The city as a stage
text by Maren Lübkke-Tidow on the series «das plateau»
In his contribution to the exhibition, Florian Merdes focused on a central square in Innsbruck, the Landhausplatz. In 2010, this square, with its numerous monuments, was redesigned by the architectural office LAAC as an «urban ground sculpture», characterised by the interplay of different materials its «topography of gentle hills (...) setting a landscape like counterpart to the surroundings»(LAAC). Merdes sees this place as a «plateau» - which is also the title of his series of works - and has thus uncovered a linguistic counterpart to the many scenic plateaus found within the panoramic mountain landscape that partially surrounds the city. Merdes circles around his «plateau» from different perspectives: he focuses on details that enable him to highlight the different qualities of building materials (and difficulties) of the square and its sparse (and in some cases temporary or provisional) furnishings. He also offers an interpretation based on surveillance, where the subdivision of the space in different zones becomes visible, with people stopping or crossing the scene. What is striking about these images is that the artist particularly emphasises the graphic properties of the organic structure. He achieves this through the interplay of light and dark: Some of his black- and white photographs thrive on strong contrasts, while others are distinguished by their subtle shades of grey, which emphasises the linear division of space as the antithesis to the basic organic structure. By deciding to set breaks in two lines in his sequence of images, one gains the impression that the artist has composed a kind of musical score. But which piece will be performed here? The different visual strategies that Merdes uses here to devide the space while pointing out that the square (with its extracts) does not simply end at the edges of his images point to Merdes´s understanding of the space as a stage. Just as the buildings that surround the square look out onto his stage, Merdes shows just a little, as it shows what the actions of its protagonists, who appear isolated in the pictures or in smaller groups, refer to. Looking at the scene from above, the people in Merdes paintings seem more like figures on a game board than individuals. We know that all the people crossing this square are following a plan. But to comprehend and/or show them and thus to work out moments of specific social dynamics is not the artist`s aim. Rather, Merdes reminds through his photos that the best performances and/or scenes are those that play in our everyday life. Beckett and his Theatre of the Absurd come to mind here, especially when Merdes ultimately adds motifs to this sequence of images, which in turn produce disruptive moments because they do not want to fit into the logic of the overall structure.