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Pro Tempore

15 Momentary Sculptures By Roman Signer

Jan 20 - March 12, 2011

Works Included in the exhibition


(TV in window)


Bürostuhl, 2006

(1:03 mins)

The artist, a pair of rockets and a standard office chair


(LCD flatscreen on wall)


Tuch, 2009

(0:20 secs)

single channel HD 16:9(Red curtain)

Performed in Ebeltoft, Denmark, 2009


(Wall to the Left)


Beim Radiosender Beromünster, 2008

(1:04 mins)

single channel 4:3(A fluorescent tube rigged with a mic is dragged via wind)


(4:3 Screen)


Fass mit Kamera, 1999

(1:35 mins)

single channel 4:3 (A camera is rolled down the hill of Hirschberg, Switzerland, to the divided region of Kanton Appenzell Switzerland.)


(Two TV Monitors Near Mirrors)


Kabine mit Rauch, 2000

(2:03 mins) single channel 4:3 (A smoke filled cabinet explodes in Weissbad, Switzerland, July 31, 2000)


Punkt, 2006


single channel 4:3 (Performed in Weissbad, Switzerland, the artist’s reaction leaves a mark)


(16:9 Screen to the Right)


Hut, 1997

(4: 27 mins)

single channel 4:3 (The artist attempts to catch his own hat as it defies gravity)


(4:3 Screen)


56 Kleine Helikopter, 2001

(3:10 mins) single channel HD 4:3

(56 toy helicopters attempt to take off and hover in a room simultaneously)


(Two Small Projections Behind Wooden Room Divider)


Frosch, 2001


single channel 4:3 (Roadkill is returned to the river from which it came in Rheintal, Switzerl and)


Kajak, 2000


single channel video 4:3 (The artist “kayaks” along the Rheintal river amidst running cows)


(16:9 Screen)


Heufieber, 2006

(2:30 mins) single channel 4:3 (The artist resolves to confront his own hayfever)


(Flatscreen on wall)


Hemd, 2009

(1:01 mins) HD video 16:9 Blu-Ray (A pressed shirt is attached to a line running through the woods)


(4 Small Monitors Placed on the underside of chairs)


AmTisch, 2000

(1:02 mins)


Bürostuhl, 2006

(1:03 mins)


4 Stühle, 1999



Stuhl, 2002

(5:27 mins)

Performed in Alt St. Johann (Four discrete works, all performed at different times and different locations, all concerning chairs)


(Large 16:9 projection back gallery)


Unfall als Skulptur, 2008

(0.43 mins)

single channel HD 4:3 (A common utility truck is used like a toy. Performed at Kunstraum Dornbirn 2008).



Young Projects is proud to present a selection of recent video work from the renowned and highly influential Swiss artist Roman Signer who lives and works in St. Gallen.


Pro Tempore, from the Latin phrase “time being,” refers to the temporal theme running throughout Signer’s illustrious career. For Signer, time is not just a concept that can be used to explore notions of chance, causality and expectation, but an essential material in the creation of what he calls “momentary sculptures,” or actions that exist in brief moments and often incorporate large-scale explosions (which he was doing decades before Cai Guo-Qiang achieved recognition for doing the same). Such actions are by nature, ephemeral and experimental, where a single event might trigger additional actions that have aesthetic qualities of their own. For example, a series of charges on the beach might send a piece of red fabric high into the sky, which in turn becomes an aesthetic action, or gesture, that can be read as a painterly/sculptural image. Yet that aesthetic quality, according to the artist, is essentially determined by larger forces, such as gravity, wind, or simply chance, which in turn leads to something unexpected, absurd or strange. As he once said, “I get an idea, work a construction, put it in place, but at some point nature takes over and does the real work. The project is completed by nature.”


In that sense, Signer’s actions could be construed as playful riffs on the nature of divine inspiration—of the artist being directed by larger forces. But what is clearly manifest in Signer’s work is his interest in expanding on the 1960s notion of dematerializing art into a more complex relationship to both, the painterly and the organic. He first pursued such ideas in the 1970s, when he was interested in energy potentials of water, wind and fire, which in turn inspired him explore the full potentiality of explosives as an energy source, where spectacle transforms various materials into the realm of the event. In that sense, his works often seek out that kind of awakening that occurs with seeing something startling for the first time—a kind of Zen slap, or arousal that can only be experienced with seeing something unknown, unexpected or dangerous. “I am interested in danger, in standing close to danger,” he once said. “Somehow it is like an addiction, I simply must experience it, must go through this tunnel, through the risk, through the eye of the needle.”


There is also a distinctly human quality to such efforts, even when the work remains highly mechanical. In some cases, he uses the camera to convey a bodily sensation, which can be clearly seen in his works where he subjects the camera to physical forces (whether dropping them off buildings or rolling them down hills). More importantly they also create visual imagery that often refers to the human body. Objects such as suitcases, chairs, tables, hats, boots and umbrellas reoccur time and again, often becoming surrogates for human figures. In an early work Signer tied a suitcase to a heavy weight via rope, and threw the weight off a bridge. The resulting action, of the rope unwinding before yanking the luggage into the river below, was a clear reference to the many murder scenarios found in countless film noirs of Signer’s youth. Indeed, Signer often cites literature, cinema, music and philosophy (especially Paul Virilio) as major sources of inspiration in his work. But most of all, as he likes to point out, a sense of play remains crucial to his practice, or as he once said, “the only thing that you can learn from my art is to learn to play more.” 


Signer has been the subject of numerous biennials and museum shows, including Dokumenta 8 in Kassel (1987), The Living Art Museum, Reykjavík (1998), the 48th Venice Biennale, Swiss Pavillon (1999) and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg (2009). But this is his first monographic show in Los Angeles.

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