The Burger Collection in Hong Kong is a private selection with a global reach, ideally placed to bring together eastern and western perspectives on one of the most fundamental dichotomies of existence – the opposition between what is present and what is absent. These intangible notions include liminal states such as dematerialisation and the paradox of making an absence feel like a physical presence – all conceptual and technical challenges for art.
Works drawing upon these areas evoke strong emotional responses, with connotations of memory – of erased histories and intangible forces. Furthermore, looking at the sense of loss, the pieces evoke the most fundamental metaphysical question: how the concept of nothing can exist. With all their scope for scientific, philosophical and theological interpretation, such artworks are complex in nature and echo acts of creation and the spaces inbetween.
How To See [What Isn’t There] is a group exhibition at Langen Foundation comprising 32 artists from the collection, exploring this profound territory, presented in a museum that is itself a work of art. Designed by Tadao Ando, a Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, the venue has an invisible history, felt in the absence of physical traces. The minimalist building, made of glass and concrete, occupies what was the site of Raketenstation Hombroich, a former military ground that saw active service during the Cold War.
The show is structured into five sections: Reaching for Emptiness, Archaeology in Reverse, A Presence Made of Absence, Something Out of Nothing, and Self-Portrait of Me and You. Within these, the chosen artists include Doug Aitken, Fiona Banner, Angus Fairhurst, Urs Fischer, Zhang Huan and Huang Rui, as well as emerging talents such as Iván Argote, Mohamed Bourouissa, Marguerite Humeau, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Pamela Rosenkranz and Ho Sin Tung. The 45 selected pieces illustrate the depth of the theme and the many approaches possible to such a fundamental opposition. They range across diverse disciplines, including sculpture, installation, painting, photography, video, VR and performance.
Collection Founder Monique Burger says: “As we have not set up a physical space to showcase our collection, we occasionally give curators carte blanche to exhibit. The contextualisation of artworks by these different figures offers a fresh look at what we are doing.” This is further established through the viewpoint of Exhibition Curator Gianni Jetzer: “The artists in this exhibition are innovative in activating the intangible in their work, often operating with conceptual gestures, disappearance, emptiness, dematerialisation, and the simple, yet profound, framing of the void. The exhibition unveils some of these surprising perspectives by exploring the constant dialogue taking place between the visible and invisible.”
How To See [What Isn’t There] ,Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany. 9 September – 17 March www.burgercollection.org
1. The Langen Foundation. Copyright Langen Foundation, photo Tomas Riehle. A Group Show of Works from the Burger Collection Hong Kong, How To See [What Isn’t There] at Langen Foundation, Germany, 9 September 2018 – 17 March 2019.