Ignasi Aballí's new project for the eight display windows of the Today Art Museum
's project space SUITCASE Art Projects responded to the retail context of the Yintai Centre in Beijing as well as an artistic history of absence, nothingness and invisibility. While some of his installations adopted the characteristics of commercial presentations, others adapted and enhanced the physical components of apparent emptiness, such as light and air. Following Walter Benjamin’s concern with centres of consumerism in The Arcades Project
, 'Nothing, or Something' was preoccupied with the conditions and expectations of display. Using the everyday materials which he favours in his practice, including dust, found imagery and simple lettering, Aballí ‘revealed nothing’ with a conceptual charm and analytical rigour while addressing philosophy's central and most perplexing question: Why is there something rather than nothing?
'Vitrines for a vitrine
' (all works 2009) consisted of the display of objects themselves used for the display of objects. Three transparent vitrines of various sizes – types employed both in museum and shopping situations – were nested within the glass vitrine itself. Each in turn displayed a photograph of an empty vitrine. 'Please excuse our appearance
' borrowed the transitional disclaimer from a shop that is undergoing a seasonal refit. This window seemed to represent an undetermined delay in the retail cycle, an appeal to be overlooked that nevertheless needed to be noticeable. 'Taking Measures
' featured an array of instruments and devices (a stopwatch, a thermometer-hydrometer, a lux meter, a compass, an anemometer, a barometer, a sound meter, an electromagnetic radiation meter on eight plinths) commonly used for measuring things that we cannot see
directly: the microclimate of the vitrine was brought into visibility through analytical apparatus of quantitative evaluation. In 'Scenic viewpoints
' a range of enlarged postcards depicting scenery and landmarks from Barcelona were fixed to the glass with their blank reverse sides facing the viewer – the sights could only be seen in the reflection
of the mirror opposite.
'Coming soon' took the form of a stopped shop. Layers of dust marked the back walls, a counter top and a glass window gave the impression of an abandoned retail unit where only traces were left behind. Ironically, the shop appeared to have been devoted to a pursuit where dust is particularly irritating: photography. 'Beijing Air
' consisted of an absurdist annotated diagram labelling invisible elements in the air of Beijing – common gases alongside known chemical pollutants and possible pathogens presented in the atmosphere of the city. In 'White Cube' the transparency of the glass vitrine was cancelled through the application of whitewash, a procedure of erasure commonly adopted by vacant premises after going out of business. 'Illuminating
' used one of the Yintai Centre’s mirrored displays to create an enhanced spectacle of incandescence. The intensity of the illumination was increased far beyond what is necessary to see – the case was ostensibly empty yet it was filled with bright light.