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Melvin Moti The Black Room, 2005
Melvin Moti

The inner self in outer space

Melvin Moti’s exhibition project The inner self in outer space is about seeing, observing and overlooking. As on earlier occasions, Moti uses extremely economical means to engage with a complex theme.

A few photographs at first show decorative, handcrafted objects that seem to come from a variety of cultures. Using items from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London as models, Melvin Moti had some of them made specially, others found in antique dealer’s shops. A small book of texts giving the reader a comprehensive insight into Melvin Moti’s thorough and profound preparatory reflections is on display, while a specially produced film provides the centrepiece of the installation.

This film completely foregoes digital technology and emphasises the perfect, hand-crafted skill of the large-scale cinematographic productions of the 1970s. It shows painted moons and the decorative objects already seen in the photographs moving along various orbits and, in slow-paced images of hypnotic beauty, tells of detachment, of suspension in seemingly weightless disconnection from all points of reference.

This depiction of weightlessness is a poetic metaphor for Melvin Moti’s view of the famous London museum, which for him is the classic example of a “zero-gravity museum”. Containing a huge collection of art objects from all epochs and origins, this museum, founded in 1852, provides almost no background information on the items presented. In Melvin Moti’s eyes, this turns the museum’s exhibits into free-floating, disconnected objects that cater solely to an aesthetic gaze or a “geological” one interested exclusively in materials and techniques. The anti-historical and anti-social attitude evident in the V&A’s presentation of its overabundant exhibits, which those in charge of the museum have justified by saying that the institution is “a glorified warehouse” and not “a social history museum”, leads, in Melvin Moti’s opinion, to visual over-stimulation even today, because a new image is registered at every moment.

In his text, Melvin Moti compares this flood of individual impressions with the so-called “floaters” that everyone knows - the particles on the surface of the eyes that can only be perceived in the fleeting nature of their motion - or even with the optical phenomenon of “Eigengrau” or “intrinsic grey”, a kind of colour static that is produced on its own in the eye in complete darkness or when the eyelids are shut. It were these ephemeral images that appear on the fine membranes between the worlds of perception, the representations of the points of contact between different worlds, that interested Moti at first, in their wide variety of forms covering the entire spectrum “from inner self in outer space”, and that he illustrates in the accompanying text with philosophical ease in broadly meandering, contemplative observations using numerous examples. The idea of how the eye can make images on its own, in an ‘intrinsic’ way, without any influence of external information finally was Moti’s link to the V&A’s presentation of it’s collection, where objects are presented that produce meaning on their own term, devoid of their social and historical context.