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Artists John Wood and Paul Harrison turn a Basel gallery into a labyrinth

John Wood and Paul Harrison’s latest exhibition is deliberately dizzying. The artists have transformed Basel’s Von Bartha gallery into a labyrinth, in which viewers will encounter a different sculpture, sketch or video in each of its warren of ‘rooms’.

‘We wanted to build a series of spaces and corridors within the gallery in order to create a slightly disorientating experience for the viewer,’ Wood explains about their Some Things are Undesigned installation, built from cardboard. ‘In this way, they can’t always see where they are in relation to the overall architecture’.

Turning the typical ‘hanging’ experience of art within the gallery on its head, Wood adds: ‘We designed spaces for specific works, as opposed to placing works in one large space. There is also a clear level of artifice. For us, there’s a parallel to the idea of suspended disbelief – for a period of time the viewer is entering an environment that is a temporary construct.’

Installation view, John Wood and Paul Harrison at von Bartha, 2015, photo Andreas Zimmermann, courtesy von Bartha & artists (29)
Installation view, John Wood and Paul Harrison at von Bartha, 2015. Photography: Andreas Zimmermann. Courtesy of von Bartha and the artist

Working across mediums, Wood and Harrison invert everyday objects and experiences, using visual jokes to highlight their idiosyncratic world view.

In ‘Pencil Sharpener, (2015)’ a rubber-tipped pencil has been sharpened to the point of uselessness, while in film, ‘Semi Automatic Painting Machine (2014)’, a series of objects are targeted by a spray paint gun.

John Wood and Paul Harrison, Pencil Sharpener, 2015
John Wood and Paul Harrison, Pencil Sharpener, 2015

Each room draws on the stage-sets of theatre and the pair’s early DIY films. ‘We liked the idea that the viewer curates their own version of the exhibition according to their decision to turn left or right at each junction. We also wanted to make the gallery feel more private – it becomes a collection of discrete spaces’.

‘Some Things are Undesigned’ is at von Bartha, Basel until 23 January 2016

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