Ceal Floyer, born in Pakistan, studied at Goldsmith's in London, lives and works in Berlin and currently has an exhibition that fills the four floors and annex of DHC/ART in Montreal.
This work could not be more minimal, more delicate, more gentle in its humour. Like Duchamp, there is a visual pun and then an unspoken onslaught of art history, contemporary theory and pop culture. It is as metaphorical as all get out; it is also as simple as can be. Whatever references are stirred by each piece, it is all to be found in the mind of the viewer – previous knowledge we bring to the work, rather than written on the surface of the work itself.
There is quite a fierce clamp on the images, so cannot show here Door (1995) which brings tears to the eyes. An existing steel door in a dim corner has a projector on the floor in front of it, humming away, projecting a bright bar of light at the very bottom of the door One registers the mechanics of the piece, as I just did, and then in a flash it becomes magical: there is a sunlit room beyond this too-short door, inaccessible to us, but clearly so brilliant, so hopeful, so illuminated. It is like being ill, as a child, in a dim room, aware of the bright strip of light at the bottom of the blind telling you that the world outside continues on without you, an elysian field.
Things (2009) is a gallery of 30 white plinths about 5' high with a white speaker grill inset in the top. The plinths are more or less evenly spaced but not gridded: a field of posts. Each speaker erupts with the word 'thing' cut from a wide range of pop songs at irregular and unsequenced intervals. There is nothing else but these blasts of things that never continue. It is very funny, not just because the wall of sound in most pop music is so absurd when you only get a split-second of it, but because the set up is so immaculate, so formal, so white-wall gallery, the modern gallery itself is so very gently mocked. Then, again in a flash, the deep connection between all the galleries one has ever been in, all the installations, all the music that ever accompanied your life are concentrated in a single moment, in a room full of white posts.
Deceptively simple, again, is Working Title (Digging) (1995) which is set in the opening of a small bay: you hear the sound of a shovel hitting a pile of gravel from one speaker, and then farther into the bay from another speaker you hear the gravel landing. Having done a lot of shovelling in my time, the speakers are too far apart, the gravel would land sooner than the tape tells us it does: the landing is delayed, so somewhere in the bay and in the time within the bay is a suspension, an interregnum unaccounted for. The space between the speakers – a physical distance on the floor – is paradoxically stretched by the space registered by the sounds coming from the speakers.
I haven't seen such beautiful work for many a year, nor a show that restored my sense of humour, sorely tried recently.