Burning down the house
One project stands out among Kit Reisch's models and sketches
Posted: September 25, 2013
Pictures and sculptures often capture just one moment. It is more difficult to capture the passing of time. A few pieces on display at the uniquely hard-to-find Gallery Vernon take a stab at showing the passage of a day in a few moments. Kit Reisch, an American artist now based in Prague, has several kinetic sculptures as well as sketches and even random notes on display in a show called In the Thick of Thin Systems.
He has made meticulous wooden models of towers in Prague. For "Jindřišská Tower" the eponymous structure rotates on an armature while it is hit by a stationary spotlight. The shadows on the wall mimic the moving shadows one would see on the street near the tower over the course of several hours. A companion piece, "With Your Face to the Sun," has a moving light and a fixed tower, again creating a moving shadow.
A third piece builds on this theme. In "A Cleansing Light," a cutout of the skyline is mounted around the edge of a metal reflector. A light moving with a slight circular motion changes the irregular shadow in the background.
These are fine technical exercises, and no doubt took many hours to build, but they are not true masterpieces. There is a reason, though, to go to Holešovice, find your way to the back of an urban courtyard and take the freight elevator up to the gallery. Reisch's hard-to-classify "Bruxism" is part video, part sculpture. The video shows a burning building caught on a security camera. Smoke billows out of the upper floor while a person in the lower floor goes about his business without a care. Car headlights reflect off the building, but nobody stops.
When: Wed, Thu, Sat 1 - 6.30 p.m., or by appointment
Until Oct. 10
Where: Gallery Vernon, U Průhonu 22, Prague 7
Enter the office building and go through the courtyard
A wooden model of the same scene is on the next room. There is a trick, though. The video is not a recording. It is live. "The piece with the burning building model and the projection are actually one artwork. There is a small video camera fixed at a specific angle on the miniature model, and through a series of lo-fi special effects (lights, vapor from a humidifier, etc.), it creates the video image which is projected in the adjacent room. So the video projection is actually a live feed from the miniature model. The piece took me eight months to complete," he told The Prague Post. The illusion of headlights is created by a light and a spinning, irregularly shaped wooden cutout. The person in the building is a just a really small video screen.
Some notebook pages in different sizes are on one of the gallery walls. "The group of small drawings are quick sketches completed during the past two years. Some are small technical ideas, others are schematics for the kinetic sculptures, and still others are the first step toward more developed drawings," he said.
Other sketches are more polished. Some of the images have an M.C. Escher-type quality, with impossible details. Others are more straightforward, but meticulously precise. A drawing of the burning building is among these.
"The main question I'm working with in this show is: How does architecture reflect the character of the designer? If architecture is a collective expression of a culture's visual language, what does the architecture say about that culture? In a sense, we can see architectural structures as surrogates for people," he said.
Whether that message comes across is up to each viewer. But "Bruxism" does make one question their perception of reality. Even after seeing the model with the vaporizer and the camera, it is hard to believe that the house in the video isn't really on fire.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at
Tags: Kit Reisch, models, Prague towers.