We are Sitting in Different Rooms
(a sketch)

Conceived in the frame of the New Viewings series of online exhibitions of the Galerie Barbara Thumm, We are Sitting in Different Rooms is an online exhibition, curated at the time of isolation and home-office. It aknowledges the fact that, even if we share time, thoughts and conversations with people using computers and internet connection — we do not spend time physically in the same space.

In 1969, Alvin Lucier performed his piece I am Sitting in a Room for the first time. The American composer reads aloud a few sentences, records them on tape, plays the tape, records it, plays the recording, records it again and again. What, in the beginning, is understandable speech becomes an eerie wave of tones resonating in relation to a space (the room). A rather meditative piece, the recited text simply describes the process in action and slowly turns into an abstraction. At the same time highly conceptual but truly moving and beautiful, the artwork leaves in tatters the traditional definitions of words like recording, instrument, notation, space or performance.

Lucier knew that the recording of his piece would be listened to in a different place than the one he was performing in and started his speech with the sentence: ‘I am sitting in a Room different from the one you are in now…’ In our times of self-isolation and social distancing, this whole composition gets a brand-new meaning. We listen to music, we look at artworks, we share words, but we aren’t sitting together anymore to do so. And the messages or acts of communication between us sound — sometimes — distorted and abstract.

The five artists featured at the exhibition have been chosen for their interaction with space, time and architecture while playing with figuration and abstraction.

Marie Rief (Berlin, 1987) draws architectural elements of an obvious banality: a plastic window, a standard door handle, a fluorescent tube. The different bits of drawings made on several pieces of tracing paper, are assembled and superimposed, laid onto photographic paper and then open light imprints a unique composition.

Heike Gallmeier (Berlin, 1972) builds and constructs spaces in her studio which she then photographs. The construction (installation) is made to be shot from a specific point of view and often creates optic illusions like the forced perspective in the Galleria Spada by Borromini. Her installation in the virtual Gallery Barbara Thumm, fragmented and colourful, recomposes the room and is not even afraid to open a window in the White Cube.

In her installations and collages, Barbara Breitenfellner (Kufstein, 1969) relates to the art world and spaces as they appear in dreams and translates them into visual material. She works around distortion and metamorphosis as we experience them in our nocturnal activities. For this exhibition she composed new collages inspired by Lucier using a modern chair, an anechoic chamber, a distant human presence.

Farhad Farzaliyev (Baku, 1989) is a sound artist who merges traditional culture, popular aesthetics and contemporary music to comment on his own geopolitical situation in a country from the former Soviet Union. As a child he, like Lucier during the recording of I am Sitting in a Room, had a speech impediment and did some exercises to improve his pronunciation. They are the source of his participation in this exhibition.

Last but not least, Katya Isaeva (Karaganda, 1980), will perform a special version of her #instadancerkatya project live on Instagram. In the last five years she has been posting online short choreographies that she regularly creates at home. Those dances are a reflection about selfies, social media and intimacy. With her performance I am Sitting in a Room 2.0, she sits still for 45:24 minutes (the exact duration of the 1981 recording of Alvin Lucier’s piece), letting the viewers linger on their expectations.

The five artists have, for this exhibition, received the track from Alvin Lucier and created artworks as a homage to his mise en abyme, but also to our separated rooms and to the virtual existence of the empty White Cube of the Gallery Barbara Thumm.

We are Sitting in Different Rooms
Online exhibition for the Galerie Barbara Thumm (Berlin), 2020

Curated by Thibaut de Ruyter

With Barbara Breitenfellner, Farhad Farzaliyev, Heike Gallmeier, Katya Isaeva and Marie Rief