Exhibition text for 'Take me to your leader'


Exhibition text for artist Goswin Schwendinger

29 March – 1 May 2019 at GALERA SAN SODA, Milan, Italy

GALERA SAN SODA opens with a solo exhibition by London based artist Goswin Schwendinger. Works on view bring together the artist’s preoccupation with the edges of science and human consciousness through a wide array of media including photography, video, print, found elements, light and sound installation.  

As the Voyager 1 space probe was leaving the Solar System upon completion of its mission, it was ordered to turn around by astronomer Carl Sagan (for no pre-determined scientific objective) to take a selfie of the Earth, resulting in the iconic image Pale Blue Dot. The impulse to understand life and our place on earth from the standpoint of being both within and without similarly preoccupies Schwendinger. Operating in the liminal and therefore ripe space of quasi science, the artist sets off the narrative of TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER from a moment of post-apocalyptic ecocide.

Found eucalyptus bark dipped in acrylic paint evokes the history of a plant that has shaped our world. Native to Australia, this beautiful tree has been propagated around the world as a cash crop for commercial industries like papermaking. The thirsty trees take on a sinister turn, draining their new terrains of water and destroying the surrounding habitat owing to a poison released.  

An archival print of an aerial view captures a vast territory of deforested land. Functioning as a time based reflexive marker, it is a poignant reminder of a possible future in an era of unbridled human activity. A diagonal slash across the image however, splices open room for alternative readings. It is from this field of unknowing, we encounter fallacies and conspiracy theories, constructs for speculation, such as the financial system, and new age causal theories as pin pricks in the understanding of our world condition.  

Three large posters TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER, HARD PROBLEM and IT IS OFTEN BY MISTAKE feature graphics reminiscent of the style and energy of adolescent rebellion and counter cultural movements from the 60’s and 70’s, a key area of research in the artist’s praxis. According to historian Theodore Roszak, counterculture was “…also a ‘cultural movement,’ for it ‘strikes beyond the ideology to the level of consciousness seeking to transform our deepest sense of the self, the other, the environment.” [1] The definition of consciousness, or our awareness of our surroundings, is considered a hard problem in science, thereby suggesting the limits of scientific reasoning. Just as copper nails are driven into trees to kill them, the posters here are pinned and crucified on the wall, perhaps alluding to the short-lived history of the movement, or perhaps highlighting its impact in arresting the notion of unitary tree like systems of knowledge.

From quantum to astrophysics, the structuralist imperative is alive and well in science’s quest for a unified and all encompassing framework of physics, namely the Theory of Everything. Entering the zone of non-empirical research, the installation ‘There’ makes audible the Schumann frequency, an electromagnetic field surrounding the Earth’s ionosphere. Considered the planet’s life support system, research findings point to its correlation to human brain frequency. Also the subject of a timely article in The Guardian[2], it is suggested that humans have a subconscious sense of "magnetoreception," and are capable of detecting shifts and changes in frequency. The idea of a macro force field casting an invisible web of influence on the micro experience of human well-being here suggests an affect of interconnectivity.  

The blurring of demarcations, of endo and ecto further plays out in a sequence of prints titled ‘On Forgetting’ presenting ambiguous photographs of the artist’s body. Overlaid with textual referents, they are mounted to create multiple readings, undoing linear structure and instilling a sense of play with syntax. The video ‘Occuring Glade (OnkeyDonkey)’ similarly creates a composite realm of augmented reality, teetering between reality and fiction, news and entertainment, control and uncertainty. These acts of seemingly playful provocations frame Schwendinger’s practice in light of the contradictory nature of the new digital dark age, wherein the promise of access to information ultimately confronts our very sense of agency in a data fuelled Wild West.  

- Text by Vasu Sellamuthu


Goswin Schwendinger lives and works in London. In 2017 he was nominated for the 2016 Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards for Visual Arts. In 2018 Goswin has his first solo show at Tungsten Gallery in London and later that year was included in a group show called Cell Block featuring artists from Cell Studios in London. He is currently engaged in the MFA programme at Goldsmiths University.

[1] Roszak, Making of a Counter Culture, 5.

[2] Davis, Nicola. “Pole Position: Human Body Might Be Able to Pick up on Earth's Magnetic Field.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Mar. 2019, www.theguardian.com/science/2019/mar/18/humans-earth-magnetic-field-magnetoreception.


Vasundhara Sellamuthu