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Micol Assaël
by Massimiliano Gioni
Micol Assaël’s sculpture is one of cacophonies, a cranky Ballet Mécanique that
she has staged in a series of impressive installations. The spaces she creates
are often oppressive, transfixed as they are by magnetic force fields and lines
of tension. Perforated by violent gusts of wind and sparks of light, Assaël’s
environments can recall the cruel geometry of prison cells and the suffocating
quarters hidden in the belly of some old sinking ship, while her sculptures are
built on the ruins of our industrial society: a post-apocalyptic wasteland of
bachelor machines, rusty materials and broken engines. These might take the
form of frozen rooms full of tangled cables, hot air turbines, fumes, acid clouds
and the pounding noise of motors and generators.
After her first international exposure, at the 2003 Venice Biennale,
Assaël has gone on to participate in exhibitions in Italy – where she is based;
she shows with Galleria Zero in Milan – and abroad, particularly in Berlin,
where her work was presented at the 4th Berlin Biennial and at the Hamburger
Bahnhof. In 2007 came a solo show at Kunsthalle Basel, where she premiered a
series of more abstract works, seemingly quieter than earlier output, but in fact
just as threatening; the centrepiece of the installation, titled Chizhevsky
Lessons, after the Russian scientist Alexander Chizhevsky, gave the huge
space – and all who entered it – an electrostatic charge, inevitably released
later in a sparking shock.
Assaël’s is an art of physical turmoil and frontal assault. But as in a noisy
baroque mise en scène, Assaël’s machines seem to aspire to an immaterial
dimension: the sounds that punctuate her work have a hypnotic quality to
them, and the rooms she designs seem inspired by a monastic severity, with an
intimate and sublime simplicity.
It is a sort of pilgrimage that Assaël envisions. In spite of their rough
appearance, Assaël’s sculptures and environments can function as secret
passages to ethereal mental landscapes and distant emotional geographies.
Her recent exhibition at Johann König Gallery, in Berlin, made this aspect quite
clear: legendary musician Mika Vainio performed within one of Assaël’s
sculptures, turning it into a strange meditation chamber. Enveloped in a litany
of industrial drones, Assaël’s machines are always tuned to an ascetic
frequency; they emit a spiritual noise.
Mindfall, 2007, motors, fuses, fuel, cable, smoke, table,
557 x 252 cm. Courtesy Johann König, Berlin
FUTURE~1.INDD 82 11/2/08 12:08:16
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