The attempt to make an idea graspable. Or a process.
“Oscar Tuazon: Was wir brauchen“ [What we need] at Kunsthalle Bielefeld presents works by Oscar Tuazon, based around the question: what do we need?
Building (2023) is the framework of an open longhouse, transferred into the museum and serving as sculpture and platform for public debate. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, lectures and talks will be held in the walk-in art work.
Oscar Tuazon creates projects in relation to, or agency of the environment. Three expansive installations, Building (2023), Cedar Spring Water School (2023) and Great Lakes Water School (2023) form the center of the exhibition. The Water Schools are mobile architectures based on indigenous building techniques. They address power dynamics around access to water, land, and infrastructure, while promoting ecological ways of building and housing. The new works form part of Tuazon’s ongoing project Water School, which aims at “connect[ing] people through the medium of water”. Through the installations, Kunsthalle Bielefeld aligns with Zürich, Los Angeles, and Paris, among others, in hosting the artist’s vision.
The works constitute a different art exhibition; no visual contemplation, but contemplative engagement. The house structures each incorporate a reading corner suggesting titles on ecology, art, and social dynamics. Art functions as impetus, or moment if initiation.
Across the two floors, the Kunsthalle has created a juxtaposition with works of the collection: Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Alexander Calder. The dialogue emphasises the aesthetic element in Tuazon’s work, and the context of the art museum. Among them, Tuazon may be positioned somewhere between Arte Povera and Relational Aesthetics. It’s practical conceptualism, or visional art. The link to life and action – agency – is felt throughout.
While enriching in most parts, the juxtapositions on the 2nd floor are not convincing, both visually and conceptually. The installation vis-à-vis Edward Munch, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Erich Heckel focusses on nature and environment; however, the theme is too literal: While these painters were engaged in a sincere aesthetic investigation, Tuazon’s concern is not primarily visual; he examines processes and structures through artistic means, form follows function. In case of Monica Bonvicini and Teresa Burga, the comparison around function and perspective is forced and visually falls short. The practical element in Tuazon’s work is absent in Bonvicini and Burga, the curatorial concept lacks the spontaneity and wit of Tuazon’s approach.
His works are big and bold, but not arrogant. They are serious, determined, and constructive. The video Cedar Spring Water School, 2023, in particular, testifies to the artist’s profound commitment and gives a sense of his hands-on practice despite physical distance. Throughout the exhibition, one perceives the love for material, people, and phenomena. In short, for Nature.
In the introduction, the artist describes the question of what we need as both individual and minimal: “What’s really necessary?” The question, continuously re-considered, according to the artist, is more important than the answer. His works provide impulses and points of departure, they excite to enter and embark on the journey. Their appearance provides the instructions. #DIY