Tom Bull, Under Cover of Darkness
In exhibition Under Cover of Darkness, Tom Bull addresses the ambivalent nature of fire as both, a renewing and destructive force. The artist shows how the archaic as well as anarchic act of burning is revived through rituals, experiments, vandalism or arson - especially in rural areas - in order to assert one's own identity. For his interrogation of fire and darkness, Bull creates bleak scenarios by sculptures, videos, architectural models and light that are both frightening and fascinating. Fire and burning are present in many ways. As a physical experience full of magic, warmth and sensation, fire rituals in hidden rural places form an attractive contrast to an increasingly rationalised, abstracted and digitalised world. Stools arranged around a simple log burner The Village #1 and Village #2 are recurrent throughout the exhibition. They recall the social function of fire, to gather human groups around warmth and light. Covered in black tar, they appear charred, as if a fire had ravaged a village and destroyed its community. The miniatures also reminiscent of folk horror film scenes. With this gloomy scenarios, Bull highlights this ambivalent connotation of a glorified country life in internet culture. The large sculpture Detached, composed of two playhouses, literally obscures the cute idea of country life. The sculpture looks like a burnt-out village church. It thus evokes the dark spirit and often fatal apocalyptic doomsday imaginings of cultic rural communities such as the Shakers or Mormons. In the main room of the exhibition, Bull shows videos in architectural models choreographed like flashes of light from laser beams at a rave. The impression of a rave party is reinforced by the soundtrack. For the artist, born in 1995, the rave and techno subcultures of the 1990s embody the early days of digitalisation. This musically embraced early digital culture, at the same time euphorically seeking otherness through magic or folk customs, acid and hallucinogens. The rave parties held in the shadows of darkness were places of wildness and ecstasy. Tom Bull has edited video material he found on the internet into short clips. They are amateur footage of a teenager from Switzerland who staged himself in front of the camera in the 1990s to techno music, in the landscape or during fire experiments. Lonely and under cover of darkness, he tries to participate in rave culture, its subversion and expansion of consciousness through excessive dancing in the strobe light, cosmic sun worship at dawn or fire rituals. The apparent anachronism of the contemporary fascination with fire thus becomes Bull show an expressive act of rebellion against alienation, boredom, fatigue or disembodiment. This is also an expression of the inconsolable desire to experience terror in the dark.
Heidi Brunnschweiler (curator)