Björn Dahlem's extensive installation titled Wahrheitsraum (Palus Somni) takes on the interpretation of the world by recourse to physical modeling and scientific imaging techniques and their claim to certainty. The Truth Room represents both utopia and dystopia, an unattainable image of desire, a room that is basically inaccessible. Palus Somni, the Marsh of Sleep refers to a level terrain cover by petrified lava on the moon not far from Mare Tranquilitatis where the Ranger 6 spacecraft landed in 1965 and the first shots of the lunar surface were taken. In this exhibition the 'marsh of sleep' seems to be used as a metaphor for the paradox that added knowledge seems to increase rather than decrease ignorance. With increasingly powerful telescopes enabling us to explore the depths of outer space we now have access to images, as never before, and yet outer space remains unfathomable, even completely strange. The Truth Room is a space of constructive scientific uncertainties, that retains its ambiguity and tests other models of scientific representation, while its black door promises access to knowledge. It remains unclear whether it is an entrance or an exit.
Since the end of the 1990s Dahlem has been exploring how to translate scientific world images into imagery that are not exhausted in assimilating appropriations of standard images. His sculptures and installations address interstellar space and its galaxies, black holes, dark matter and star clouds, but also theories and models of cosmology, particle physics and quantum mechanics. He deliberately uses everyday materials, juxtaposing the scientific fiction of the world with a separate art-immanent reality that does not necessarily produce a homogenised reality. Wooden boards, neon tubes, found objects and everyday objects are turned into paradigmatic abstractions that are seen as a three-dimensional approximation to something that eludes anything tangible. The works by the artist are imperfect and faulty but at the same time show great precision. What we see here is not paradigmatic realism but only a vivid approximation in which science merges with philosophical reflections on how something that appears to be completely abstract from a human perspective can be rendered and made intelligible. Dahlem's aesthetic of supposed simplicity generates an accessibility that draws on the familiar. At the same time his installations create a counter-aesthetic to the general notion that all imperfection could be eliminated – also in art.The structural complexity of his works reflects the intricate models and theories from which he derives his motives, while also leaving space for individual explorations of the 'cerebral waves', 'new celestial globes' and 'light columns' found in Palus Somni. In times in which the 'Flat Earth Theory' is finding an ever greater following again and conspiracy theories abound Dahlem linksart and science to present science as something that is never entirely rational but as a field guided by unproven assumptions–in short, a field that thus produces new knowledge.
Björn Dahlem, born 1975 in Munich, lives and works in Krampnitz near Potsdam
Press release courtesy Galerie Krinzinger. Text: Vanessa Joan Müller.