Tate Modern  Level 2 Gallery
23 April – 12 June 2005

The Uncertainty Principle, a new installation of works by Mexican artist Damián Ortega (born 1967), will go on display at Tate Modern on 23 April as part of the Untitled series. Inspired by a conversation the artist had with a physics professor about Quantum Mechanics, The Uncertainty Principle includes 3 Stones/Chairs Mine, a major new sculpture consisting of three complex wooden structures of interlocking beams, each incorporating a chair.

In this new work, Ortega subverts the notion of sculpture as solid, monumental and finished. Intrigued by Werner von Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (published 1928), which proposes that the natural world is in a constant state of flux, Ortega presents this piece as a work in progress, with the implication that it could continue to grow or be rearranged into new configurations.

Time is an important element in Ortega’s work and this might relate to his former career drawing comic strips. These are a series of fixed images, yet familiarity with the narrative form enables an understanding of them as a sequence of snapshots from different moments in time. Perhaps Ortega makes it possible to view sculpture in a similar way. The notion of time is evident in another element of this installation, Margin of Accident/Running Gag, a sculpture made of four chairs which can be viewed as several chairs impacted together or a single chair in motion captured at four moments in time, rather like a three-dimensional reference to Duchamp’s painting Nude Descending a Staircase.

Ortega lives and works in Mexico and has works in public collections in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. He has participated in many group shows throughout Europe in the last ten years. The Uncertainty Principle is characteristic of his work in taking commonplace objects and presenting them in an unexpected way, challenging accepted ways of perceiving them and their function. In 1996 Ortega created an obelisk on wheels, rendering absurd this classic symbol of permanence and potency. For Cosmic Thing 2002, Ortega disassembled a Volkswagen Beetle and suspended the parts in mid-air, like a giant version of an exploded diagram found in a maintenance manual. This was shown at the Venice Biennale 2003.

Curated by Helen Sainsbury, Tate Curator, this is the sixth exhibition in the Untitled series at Tate Modern. Untitled presents new work by international artists not widely exhibited in the UK. Meschac Gaba is the next artist to exhibit in this gallery from 25 June to 21 August 2005.

The Level 2 Gallery was made possible with the support of the Millennium Commission.

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