Polish sculptor and conceptual artist Miroslaw Balka is currently exhibiting a new sculptural work, titled The Order of Things, at Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea. Consisting of a towering set of containers and a length of hose, the work creates a continuous flow of water, pumping pitch-black water from one container through the piping, up over the rafters above the tanks, and out into the other tank.
Balka has frequently experimented with water as material in the past several years, using its constant flow and fluid appearance to create visible lines of movement through his pieces. Frequently bearing a similarity to public fountains, the pieces offer new takes on the human conceptions of movement, and the forces that drive it.
The Order of Things is an exercise in immersion. Entering its current exhibition space at Gladstone Gallery’s 21st Street location in Chelsea, visitors are initially confronted with a single door, separating the work from the entrance of the gallery and the gallery’s front desk. Accordingly, Balka’s work is afforded an emphasized interiority, completely sealed off from its physical location in Chelsea. By stepping through the doorway, visitors are greeted with an imitation of infinity, constantly churning water through its system.
The work welcomes the visitor into its incessant movement, creating a hypnotic churn of movement and sound, contrasted by the impressively solid looking tanks in which the water pools, emphasizing the contrast of stillness and movement at work. A single wooden stool sits before the work, welcoming viewers to an extended sit in front of the infinitely moving fountain. Accordingly, the line between active thought and meditative non0-thinking is also made explicit, furthering Balka’s inquiry into relationships of interiority and exteriority.
Perhaps the most interesting facet of the the work is the constant hum of its driving motor. Pushing the water along its peculiar path over the rafters of the space, the constant throb of the sculpture’s engine makes explicit the necessities of fuel to the work. Despite the illusion of infinity produced by the flow between containers, the sculpture must consume to live, subjugating external forces and energies to continue in its process.
Initiating a uniquely demanding ecosystem between gallery, viewer, space and art object, Balka presents a work that critiques itself as an object of value in a time while serving as a metaphor for industrial production in the same critique. It’s an interesting into an already powerful body of work by the artist, and indicates his increasingly diverse artistic vocabulary