Towards the end of his life, Italo Calvino wrote a short story “A King Listens”, where a paranoid ruler’s whole palace becomes a ‘great ear’ of ‘pavilions, ducts, shells, labyrinths’ that echo the whispers of potential rebellion he so fears. One night unable to sleep, standing at a dark window, the king hears a woman’s voice singing a heart-felt love song and is touched, though he does not see the source. He recognises the voice, not as one he knows but as a voice in itself – one that means that ‘there is a living person, throat, chest, feelings, who sends into the air this voice, different from all other voices’.
In Anita Edenhofer’s most recent exhibition, entitled Voices (2013), Edenhofer offers a constellation of whispers, silences and night-time vigils. The modest scale of the objects and projections she presents mask the complexity of the technological labyrinths surrounding their creation and the potential rebelliousness that lies between form and content.
For the first piece encountered upon entering the exhibition space: Beyond Surface (2013), Edenhofer worked closely with a 3D animator, to represent a highway tunnel in an intricate model of 1:18.75 scale – adjusting and readjusting it using both analogue and digital coordinates. Sitting between two projections, the small tunnel becomes a conduit not of automobiles but a space of transition with passing lights as well as fleeting but familiar, ambient sound. The elusive reflections of red brake lights on the wall of this small vault take on an almost hallowed effect, inviting us to also project ourselves into the space.
The second piece in this exhibition, 21 Coastal States (2013), was conceived while the artist was en route from Berlin to Leipzig – on another night drive. In the passing darkness were flashes of light from the fields of wind turbines lining the road. Like a morse code, Edenhofer captured these flashing signals in the void to create a syntax, which the viewer as well as the listener, must experience and decipher for themselves. Again, the minimal nature of Edenhofer’s sculptural installation could be misconstrued as a simple production. However, by exposing some of the workings of the piece – the analogue relay of LED lights clicking on and off at two-hundredths of a second behind one another, beaming soft red light onto a host of 156cm-high rotating sculptures – the artist gives us a sense of the precision and care involved in listening as well as looking at the world.
As in Calvino’s story, the exhibition space becomes a great ear, shell, duct or labyrinth where missing information and darkness become the sources of possible and rebellious meanings. And, while waiting for the sunrise, the artist helps us recognise something, without knowing exactly what, the voices in the shadows.