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Ceal Floyer

Center d'Art Santa Mònica, Barcelona, Spain, March - June 2007

The British artist Ceal Floyer (born in 1968, lives and works in Berlin) conceived two works both minimal and well matched to the particularity of two spaces at Centre d’Art Santa Mònica (CASM).

The clarity of thought and the precise elegance of the presentation of Floyer’s ideas echo throughout all areas of her photographs, videos, installations, sound-, slide- and lights pieces. The deceptive simplicity of Floyer’s art is informed by her particular sense of humour and Beckett-like awareness of the absurd; the use Floyer makes of titles (words) and double meanings forces observers to renegotiate their vision of the world.

Floyer’s work Overgrowth (Cropped) at CASM is a new piece by default and quite literally a ‘representation’ of its own ambiguity. It is a reworked version of the work Overgrowth, first shown at Lund Konsthall (Sweden) in 2004. Overgrowth consists of the projected image of a Bonsai tree. The small, delicately trimmed Bonsai tree (in Japanese literally "container planted"; in Chinese: pinyin, pén jǐng; literally "tray scenery") is usually considered as the Japanese art of aesthetic miniaturization of trees, symbolising Japanese Zen shaping and moulding oneself or surrounding nature. The tree is not a genetically dwarfed plant, but kept small through a combination of pot confinement, and crown and root pruning. However Floyer’s projection enlarges the dwarfing tree to life size, and presents it as a regular 5-6 meter high tree. By enlarging the tree and giving the work the title Overgrowth, the plant seems somehow oddly enough genetically manipulated. Floyer is reinstating a bonsai (ie. an unnaturally/synthetically stunted cultivation of Nature) the 'scale' appropriate to 'a tree' (basically giving it back its 'tree-ness') through a sculptural modification of projection-media. The nebulous nature of scale is the very privilege of the Projected Image. Also, the sculptural placement of the apparatus (slide projector) in the emphatically telescopic space further emphasises the potential that it could be moved still further back and, therefore, enlarged and cropped even more.

The exhibition space in CASM was slightly smaller than where Overgrowth was originally shown in Lund, so in order to present the tree at what the artist deemed the ‘right’ size, some of the branches necessarily had to be cropped to keep and fit the trees’ ‘original’, constructed scale in the new space at CASM. Its manifestation, the (‘cropped’) version, takes the constructed fiction – the large bonsai tree – a step further.

By adding the word Cropped Floyer plays with the Japanese tradition of pruning, cropping the dwarfed trees into a Bonsai. The absurdity is biting its own tail in a subtle and funny play of words and meaning. The over-exaggeration of the small literally becomes a linguistic pedantry. Language itself is utilized as a material, intangible yet integral to the work of art.

This is also an obvious part of Ceal Floyer’s second work at CASM. On each step on the enormous baroque staircase, which connects all the exhibition spaces, in Centre d’Art Santa Mònica, Floyer placed ‘Mind the step’ signs. Altogether 78 signs on 78 steps. Attention is drawn to the 'object-ness' of the step itself, as much as a precautionary warning surrounding its use. The staircase culminates in no particular space, unresolved; it just leads to the end of... itself.

The placement of the many cautious signs on the staircase creates an overstatement of almost ridiculous anxiety and pathetic paranoia. Again the minimal and conceptual approach of everyday text and signage clashes with the absurd exaggeration and constellation of the work itself.

Page last modified on November 18, 2009, at 10:34 PM