is out of balance. Through its spatial isolation the installation deliberately engineers such situations and evokes the feelings associated with making such experiences, either through one‘s own body, from the perspective of the immediately involved counterparts or from the perspective of an outsider, an objective observer, who thereby, despite their distance from the unfolding sequence of events, remains a part of the installation.

The possibility to experiment throughout three different spaces, assuming different perspectives and testing possible scenarios, contains an element of playfulness but also elements of alienation. The huge aluminium construction ills the room with an almost eerie coldness and sterility, reminiscent of an experimental laboratory in a science iction movie. Feelings of fear, excitement, tension and distress can appear, although one is never certain of the cause.

At the same time, the vacuum-like gallery environment allows the visitors to immerse themselves in the experience of the scales and to consciously focus on what happens to their own perception of the situation and of the interaction with their counterparts. Perhaps it is this extreme sensitisation that provides visitors with the possibility of attaining perhaps for the briefest moment a state of perfect balance.

In the gallery‘s garden, the visitors ind two rocks present: one, big and shaped like a mountain, lies with its lat bottom on the smaller rock, which is placed on an air cushion. The two diabases – a kind of granite – stem from a quarry in the Hohwald region near Dresden. The tracks on their surface are witness to human intervention in the natural system. Upon closer inspection, a sophisticated dynamism reveals itself to the visitors. While the larger rock is supported with a wheel on its outer face, the smaller rock lies with its outer edge on an axis that is connected to a pneumatic system below the surface. Depending on temperature the pressure in the air cushion changes and leads the rocks to raise and sink, as if they were breathing deeply and slowly. The dynamic is similar to a tectonic shift, a natural upfolding of the earth‘s crust. In the installation however, the shifts are reversed and the rocks brought to back to their original state through the decreasing temperatures at the end of the day. This cycle may represent how nature, due to its physical condition, always inds a balance.

As with the irst part of the exhibition, this installation provides a space of silence, furthering the conscious acts of awareness and self-relection. After the intense experiences in the giant scales however, it appears as if the artist now wants the visitors to experience relaxation, thus creating another compensating level of balancing. The slow and yet stable dynamics, inherent in the natural system of the rocks, radiates a sense of safety and reliability often amiss in our complex and dynamic socio-cultural system. It is as if Jenny Brockmann suggests a resort, a way to recollect the certainty that our human existence displays a fraction of a larger entity guiding us in our quest for physical and mental balance through its constancy and continuity.

On the way from the gallery‘s main space to the garden, the visitors pass through a small room that is another important part of the exhibition – the control room. One can almost imagine a secret and invisible third observer being present, monitoring the motions unfolding in the two installations and documenting our reactions. An ECG records every movement of the scales and continuously transcribes the wave-like data on a roll of paper. The activity of the ECG is also shown as a projection on the wall. Turning towards the garden, one looks at a monitor that displays the day‘s current temperature according to the angle of the rocks. The place is weird and bizarre – even more so when the visitors become aware of the fact that the invisible person, who is observing and controlling their reaction, is actually themselves.

The Berlin-based artist Jenny Brockmann has been concentrating on the subject of nature and its inherent processes for many years. Inspired by light, water, air, and energy, she creates new forms, spaces, structures and worklows. There is an elegant easiness and liveliness that is very unique to these newly formed entities, creating unexpected interactions with the observer, and widening preconceived ideas in a playful way.

Jenny Brockmann (*1976 in Berlin) studied Fine Arts at the Berlin University of the Arts and received her Master of Fine Arts as an apprentice of Rebbecca Horn. Her sculptures and installations span from the organic to the philosophical and have been exhibited internationally. The artist and sculptor lives and works in Berlin.
copyright Nadine Haegeli, 2012