Robert Keil & Scott Roben at BPA// Raum / Berlin

Robert Keil & Scott Roben /  Base Motive

01.07– 12.08.23 

BPA// Raum
10178 Berlin

Photos: Eric

Base Motive


The title Base Motive signals intentions underlying certain
behaviors, perhaps concealed or even improper. Working off of the term as a
shared point of reference for their collaborative exhibition, Robert Keil and
Scott Roben follow its linguistic components to their own root meanings in
terms of architecture and movement. In the indirect, relational space of the
installation, qualities like atmosphere and mood take on heightened
significance — perhaps partly, as the cultural theorist Lauren Berlant had
suggested, as ways into judging situations and environments that are emergent
in the present.


Keils work in sculpture draws attention to the way
that objects and materials assert their own realities.  A mouth-blown glass object filled with
methane gas becomes a lens through which to observe the space, other viewers,
and surrounding works. The irregular distortions on the object’s surface trace
to the blowing process, in which hot glass comes into contact with a colder
steel mold and buckles — an expression that arises from the glass itself. His
ongoing series of works strings is produced by disassembling robotic
dogs and reassembling their parts, including the programmed scores that govern
their motor responses to external stimuli. These are then reassembled as
kinetic sculptures that move constantly but nearly imperceptibly, and joined
with the electric circuitry of the exhibition space.


Roben’s paintings are driven
by the medium’s tactile qualities, including the close relationship between
touch and affect. The painting Curb employs a frottage technique in oil
paint, in which paint is scraped away from the surface of the canvas to
register impressions of what lies directly underneath. The directness of its
(seemingly) factual approach is countered by nearby works that appear more
artificial or constructed. These follow the motif of a figure staged
mid-movement on a wood floor that resembles the floor of the exhibition space,
as well as the nonhuman figure of a partially opened umbrella. Directional
forces, gazes, and touches circulate between the paintings, as well as elements
of the space and Keil’s works, in an open-ended exchange.