Equally elegant and precarious-looking figures and forms populate the space. Their sketchy silhouettes and spiky outgrowths stay on weathered pedestals. Walls and platforms are placed at their side – and it is unclear whether they serve as backdrops or are themselves sketchy props that are possibly still waiting for a completely different appearance and have only found their way here by chance. Cables snake across the floor, functional neon tubes set accents with their cold light, and protruding cable ties cast ghostly shadows on the wall, which in this scenario could itself be haunted by some kind of ghost.
The sculptures and wall pieces in “The Walls Have Ears” are largely reappropriations of the artist’s earlier work. Destroyed, discarded, or deposited in places no longer accessible, they exist only in the image archive or as memories. Such a remix practice, however, should not be understood as mere repetition, in the sense of a digital reproduction logic in which original and copy are identical. Rather, the processes of reappropriation follow an approach that confuses the linear sequence of temporal levels. As if the past was something waiting for its still imminent discovery or realization, it inscribes itself where memories pair with current influences to produce new artistic works.
From everyday moments and any area of entertainment, Sami Schlichting collects visual notes like fateful clues in a treasure hunt, which at first seem banal and yet anchor themselves in the mind, often even remaining sensory in the body’s memory: The movement of a cartoon character, the motif of a record cover, the shape of a bulky waste find, the smallest image details from news broadcasts, scenes from body horror films such as David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Ridley Scott’s Alien and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, or precisely that pop-culturally often quoted phrase that gives this exhibition its name.
Such references are abstracted in Sami Schlichting’s works in such a way that they, at most, evoke vague associations. This may also be due to the materials used: organic elements like hay and unfired clay meet standardized, commercially available metal, wood, wire, Styrofoam, and plastic parts. Wavering between chance and intention, excess and reduction, organic-looking form and formlessness, the sculptures stop at none of these poles. One could understand them as embodiments of the impossible, as spawns of an in-between world.
In this respect, remix could also be understood here in the sense of mutation, and mutation in turn as a perpetual possibility of variation that always holds both the potential of openness and plurality as well as a latent danger–of the monstrous, the contagious, the unknown, the formless, the boundless. Not for nothing does the figure of the alien function as an “allegory of the apocalypse caused by the absence of a boundary between the world and the otherworldly, order and chaos, technology and nature, human and non-human life.” (Gaia Giuliani) And principles of origin and authorship, innovation and originality become obsolete at the latest when these new forms give birth to new variations, in a potentially endless game of simulation, repetition and deviation. Nothing is ever new, nothing is ever lost–it only changes form, appearing again and again and always differently.
“The Walls Have Ears” takes place in the framework “Epilog”, a series of four solo exhibits by the Residence NRW⁺ fellows 2020/21 (30 April – 11 July).