Christoph Büchel: Last Man Out Turn Off Lights (5 stars)

Christoph Büchel: Last Man Out Turn Off Lights

Swiss artist Christoph Büchel’s new work at Tramway shows timely poetic serendipity with the volcanic ash floating through Western Europe’s empty airspace. Büchel has blown up a defunct aeroplane to set up a fictitious scenario showcasing a futile attempt to put the plane’s pieces back together again. Surrounding a forensic investigation within an archaeological wasteland, you will find an abandoned prison environment housed in a labyrinth of shipping containers. The inmates were seemingly allowed plenty of time to play football and to drink in two segregated pubs – one for the boys in blue and the other for those who prefer green. Like an episode of Lost, the clues, however, do not all add up, but the engrossing effect is in line with the artist’s usual captivating practice.

Once you look past the literal reading of a crashed plane, enchantment comes through the simulated experience of walking inside a video game set in a prison, or a disaster film set. But it is more than this, it is a hyper-real environment set up in an attempt to circumvent image saturation, and instead guides us in a very material way. Absent is the stench of an enclosed masculine quarter – we know that no one has ever showered, slept or cooked here.

Call him a prankster (and you might feel compelled to do so before or after your visit), but Büchel and his crew go out of their way to cook up a storm for their viewers, and what is on offer here is made with painstaking sweat and tears. Confronted in the flesh by heaps of triviality and embellishment, you do feel cared for.

Other recent projects included a blown up bus and earlier this year the artist invited a local swingers’ club in Vienna to hold orgies in the Secession Hall where he also displayed related paraphernalia as a nod to Gustav Klimt’s famous Beethoven Frieze which caused outrage and media attention in 1902. Similarly at Tramway, the parallels drawn with current affairs in Scotland and abroad, and the exhibition’s apocalyptic title might just be too close for comfort.

Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 18 Jul

Christoph Buchel

  • 5 stars

The Swiss artist presents a challenging and fictitious, yet highly believable environment set inside a series of shipping containers.

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