I’ve always liked the smell of underground car parks. They make me want to breathe in deeply, despite what people say about car exhaust. Spending extended periods of time in one of these places would be odd, but Toby Ziegler’s latest installation The Cripples
offers us ten days to linger in the alluring whiff and concrete glow 14 stories below. Five sculptures and eight light boxes populate the space below the dandy heart of the West End, on level -7 of the Q Park.
Ziegler’s sculptures are versions of the five men in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting The Cripples
, whose limbs are bound in cloth and splints or rest on crude crutches. The lightboxes reproduce a fragment from Piero della Francesca’s fresco The Battle of Milvian Bridge
in which the legs of horses in battle resemble a mess of closely packed tree trunks. Two paintings – one from 16th century Flanders, the other from 15th century Tuscany – form the basis of the work, but Ziegler says the true inspiration for his work are images he finds on the Internet, and the very qualities (or flaws) they accumulate by being made digital. The journey from painting or fresco to photograph, book or website sets in motion a chain reaction of degradation.
This decay is a key theme in Ziegler’s work and it is one the artist perpetuates as he transforms images he finds on the Internet into digital renderings that form the maps for complex sculptures made of aluminium polygons. This mapping, or ‘becoming geometric’ is a way of simultaneously reducing a found shape to its most rudimentary reality – something that makes sense only when squinted at – and evolving it in such a way that it gains a physical presence in the world. Of course the aluminium is only millimetres thick, so in reality the sculptures are nothing more than rigid skins, but this highlights the paradoxes of virtual and real which Ziegler’s work is so good at evoking.
In Q Park, the cripples rest on wooden supports, more elegant and apt than plinths in this context, and reminiscent of the pathetic crutches used by Bruegel cripples. The only lighting in the space is provided by the monumental light boxes, on a timer that controls their brightness in a random sequence. Their unpredictable fluctuations feel right in this transient space, as though someone had neglected to service the electrical equipment on the lowermost level of the car park.
|Toby Ziegler, The Cripples, 2012