In Parable of Love, his first major solo exhibition, Michael Würtz Overbeck presents a series of new works spanning drawing, video, objects and installation.
Based on the human pursuit of meaning and truth, the exhibition addresses existential themes, taking the absurdity and transience of life as its guiding premise. With death as their leitmotif, the works gathered here challenge our fundamental concepts and perceptions of the world, asking what really matters in the face of the meaningless of life.
Overbeck has transformed the upper gallery at Overgaden with a total installation that locates the works in a labyrinthine universe. Any potential overview is thwarted, as the visitor is led by an architectural structure that only offers one path, and where the darkness and narrow corridors create a sense of spatial dislocation. Fabric draped from the ceiling to the floor forms a narrow chasm of vertical waves that lure the visitor further inside. Smoke in a glass case makes light strangely apparent instead of obscuring it, and infinite diagonal reflections blur the facial features of the visitor to the point of unrecognizability. In Parable of Love a distorted and divided universe unfolds, a universe where meaning is sought but where any sense of coherence disintegrates.
The lack of overview is also emphasised by the installation Stray Thought Atlas. A pair of white gloves and a magnifying glass invite the visitor to examine detailed pencil drawings of various objects, abstract diagrams and computer screen images. The subjects of the drawings range from the almost banal, like the dismantled hands of a clock symbolising the attempt to stop time, to precise representations of scientific registrations, like the Kepler field of view, an area of the Milky Way where new planets and conditions for life are under investigation. Despite the stringent cataloguing of the drawings, the links between them remain unclear, with Overbeck leaving it up to the viewer to piece the fragments together.
When, at the end, a door closes and becomes an integral part of the wall behind us, we are back at the opening of the exhibition and the work Gaze (The mortality of the other). Here, where the exhibition begins and ends, there is a pencil drawing on a sloping podium of a man with a painted death mask standing with his back to the viewer looking at us in a mirror. In meeting his gaze, we identify with the mortality of the other via the painted death mask. In Overbeck’s universe, mirroring ourselves in the death of another is an act of empathy, the implication being is that it is in the love of another that we can find a counterbalance to the meaninglessness of life.
Michael Würtz Overbeck (b. 1982) graduated from the Funen Art Academy in 2010. He has previously exhibited at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Kunsthal Aarhus, OK Corral, MOHS Exhibit, C4 Projects, NLHspace, Ringsted Galleriet and Koldinghus Museum in Denmark, as well as at Rom8 in Bergen and Contemporary Image Collective in Cairo.
Transition, 2016. Installation view
The Ethereal Beauty of the Little and the Vast, 2016. Installation view
From X to Y, 2014. Video, installation view
Stray Thought Atlas, 2016. Detail