Plein Air – Matthias Jackisch with Felix Ziem

14 September – 13 October 1995

Plein Air launches Beaconsfield’s new collaborative space at 22 Newport Street – with internationally renowned performance artist Matthias Jackisch from Dresden, Germany and French nineteenth century painter Felix Ziem, curated by Beaconsfield.

Jackisch installs himself for the duration of four weeks in an environment incorporating a single work by Ziem. The month long inhabitation of the gallery is accompanied and informed by research undertaken by Jackisch in the local vicinity of Vauxhall.

The commission draws upon tensions and relationships between the contemporaneous and the historical and examines conventions surrounding the artistic process and its preservation.

“This unusual association… calls attention to art’s end-product as either permanent or ephemeral, as a collectable thing circulating in a specific commercial structure or as a transient creative experience which challenges the singular value of the artistic object… these dilemmas in contemporary art have triggered Beaconsfield’s curatorial imagination…. In the twentieth century landscape became a site for performance: while Ziem painted trees, Joseph Beuys planted seven thousand of them…. Similarly, while Ziem took as his subject the seascapes of Venice or hundreds of gondolas, Matthias Jackisch has physically integrated some of these subjects into his more recent performances, not as images but as props… in a performance called Atlantis im Nacken which took place in 1992, Jackisch stood for a long time on an empty Spanish beach. With his back to the water and with a small receptacle on his head, he remained still, eyes closed. His experience was not based upon visual perception, nor was his action skilled or productive, he simply drew breath and listened… like a living totem that no technologised civilisation would worship…. Today the powerful influence of technology’s many forms over Western civilisation needs no stressing, nor does the fact that this technological development is sustained thanks to the increasing impoverishment of the already poor. It is interesting therefore that, coming from the former GDR and faced with coming to terms with the experience of the omnipotent West, Jackisch has increasingly turned to performance…. Vauxhall, like the old Ragged School and despite its rich history, has suffered the neglect and decay of so many areas of south London… it should not surprise us if Jackisch hires one of the caravans that are for rent outside the building as an instrument in which to pursue his adventures. If he searches hard enough and with too plain a vision, he might even find one of Ziem’s old paint brushes.”

Elena Lledó, Plein Air, exhibition catalogue, London: Beaconsfield, 1995