Roman Ondák: Do Not Walk Outside This Area

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Roman Ondák, portrait of the artist

Roman Ondák was selected by Deutsche Bank as Artist of the Year 2012. With his installations, performances, and drawings, the Slovakian artist, who was born in 1966, investigates the borders between art and everyday life. The basis for his subtle, sharp-witted works is paper— the medium on which he drafts and documents his projects. Ondák's art occurs in various places, be they museums and galleries, art biennials or art fairs, streets, or his home environment. He uses found situations, but changes or stages them such that expectations and conventions begin to totter.

Traveling, moving through space and time, is a continuous theme in Ondák’s work. This is the case in do not walk outside this area, a project the artist conceived specifically for his Artist of the Year exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim. The path through the installation leads via the original wing of a Boeing 737-500, which enjoins two exhibition rooms like a bridge. In both rooms, works on paper and installations are devoted to themes such as "travel." One of them is Balancing at the Toe of the Boot (2010), a series of 7 postcards and 16 fictional newspaper articles based on a trip to Calabria.

To reach the second part of the exhibition, the visitor walks over the wing in the area marked "Do not walk outside this area," entering the unreachable surface that otherwise can only be seen out of the window of an aircraft cabin. Ondák plays not only with a reversal of inside and outside but also with the conventions of the art industry. Everyone knows the prohibitions, barriers, and boundaries that lend artworks a valuable, exclusive aura and thus fetishize them: Please do not touch! Do not come too close. No photographs. But Ondák's wing is not a hallowed sculpture. It is an object of use that we are supposed to enter and touch. This footbridge serves as a runway for our ideas, memories, and fantasies. In the age of global mobility, Ondák invites us to take an inner, imaginary journey.

Roman Ondák, portrait of the artist. Photo: Fabrizio Giraldi