The Vertical Chamber: 115 Feet High Alain Gerbault, Sep 24, 1986 - Oct 18, 1986


Gerbault’s current project could be termed an inside/outside piece. After erecting one of his monumental  sculptures, the artist created this exhibition entitled “THE VERTICAL CHAMBER: 115 FEET HIGH.”

The exhibition relates to the event, the construction of the sculpture, in the following way: when the artist is climbing and sitting stop the pole, 115 feet above the city, he is literally a small point within a void; around him is nothing but space, the “vertical chamber”. Following this experience, in the safety of the gallery, the artist has played with the idea of space, of the void. What he has done is to create several layers of fiction.

The installation is composed of photographs of the city, taken from a great height, in the emptiness of the void,  Mounted away from the walls in varying heights, sizes and angles, they create an Environment in the gallery space, an Environment which appears to be a recreation of the artist’s own experience of height. You, the visitor, can imagine you are 115 feet up in the air, surrounded by the void. You can even make the buildings sway around you, by pushing against the strings which hold the photos in mid-air.

But you are not alone, clinging to a swaying pole eleven stories high—you are wandering across the floor of a gallery in a building anchored firmly in the ground. It is the intention of the artist to explore this dichotomy of danger versus safety, as well as reality versus illusion.

With only the configurations of the city around you and far below you, you begin to notice the red circle on each photograph, a mark that draws your eye to small architectural details – to a cornice, a chimney, the repeating parallels of a row of windows.

Now you are the artist, you are at the top of the pole, you have made a channel through the void – you on one end of the connection, the red-outlines point of concentration on the other. What you see clearly is only that one detail, the rest is peripheral. Like walking through a museum, your eye is drawn first to one image, then another, and your total concentration is on that image until you have absorbed it.

As you follow the path around the gallery, your eye drawn from one focus to the next, from one photo to another, you begin to realize to what extent the Environment is not, in fact, a recreation of Gerbault’s view from the top of  his pole.

The photos do not join in any logical way, not physically within the gallery space itself, nor are they in any way faithful to the arrangements of the actual landscape. In fact, the top of a building is sometimes close to the floor, while the bottom of another is higher up.

And then, you realize, the photos were taken with a zoom lense; this is not what artist actually felt like at all. He did not see, in these proportions, what you see; the feeling must have been quite different looking with the naked eye across the city landscape.

But, yet, the feeling of being in the void remains, and the connections through the void, between you and those points of concentration, remain. You are on the third floor of a building at 315 city. You are on that pole, and yet what you see is not what the fragments of that reality, and those fragments are altered, tilted, enlarged so as to become something else.

You are experiencing being in a place where space has a different meaning; In fact,  what the artist has done for the visitor, is to redefine, for a brief period, the concept of space itself.

There is also a tape playing in the gallery, a recording of the actual sounds of the city and of the sculpture’s construction; and a videotape which records the experience in a way comparable to that of the Environment.


For more information about Alain Gerbault, click here