Simon Starling ’s works explore the concept of value and the way in which it can be attributed to both an object and a work of art, through the examination of the parameters and procedures that lead an everyday object to become an “art object ” and thus decree its change in value.
With a glance toward modernism, particularly the realm of design, and the pleasure of rediscovering the importance of the art object, Starling creates works that transform existing objects into something new, subject to the rules of a new market. Employing a procedure that we might define as the reverse of that practiced by Marcel Duchamp when he took an everyday bottle rack and turned it into a work of art, Starling utilizes elements that already have an acquired value as design objects and then completely reworks them, converting them into something different.
In this way, aluminum taken from a chair by the American designer Charles Eames becomes a bicycle, while the metal from one of the chairs by Jorge Pensi is transformed into a series of beer cans.
The field of investigation is always the object and the processes that lie behind its production, while its transformation is tied to the place where it was created or to the exhibition site where the artist has been invited to work, almost as if he were following a sort of geopolitics of the object, which leads it toward continuous and new migrations.
The work in the collection of the Castello di Rivoli, By night the Swiss buy cheap-rate electricity from their neighbours which they use to pump water into holding reservoirs. By day they use the stored water to generate hydroelectric power which they then sell back to their neighbours at peak-rate prices.(After Christopher Williams/After Jean-Luc Godard.),was created on the occasion of Starling ’s 2005 solo exhibition at the Kunstmuseum in Basel and is inspired by a series of 1993 photographs by Christopher Williams of the “Grande Dixence,” the Swiss dam where Jean-Luc Godard shot his 1954 film Operation Cement .
Recalling Williams ’s homage to the French director, Starling tracked down Williams ’s photographs in various European collections. He then re-photographed them and exhibited them with a title that describes how Switzerland profits from the resale of energy. In effect, the work is based on a stratagem that Switzerland carries out, buying electrical energy at night from nearby countries, at a low cost, then using that energy to pump water into the dam ’s holding reservoirs, generating hydroelectric energy, which is then resold by day at a higher price to those same neighboring nations.
Taking his cue from this small escamotage ,or evasion, the artist carried out an analogous action that, through his appropriation of Williams ’s photographs, causes his work to take on an already substantial value, which he then increases by printing these same images using a platinum rather than silver salt process —the former being a much more costly process than the one originally used. In this way Starling adds the material value of the means employed to the “artistic ” value of the acquired photographs, infusing Williams ’s work with new meanings and adding another stage in the object ’s evocative path.
Along this path, the Swiss dam is no longer just an economic system of support, but also becomes an object
studied through the eyes of the observer who, as a result of Starling ’s work, also can access the view that Williams and Godard had of the same site, at different times.