Uta Kögelsberger Off Road

Off Road  video still  2012

17 January - 23 February 2014

Off Road was developed at a state vehicular recreation area on the coast of California; a landscape of Sahara-like sand dunes regularly covered in a heavy fog. On a weekday the location is fairly empty and then, on a weekend, thousands of people arrive with their trailers, SUVs, self- built cars, quads and bikes.

The artist’s interest in the location developed out of a fascination with these controlled 'pockets of freedom', which she considers to be particularly emblematic of North American culture; places where people go to leave the constraints of everyday existence behind to live out a fantasy of autonomy and freedom. A fantasy that is also instrumental in sustaining the political system that houses it.

This is a location full of inherent contradictions; on the one hand it has a strong social function of acting as a place that - through something as simple as a shared interest - cuts through class and social boundaries. Juxtaposed to this social role is the problematic issue of the contested ecological impact of the activity, which results in constant threat of closure. The artist is also fascinated by the amount of energy that goes into something that seems to be a futile occupation.

The project has been developed over an extended period of time, and consists of separate elements that use very different languages, creating a patchwork of this complex location:

The central piece is a projection which at first seems to present a city that had been transplanted to the coast following a natural disaster. It is only gradually that the place reveals itself for what it is. Rather than staging shots the artist has placed the camera waiting for the action to happen, creating an improvised choreography. The camera movement has a similarly disembodied feel as images from a large format camera.

The second element consists of a slide show of photographs with a voice over of interviews of people who frequent the location, giving an insight into the political dimension of the location and related issues.

Uta Kogelsberger is an artist based in London and lectures at the University of Newcastle. Originally German from Belgium she moved over to London to study first at St Martin’s then at Wimbledon and finally did her MA(sculpture) at the Royal College of Art. Uta has been working with photography for the last ten years. Recent projects have included ‘picturing paradise’ a mock anthropological survey which looked at whether there is a common denominator to what we consider an ideal place through the example of places where individuals have sought to re-create notions of paradise in their private living environments, ‘getting lost’ an investigation of the American landscapes we associate with the notion of untouched wilderness, ‘urban myths’ a project exploring those American cities that have grown in unlikely inhospitable landscapes and their surroundings and ‘off road’ a video about a state vehicular recreation area in California.

Kogelsberger has been awarded the Stanley Picker Fellowship, the Berwick Gymnasium Fellowship, the EAA Award for Art in Architecture and the SPD silver medal for editorial photography. Her project ‘Mystery Spots’ has been published in Wired (USA, UK, Italy), Esquire (Spain), Quo Magazine (Spain, Mexico), GQ (South Africa) and American Photography. Her other projects have been covered by Tema Celeste, Tag, Wound, Art Monthly, the Guardian and the Scotsman. Her work has been exhibited at CPG Gallery, London, Danielle Arnaud Gallery London, the Architectural association London, the Barbican, Bluecoat, Liverpool, Spacex, Exeter and Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC and the Galssell Project Space MFAH, Houston amongst others. Her work is included in international collections such as the Museum of Fine Art Houston. Her project ‘night vision’ was published in an artist monograph with a text by Jean Paul Curnier.

Uta Kogelsberger  Off Road  2008-2013  installation view