WASSERTURME | new work by Tim Taylor

24th June– 29th July2011 | Mondays to Fridays  9:00am to 5:30pm

The photography of Bernd + Hilla Becher is always black and
white, and maybe sometimes grey. There are no stories, and
very rarely (if ever) people. It is endlessly repetitive. Chimney
follows chimney, tower follows tower, each relict of a vanished
industry represented like some dead specimen impaled on a
card.
The Bechers’ photography explores one strand of German art.
Its repetitive, encyclopaedism recalls the work of August
Sander (1876 – 1964), albeit that Sander’s photographs usually
catalogued ‘types’ of people rather than buildings. Its lack of
sentiment (or story) has all the blank aridity of the Neue
Sachlichkeit of Walter Gropius or Mies van der Rohe.
The problem with the impressive achievement of the Bechers
is that it is devoid of all humour – and that’s like a red rag to an
artist like Tim Taylor, whose work is characterised by a gentle
sense of humour, and an eye for the domestic mini drama. The
quirky micro-worlds Taylor constructs out of toys, office furniture
and the detritus of everyday life are the antithesis of the
Bechers’ tragic monumentality.
And now Taylor is making matchstick models of the Becher’s
water towers – in fact, the entire back catalogue comprising 223
towers.
He calls it a ‘homage’, but it is anything but respectful. The
artistry of the Bechers turned their water towers (Wasseturme)
into monuments of (epitaphs to) a lost age. Here the gaunt,
broken giants have been turned into comical midgets by a
geeky hobbyist, crouched with his tweezers over the kitchen
table.
They might not be High Art, but matchstick models have a
surprisingly long pedigree – one that goes all the way back,
perhaps unsurprisingly, to the invention of the mass produced
match. They are worthless on their own, so the hobbyist creates
collections – of cathedrals, or bridges, or battleships – and the
shelf in the shed or the attic becomes a miniature world.
And these little worlds are very peculiar, for they possess
nothing of the unpredictable diversity or the drama of the world
of objects as usually encountered. Instead everything has been
sorted, classified, catalogued, and compared with all the autistic
intensity and neatness we associate with the true hobbyist.
And therein lies the ‘homage’ embodied in these matchstick
maquettes of the Bechers’ oeuvre. Their series of (near)
identical images are explorations of typology that work only
in the multiple. They used a mass-production machine process
to document the exhausted engines of mass production, but
infused with a faux objectivity. Instead, they created a strange
epitaph to a dying age – this exhibition is the laughing ghost of
that epitaph.

Ed Hollis
Lecturer – Interior Design
Edinburgh College of Art

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