Isa Genzken (Hauser & Wirth, W1S)

Psychogeography (the effect of a geographical location on the emotions and behaviour of an individual) and appropriation (using pre-existing objects in art with little transformation of the original) are currently at the core of my practice, so it is encouraging to see artist Isa Genzken articulate these schools of thought so proficiently in the centrepiece of her solo show at Hauser & Wirth, a curation which explores the abstracted window.

The work in question, Untitled (2018), uses fifteen windows appropriated from an aeroplane as well three rows of seats. The layout of these objects emulates the original setup as it would be in an aircraft, consequently distorting the viewers sense of setting.

A window, in its primitive sense, is the threshold between interior and exterior spaces. The windows primary purpose, the reason for its inception, is to act as an aperture for fresh air and sunlight. As seen in society, the window can develop a linear narrative if desired – using curtains, one is able to covertly pry upon the on goings of the external while the internal remains protected. This use of the window is explored in Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘Rear Window’ (1954), in which professional photographer Jeff, who is stuck in his apartment and recuperating from a broken leg, begins to spy on his neighbours.

One of my favourite artists, Clare Strand, theorizes on table skirting, which, like window curtains, can be used to “conceal, to trick and to cover up flaws… all things that photography is very efficient in”. I include Strand’s observation here due to its relevance in regard to Untitled (2018), where the aeroplane windows are subverted by being hung on the wall like paintings and subsequently are looked at, instead of through. Like table skirting and like a photograph, the windows are now just a collection of surfaces. They have been removed of their function, like so many other appropriated artworks (Warhol’s ‘Brillo Box’, for example). In this way, the window is now an article rather than an apparatus, it is no longer a means to an end, it is the view – the final destination.

However, surely this lengthy scrutiny of mine is self-contradictory and would suggest that Genzken’s windows are not the final destination, as they justify their role as art by allowing for such extensive philosophizing and self-reflection on ones understanding of the window. Perhaps these aeroplane windows on the wall are, once again, a means to an end; catalysts for contemplation. This idea of the window and the view representing free thought is discussed by myself here in a comparison between the work of Lucio Fontana (particularly ‘Spatial Concept’) and E. M. Forster’s novel ‘A Room with a View’.

‘Fresh Widow’ (1920) by Marcel Duchamp can also be interpreted as an obstructed window that allows for self-reflection, metaphorically but also literally - when Duchamp commissioned this piece, he insisted that the black leather 'should be shined every day like shoes' (Duchamp quoted in D'Harnoncourt and McShine, p.291).