Tobias Nussbaumer


Exhibition 19 August – 8 October 2016

The subject of the site-specific installation entitled «Transmapping» by Tobias Nussbaumer (*1987, Basel) is cognition of real and virtual spaces. The title describes the kind of cartography (mapping) that strives to transcend (trans) its constraints: a spatial investigation in the dynamic realm between imagination and reality.

Computer-generated representations are becoming more and more prevalent; their aesthetic is gradually becoming a part of our collective memory. The most prominent example is the mapping software Google Earth, which intimates a form of the real world through the superimposition of aerial photography and geospatial data. Small bugs in the program also contribute to the production of a new visual language: irregular edges are generated from overlapping individual images, a glimpse of vector errors appear if the user exceeds the capacity of the zoom tool. The zoom occasionally lands the user in the corner of a house, which is unmasked as nothing but a thin vector casing with a black interior. This explosion of the form echoes in Nussbaumer’s work.

Nussbaumer supplements the physical spaces of the city with digital representations. The installation begins at a gas station in the Basel neighborhood of Gundeldingen, which Nussbaumer always passes on the way to his atelier. It is located on a street corner, integrated into the urban fabric of the perimeter block, its site a negative form in the structure of the city. The gas station is interpreted by Nussbaumer into a physical model at 1:10 scale, in order to then be documented in its actual size in a series of photographs. Each step in this process is staged at BALTSprojects: the exhibition spaces encapsulates the observer into the reconstruction of a figurative, spatial reflection of the artist.

A steel construction adorned with canvas leads into the «thinking space». Entering through the canvas from the rear side of the space evokes the feeling of a crossing a virtual threshold. As with the click of a mouse in a rendering program, imaginary materials are applied to the wrong objects: gravel in the interior, oak parquet on the columns. The images depicting the gas station models are hung on the side of the façade specifically closed for the exhibition; mounted next to one another they comprise a visual space of 13 meters. On the opposite side lies the model, which can only be observed through a window in the wall.

Physically modeling the gas station represents the first form of the mapping process. It makes tangible, simplifies reality in order to evoke a collective imagining of a gas station, of a place: rectangular with a flat roof, a garage door, gas pumps, a shop window. The modern form of visual aid, the iPhone, acts as a projection screen in the sense of Dürer’s viewing-apparatus. Mounted to the center line of the model, a 360° panorama was created. The automatic meshing of the individual images generates intersections and fissures, which are amplified by Nussbaumer in his painting. Based on the iPhone panorama, the artist works from a dark background of ink into the luminosity of white primer.

At this juncture arise questions of two and three dimensionality: the movement of the observer plays a central role in a complete experience of the work. They become internalized in the model as well as a part of the imagery, the site. The planar prints become spatialized, the spatial model appears two-dimensional in its projection through the window.

A gas station is not designed to enrapture anyone with its form. The space is perceived subconsciously, simply a facility for the exchange of goods, generic to the point of invisibility. It’s about repetition, banality, monotony. The rural gas station, in contrast, can function as an oasis for a desert caravan, as the harbor for an ocean route. At the gas station, one temporarily leaves the mobile privacy of the car and exposes oneself to encounters. The flow of traffic becomes human, dissipates into its constituent parts. However, in the inner city, the gas station is almost a kind of foreign objects – an element of auto-mobility amongst cyclists, trams, and pedestrians. Nevertheless, the gas station in Gundeldingen is not a detached non-place. The abandoned store becomes a form of promise, a potential lurks inside. Something has just happened here, something will continue to happen here. Its memory remains suspended in the air.

Frida Grahn

Frida Grahn (1983) lives and works as a freelance writer and architect in Zurich. Currently she is enrolled in postgraduate studies in the History and Theory of Architecture at the gta Institute of the ETH Zurich.