Fourth Wall Dec 28 – Feb 24 2018 von Bartha, S-chanf
The exhibition at von Bartha tests the ‘fourth wall’ – a concept only perceptible once broken. Like flooding light behind a two-way mirror, to acknowledge an audience mid-narrative is to undermine its anonymity, undercutting any presumed division between what’s on- and offstage. The gesture comes, above all, as an acknowledgment of the external world, an authorial decision which allows context to color ones output. In using one convention to subvert others, it is also a kind of concession, with the work admitting to its own fictions, forcing us to reassess the parameters of medium, delivery, and reception alike. For those inclined, such self-reflexivity can constitute a field of research. Art, after all, functions as a shifting set of narratives (aesthetic, economic, social, cultural, institutional), each and all primed for a turn of the lens: the authorial potential of chance occurrence; the performative nature of presenting (and responding to) artworks; even the broader cultural predispositions surrounding art itself—such precepts may be manipulated like any other material, resulting in work that carries a sense of its own nature while pointing beyond itself towards more expanded views. Moralist philosophy deemed clarity the counterbalance of profound thought: In and beyond theatre, self-awareness would come at the expense of poetry, its effect similar to being roused from a daydream. Morals aside, such ideas endure on stages and screens, in cinemas and, indeed, the gallery space: just as clearness comes at a remove, so is immersion equated with illusion, a willful suspension of disbelief that leaves formalized structures to hide in plain view. Breaking the fourth wall would normally serve to deflate such enthrallments. But to take self-awareness as starting point – to forgo imaginary fields and begin with the wall already leveled, the narratives exposed – and still find the means for immersive experience? So may the author and audience find their roles converged, each now discerning but not distant, both sharing a common stage.