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Author ········· Edgar Allan Poe
Medium ········· Print
Published ······ July 1845
Language ······· English

even in a language that is not your own
– Francesco Giaveri

    Ian Waelder’s work explores memory and trace, by isolating material histories and language from his biography. He works through the poetics of the accident and collects fragments of what has been discarded and fallen into oblivion.

    even in a language that is not your own is a project that proposes a path about memory in a series of successive spaces, each used for subtle interventions. This show is not thought either as a sum or a sequence of works, but is conceived as a whole in which to orient oneself.

    The items the artist places in each space speak to the viewer in a rather odd way, to draw us into a shared experience. In exploring the exhibition space, we come across small pictures and sculptures, texts and sounds. After distinguishing and discovering, we find ourselves in a kind of common memory, the memory that is passed on orally, perhaps imprecise and certainly incomplete. Yet recognisable.

    In ideal terms, it was a question of catapulting the viewer into an oral cavity, where the air emerging from the lungs is articulated to determine speech. An apparently inhospitable, dark place that is however secure, like a safe refuge, with or without a way out. To do this, Ian Waelder creates a path in which silence is followed by histories in the form of comments, almost all trivial, that branch out into a wide range of possibilities and ramifications. They are footnotes to the main text making up this route/exhibition, approached as a work in itself.

    The artist alters the space to establish a itinerary in which we encounter, sometimes unexpectedly, images and forms that as indexes are packed with references. An essential structure implemented as a maze, a blank map or rather as an outline with incomplete instructions sketched out from memory. As if we were plunged inside another person’s tongue or idiom and were surprised to understand it. After an initial loss of bearings, it might suddenly prove possible for us to begin to use this foreign language.

    Visiting this exhibition, listening to its murmurs as we move through it, is like going inside a box, into another’s personal space. Surroundings that do not belong to us, but which we are permitted to explore to become familiar with its objects and perhaps recognise ourselves in them. One of the characters in Following, an early film by Christopher Nolan, states precisely that, “Everyone has a box.” Something that conceals, even if—as inferred in Following—they subconsciously want to reveal it. A small collection of objects, carefully laid out and preserved. This kind of box means a container, humble in its structure, that holds something very important to its owner, even if it is of little or no financial value. Its value lies in the affective sphere, in memories and in personal moments, in the real or metaphorical meanings that the objects kept there express to one able to read them. “Pieces” that work as talismans, fragments to help release feelings, to remember. It may be the little childhood box from Amélie or the Music Box proof of guilt and horror in the film by Costa-Gavras.

    The characters in Following go into other people’s houses not to steal, but because they enjoy reconstructing, imagining, discovering personalities, situations, memories and affections on the basis of the display they find, the sets of personal possessions of whoever lives there, as if they were pages in another person’s intimate personal diary. And the box, a cavity that is hidden but wants to be discovered, works in a similar way to an exhibition or a collection of souvenirs, catapulting us into someone else’s personal (and therefore irremediably political) life.

    This exhibition is an oral cavity in the form of a box, offering a rummage through humble material with f lashes and fragments that aim to provide, through recognition, a shared memory. During the gestation of this project, we talked at length with the artist about Joseph Cornell’s surrealist boxes and imagined Hanne Darboven’s home-studio on the first day, when the whole space was still at the artist’s disposal.

    We stopped at that point, when the air in the lungs had not yet reached the tongue or the teeth, in the physical, exact moment when you want to say something but have not yet done so. We are interested in the moment before: when you hear something but do not yet fully understand it… when personal items are shared and recognised but have not yet entered the distribution circuit.

    The pieces the public sees in room D of Es Baluard Museu are a series of recent works by the artist and others of uncertain authorship, though all are closely related to a place in transit towards a shared memory, which is where this exhibition sets out to take us. Their format was conceived and executed as an oral discourse that constantly appeals to the personal and the political, leaving imprints and open fragments awaiting the viewer.

    The exhibition sets out from an exploration focusing on family genealogy, recent History and the parallels between body and machine, but also orientation, speech, the gestures that replace words. This line of work began when Waelder moved to Frankfurt in 2017 and realised that he was the first member of the family to return to live in Germany since his grandfather f led to Chile in 1939. Six years on, the artist now returns to Mallorca to present his individual exhibition at Es Baluard Museu. In it he pursues this line of research, in a way completing it with this project in the form of an exhibition that brings it all together, at the same time releasing it, as a whistling, a song, or even a laughter.

    During the first lockdown in 2020, Waelder found, at his parents’ house, a cassette with a piano melody by his grandfather, the pianist Federico (Friedrich) Waelder. This recording is so far the only existing trace of his music. Over that year, the artist played this tune once a month on a radio channel in Frankfurt, the city where he lives. The piece was recently released by Heutigen Records on vinyl, accompanied by a publication with a series of texts.

    Throughout his researches starting from his family environment, History is observed through the irreducible prism of the personal. In 2021 this single existing recording of Federico Waelder’s jazz improvisation was mixed with another sound piece by Ian Waelder, All My Shoes (Spooky drums n1) (2018), as a piano and percussion duet. In the same year, the artist worked with his father to produce a series of clay sculptures depicting the Opel Olympia car model. On one occasion, the pedestals on which the sculptures were exhibited came up to the artist’s father’s shoulder height.

    The Opel Olympia is a car from the thirties, one of which was owned by his paternal grandfather’s family and the hurried sale of which enabled him to f lee Germany under Nazism. Waelder has closely studied the history and symbolism of this car model to contrast it with his circumstances today. These sculptures and pieces of the car are presented in different ways, specifically adapted to the exhibition context.

    Recently Waelder has been looking for and purchasing original parts of this Opel model. His finds include several headlights and a user manual for the 1935 model, the same one as his family owned. The headlight has been exhibited as an installation at the Kunstverein Wiesbaden (2021) and then in the solo show “Is it like today?” at the etHALL gallery in Barcelona (2022). On this occasion the artist presented two original headlights just at eye level to blind the visitor upon entering. The manual includes pictures illustrating the steps to take to carry out mechanical repairs to the vehicle, in which anonymous hands hold up different parts of the car. The artist has worked on and explored these pictures to offer a parallelism with the hand movements of a pianist.

    For this exhibition, the artist has created a setting, an architecture in dialogue with the museum, with a place for its “sculptural footnotes” to this main text, as symptomatic sculptures. Personal, symbolic fragments we discover, whose affective value we gradually recognise. And suddenly, perhaps, we will even be able to speak in a language that is not our own, in a dimension that is not ours, but with which we can empathise.

    The tiny works dotted around the exhibition are comments for whatever diversions the viewer might like to take. It is structured like a personal box throughout the exhibition space, creating a series of corridors, rooms and sub-rooms where the audience encounters different situations and becomes aware of their own body.


Photo documentation on this website by:
John Forest, Natasha Lebedeva, Lúa Oliver, Ivan Murzin, Iain Emaline, Juan David Cortés, Paul Levack, Jiyoon Chung, Augustine Paredes, Juande Jarillo, Eva Carasol, Sebastiano Luciano.
© Ian Waelder, 2024