In previous works, the artist’s guerilla style public interventions were meant to offset our preconceived norms of social behavior. A discreet gesture will give a new meaning to an existing place, object or situation reinventing its possibilities within the public sphere.
Following in the tradition of `70s performance art, Kessler is reinventing the medium for his own generation thus becoming a notable figure in Europe. His mischievous public indiscretions border on the illegal yet they pass almost unnoticed only to become once again visible and thought provoking through his videos, photographs and objects exhibited.For his recent participation in the 8th Sharjah Biennial in the UAE, Kessler chose an underwater restaurant in Elat, Israel as the site for his new video piece. Intrigued by the biennial theme, “Still Life – Art, Ecology and the Politics of Change,” he managed to create a poetic and engaging work with political nuances and good humor.
Red Sea Star, which shares the name with the underwater restaurant, begins with a slow camera movement in a dark aquatic setting. As we follow the trail of the spotlight attached to the submerged video camera, one can hear the deep mysterious breathing of the diver leading the way. Fiction or documentary, James Bond or Jean-Michel Cousteau, an eerie under-world lures the spectator into the deep-sea adventure of Leopold Kessler. The camera starts focusing on a beam of light that appears twinkling in the distance. As the video advances an unidentifiable underwater structure starts to take shape. Is it a shipwreck, a sunken submarine, an outpost of human civilization…? The answer lies deep beneath the Red Sea.
The second work in this show is a two channel video projection that was envisioned by the artist while a guest at the 4 stars Rotana Hotel in Sharjah for the biennial opening. The plan was simple: to use the water from the exclusive second floor hotel swimming pool in order to create a free standing public fountain in the street below. Armed with a red hose, a precariously fabricated metal stand and an intuitive knowledge of physics’ laws, Kessler had decided once again to disturb the convenience of a daily routine.
Rotana Fountain is an exercise in subverting authority by reclaiming the public space as a field of experimentation and re-evaluation of social dynamics. Bringing an artesian fountain to the streets of a worker’s neighborhood in Sharjah, (an Emirate in the middle of the desert) is unusual to say the least. Water is precious for the majority of the population, which consists of eighty percent “guest workers” from other countries; yet the hotel swimming pool has plenty of it for the exclusive use of its guests.
Like in previous work where he facilitated the free consumption of alcohol in the streets of New York City under the guise of self-fabricated makeshift birdhouses, Leopold Kessler once again becomes the agent of momentary change in the civic realm.
Kessler is in New York for the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), residency program until July, 2007. His work is currently on view at the Sharjah Biennial 8: Between The Desert And The Sea, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates until June 4, 2007. He recently closed his solo exhibition Perforation Kal. 10mm which was on view at the Secession in Vienna.