The Barbican Centre in London has red kayaks inside, outside and moving within it. Located in the aptly named “Curve”, ‘Slow Movement’ is a specially-designed installation with a kayak moving slowly along the floor of the 90m long space as if on water, with two videos running, one at each end of the space.
The exhibition extends out to the foyer and lakeside, with two other kayaks installed in the Centre in surprising and playful ways.
Roman Signer’s career started with a variety of jobs, including architect’s draughtsman, radio engineer apprentice, and a period working in a pressure cooker factory, before he studied art at the Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich and Lucerne, Switzerland, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland. It is tempting to think that his early jobs may have influenced his work which often uses man-made objects in new ways which make the viewer stand back and question the status quo. Thus despite, the availability of water in the lake nearby, these kayaks are all on dry land with, in one case, the water spouting out of the kayak in ‘Kayak with Fountain’, rather than the kayak sitting in the water.
‘I simply think with material the same way that a poet takes words and turns them into sentences.’ (Roman Signer).
Time Out interviewed Signer to give some insights into his work: “I was an avid kayaker until a friend died in a kayak accident and I felt I couldn’t do the sport anymore. I needed some time to find distance from this event, then the kayak found a new space. So, in a sculpture like “Fountain” the kayak doesn’t have a practical use or meaning anymore. It enters a poetic space and finds its place there……..The Curve Gallery is basically a tunnel and I wanted a kayak to be pulled back and forth by a motor on the ceiling. The kayak is empty: it’s an installation, not an action. Climbing inside is prohibited; the motor would not be able to pull the weight of the kayak with someone inside. There’s a relationship to a kayak sculpture which hangs in the foyer, which is vertical. And the fountain kayak outside can be seen through the hanging kayak. It’s difficult to prove that what I make is art. It’s like if you asked a poet to describe where the poetry is in their work. My works are both intellectual and out of the belly. I always ask my belly. And I don’t worry at all if people call me madcap or crazy. I am mentally completely healthy.”
It is fun to conjecture what Signer might have done if he had used the lake outside for an unpredictable final sculpture.