Thomas Sauter at Val Masino


Artist: Thomas Sauter

Exhibition title: 0° Celsius

Venue: Val Masino, Italy

Date: December 17 – 24, 2016

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Val Masino

Trinity dub – historical point zero – birth of year 0.. Thomas Sauter’s exhibition, «Zero Degrees Celsius» is broadcasted from an outbuilding in a remote village. (The rural, rather more than the urban, was always prone to domestication through (foreign) fictional narratives. Its artificial ‘folklorisation’‚ began quite early and ‘Landleben’ since the nineteenth century – like everything else now actually – has become pretty much a virtual zone.) Thomas Sauter’s work deals with painted textures, abstractions, transcendences and other smaller ego-dissolutions. I’m paraphrasing it here as: jaunty dub layerings, reverbs and halls, channeling twentieth-century abstract painting and pop culture. The video work projected inside the exhibition space revolves both around a festive and a virtual idea: A nativity scene rendered in Swarovski-glass, handheld filmed from a shop window; a transparent icon, rotating (three sixty), refracting in a spectrum of LED rays. It first might come as a casual mocking of spirituality through eccentric consumerism, but that would be christmas business-as-usual anyway, wouldn’t it?..

Theologists love posing florid questions like the following: What is the secret? uhm.. ok then what is the dark secret of this exhibition, or the gospel, so to ask? At the end of the thirteenth century, in fact the artists’ namesake, Saint Thomas from Aquinas contemplated on how angels would experience reality and could communicate with each other. He came up with a sort of ‘virtual reality of angels’, a form of hyperreality, or third time, he then called the ‘Aevum’. However spaced out such concerns may sound, it comes pretty close to a form of intersubjective connectedness that only a human from the beginning twenty-first century could little by little get a glimpse of..

Another point zero was certainly the year 2000. The late nineties were a trending peak for extreme-sports.. Outside the exhibition space the artist is showing a series of bench-sculptures made of used snowboards (done in collaboration with Thomas Julier). The graphics of those snowboards either refer to the classical iconography of Californian board-sports subcultures, but mostly they display other non-figurative, ‘ethereal’ motives: halos, beams, cascades, vortexes, swooshes etc. Apart from the custom to ornament sports equipment with visuals of movement and velocity, could it also be that these late nineties and Y2k aesthetics were somehow performing an ‘eschatological’ transition into the new millennium? Were they preparing a sort of second coming or some kind of merging with a higher (digital) entity? After all it can be seen as no coincidence that after a decade of video games and dreams of cyberspace the advent of Y2k would be culminating in such visuals.. The maxim of the hour was going beyond personal limits, transgressing boundaries: self-discovery was awaiting in the epic. This impulse can be described as a psychedelic one, in that it tries to hot-wire the way to spiritualness through the aid of prosthetics. Might this ‘longing for oneness’ vaguely apply to the field of cybernetics as well? Or more vaguely: Where it was an icon’s function to ‘make the saint present’, so it is the new medias where this act of ‘blissful actualization’ is becoming the subject’s immersion in the medium itself. Well and that would leave a sublime activity like surfing through fresh powder snow, ~ sunlight glittering thousandfold in a trail of tiny ice pixels ~, to again be something quite creaturely, not so angelic anymore..

Coming back to the yearly celebrations of A.D., but now with zeroes and ones. So are we there yet? We’re in the twenty-first century, yes. Technological ‘Aevum’ is very nigh. But also, no. – A few questions would probably be best answered if one simply focused not only on the historical-archival qualities of the boards, but on their earthly grounding, their ‘fallenness’ so to speak: The newly assigned function as contemplative seating (and literally the impotence as sports gear). Thus, a truly irie gospel should be babbling something about hanging it loose and finding solace in the realization that we never ought to fully reach that womb-like other side. However, what we have here now in this exhibition is a manifold picture with an annually echoing leitmotif, coinciding with winter solstice, and consequences that are still evident up to this day (and some converted sports equipment serving as ersatz crib figurines). Well, and that be the mystery.

«There’s this sense of vastness that overcomes you,» Mr. Koons said. «It’s an extremely philosophical, transcendent sport. You really feel connected to something much, much vaster than yourself. There’s a sense of space and time as very vast.» Mr. Koons said. «No longer is it a left side-right side. You’re riding the board as one. Finally, you’re one again.» – Jeff Koons on snowboarding, New York Times, December 2016.