Interview with Carl von Weiler…

WAKE week 4 Carl von Weiler. Photo by Laura Milnes

On the 11th of June, Anne Bean released onto the floor of the Dilston Grove gallery 100 kilometres of shiny, golden ribbon. A fantastic array of media then followed; in the work of William Cobbing and David Cotterrell, videos and sounds were projected adding movement to the still, spreaded ribbon until Carl Von Weiler, the fourth artist involved in the Wake exhibition opened up to a complete change and showed that he is not afraid of taking risks. A tall, articulate yet enigmatic character, Carl von Weiler made use of his most distinctive technique of ‘inversion’, a concept following a two year stay in an underground tunnel inside an industrial building in London.

Once the door of the old church opens, attention is drawn to the large, heavy balls of wrapped dark fabric rigged to the roof structure. Strapped by a net of tight white string these gigantic cocoons dance overhead like pendulums giving a feeling of dense darkness to the solemn atmosphere. The ribbon has disappeared.

Interested to know what had happened it led to this discussion between Victor Delvecchio, Zoe Gilbert and Carl von Weiler.

Victor Delvecchio: So you got rid of everything. It almost feels to me as if you’ve organised it all.

Carl von Weiler: Hahahahah, yeah, as if “tidied it up”, hahahaha… No, it’s more like taking a different course. I think part of the attitude towards it was to make it reverse or turn it inside out or upside down. In a way the project has run through my practise where I invert myself, my body, and record things like video and sound pieces while hanging upside down. I think about ‘inversion’ and ‘reversal’ a lot in my work. I kind of searched deeply for that into my practise: instead of treating it like an individual, I came with a completely different idea and concept of materials.

VD: How did you process?

CvW: I sort of took seeds, from all of the previous artists. Without Anne Bean’s yellow ribbon what I did would not exist. Then, from William Cobbing it was difficult to use the video and sound or light as a material so I chose to take some of the seeds and fold them into this; I used one of the figurative elements: the body. Then, Cotterrell opened up the ceiling with his ropes and by hanging projectors that kind of floated. In a way the reference to “suspension” comes from there and I feel really happy about that. There are sort of echoes, from those coming to this.

VD: How do you feel about the overall concept?

CvW: Well, it’s a highly unusual exhibition: you’re part of a group and you have to respond to what has been done before and also bring something to it that maybe leaves an opening to the person after you. Maybe it’s been different for Anne Bean as it will for Bronwen Buckeridge, respectively first and last artist. Being in the middle, I couldn’t have an idea about the space, come in, and execute an individual approach. So, I equiped myself with some kind of flexible kit, both physical tools and maybe one or two materials and a mental attitude.

Zoe Gilbert: Did you choose or did you tailor the tools to what you knew was in there?

CvW: There are some advantages of being ‘number four’. I knew that there was yellow ribbon involved and even after Cobbing and Cotterrell, I knew that it was still there. I sort of took on a duality: the ribbon being released from a single point flowing into the space – a hundred kilometres of it, spreading onto the floor with William Cobbing’s work and then David making it move, projecting light onto it.

ZG: It feels quite mischievous, quite cheeky, to contain such a volume of very bright material and to hide it away so that, we known there was yellow ribbon before and now there isn’t a single piece left of it.

VD: Yes, do you have the feeling to have undergone an editing process? Like editing someone eles’s work?

CvW: I thought a little bit about that but everyone has said: “really, you can do anything”. We are part of a team in a way, I don’t think we can hold back here and be sort of polite. Each of us is contributing to the same exhibition… Although, I did feel a little bit cheeky, because once I had started to pack and push all that material into these bags I realised I needed to get it all in, and, hoover every single bit left. It felt a bit like clearing up a party. To me, it was important that it appeared colourless, hopefully at this point something else starts to open: references to the building in a different way, using the beams and part of the architecture. At first, I thought of a “horse installation” when 6 or 7 horses are standing in the space; then I thought of an elephant house. Then I thought, well you can’t do that. First there isn’t money or space for that.

VD: What message do you express here?

CvW: Yes, there is a sort of undertone here and I thought about it as a kind of a “mission church”. Seeing these bags being packed, stuffed and hung, it felt a little bit like lynching and the passage of slavery; where ships used to kind of go and pick up slaves and transport them to Britain. These ideas are “underthoughts” if you like, they just work down, below, somewhere else. What you get there is the phenomenon, the piece that’s achieved in the space.

VD: It’s an interesting point there but one that I didn’t realise when looking at your work here; in a gallery you often encounter a ‘title’ or a sort of explanation to the piece; nothing has been printed here to give us a “profile” of what you’ve installed. 

CvW: No, and I think it is one of the discussions about this show. If you’re coming here as a visitor, you’re coming to the fourth or fifth artist; see photographs on the wall; have maybe a name underneath; you have to pick through, especially now that the ribbon has disappeared; you’d think: “well, what are these images then?” Nothing is explained anywhere, you have to talk to the artists if you want to know what has happened.

VD: Is this the first time you have had to interact with other artists and work as a group.

CvW: Yes, it is. I can think of situations where I’ve been in a big building with other artists and work something out and work within a space. I was part of a thing, ten years ago, called Dark Field in a derelict building in Hackney Wick where 6 or 7 artists worked in a big factory but we had the process beforehand, concept and message of this show and therefore why we were together. A lot of that helped with WAKE but it doesn’t happen ‘together’ or in a ‘forum’. Anne Bean had guidelines as in we “shouldn’t meet” or “interact” and it felt frustrating but, looking at it, it pushes creation to and through something different.

VD: You have earlier mentioned politeness and I know artists are often susceptible to being edited by others.

CvW: Yes, but there is no competition, it’s not a race but a relay and someone has to break the tape at the end. You do have to make certain choices of which way to go; I didn’t choose to leave a bag of sand, a bag of plaster, a bag of water, a bag of lilies, a bag of … ribbon. Anne Bean did something very specific and made a performance out of it. Each artist chose one another. Anne Bean, who came up with the concept, chose William Cobbing, who thus chose David Cotterrell who then chose me. That’s how the chain started.

VD: With regards to the sort of action/reaction concept, did you restrain yourself from giving too much to your creation?

CvW: I hope that everyone feels they can do whatever they like, there are no rules. It’s more about responding in a very open way… It’s not a very good answer I am giving you.

VD: Hahaha, not really, no.

CvW: Yes, but I know exactly what you mean. I am thinking about Jake and Dinos Chapman who bought a collection of Goya and painted over it. There is a question there of politeness and content: I think it doubles the value: “whoa! Goya and Chapman on the same canvas” and I think these bring genuine and real questions. Hopefully no one feels too polite. But there is a selection here. You choose who is going to interpret and react to your piece and there is consenting; somewhere it’s “consenting not to have control”, hahaha. I mean, there are all those nutty ideas and I am hoping that we all had that to kind of flex the muscle to what the possibilities are. I have had to pack some of the ideas I have had in a suitcase and store it for another time.

VD: Art is often a response or a reaction to a particular time or event; there is often a key to decipher the artist’s complex interpretation; do you feel the rolling progress of this exhibition may soften its impact or sense?

CvW: Yes, that could be worrying I suppose. The public may need and be looking for these keys.

VD: Does it feel restraining? I doubt many people will get the historical reference of your piece. 

CvW: Maybe. But I think within the confines of this exhibition it is enough; for me, I feel like I have opened up to something different.

VD: Carl, thank you.

CvW: I know nothing about you, though.

The next artist in the WAKE chain is Rachel Lowe, who will be responding to Carl’s installation at Dilston Grove this week, with a public opening on Sat 9/Sun 10 July. Meanwhile, ARCHIPELAGO continues at Cafe Gallery, open Wed-Sun.

Image: WAKE Week 2 – Carl von Weiler. Photo by Laura Milnes.

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