Àngles Ribé. Walk on ice | Arts Santa Monica (Barcelona) | 17.01.2017 – 02.04.2017

In the winter of 1974, a young Werner Herzog decided to walk from Munich to Paris in order to visit his friend, the film critic Lotte Eisner, who was in hospital and extremely ill. Instead of travelling to the capital of France quickly in order to be with Eisner, Herzog embarked upon a solitary journey on foot because, he claimed, his friend would stay alive as long as he was walking. His adventure lasted from the 23rdof November to the 14th of December 1974. Four years later, this gesture gave rise to the publication of a brief essay: Of Walking in Ice.

Walking in Ice is a collective exhibition whose point of departure is this story. The German filmmaker painstakingly describes the landscapes, situations and thoughts that accompanied him on his journey. It is a translation into the sphere of the visual arts where the absence of the practicality of his journey opens up two possible interpretations: first, the activation of the landscape via performance and direct experience; and secondly, an analysis of the dysfunctionality of art, a context capable of expending a huge effort and energy on endeavours foreign to the conventions that shape our social milieu.

Herzog’s individualistic romanticism and his fascination with whatever is located on the boundaries (of geography, of humanity, of the possible, of the necessary, etc.) likewise suggests a specific way of viewing artistic practice from the present. It offers a particular interpretation in which the artist’s condition is measured by the euphoric perseverance of the challenge, because of either individual need or gradual disillusionment or disenchantment with the collective.

After its first showing at the Bòlit Contemporary Art Centre in Girona, the exhibition has now been adapted to Level 1 of Barcelona’s Arts Santa Mónica. Due to the features of the gallery –a wide hallway located on the first floor– this second chapter is highlighting the connections in space and time that define Herzog’s gesture: his epic walk in a straight line from Munich to Paris and the chronological advance of his story. The exhibition plan turns a visit into a time sequence conditioned by the strict linearity of the route. From left to right, the works are exhibited before us with an autonomy of their own. There is no dialogue in the space, but there is in time.

In short, Walking in Ice analyses the fragility and intensity of Herzog’s action – advancing through an unstable, uncertain place– via an encounter among artists from different generations and provenances, artists who share his futile symbolic gesture. In this sense, the exhibition is a tribute to the artist’s dysfunctional, powerful condition. Incidentally, Lotte Eisner overcame her illness and clung to life until 1983.