How can we establish networks within society in an urban environment by interacting with other people every day? How are social spaces created, and who decides in what way and for how long they can be used? Sonia Leimer’s current works visualize the “social capital” in cities, to use a term coined by the urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs in the 1960s. Leimer’s fourth solo exhibition in the gallery revolves around urban development and direct democracy – relevant issues in society that are more pressing today than ever before. These new works offer us the chance to explore the key questions of who occupies the urban realm, and what scope of action these spaces allow.
In this light, the rooms of the gallery act as places where urban life is condensed. Five large free-standing objects, which oscillate between sculpture and architecture, form a kind of obstacle course that guides visitors through the first two rooms. Canopy-like structures at eye level are each mounted on top of three concrete pillars and poles. The artist assembled these canopies, which resemble the awnings in front of businesses and other buildings, out of geometric construction elements made of robust acrylic fabric and PVC. These public places invite us to stop and stay for a moment or two. They offer protection from the sun, shelter from the rain, or they provide a place to take a short break. Free from any spatial or functional context, Leimer’s capricious pseudo-canopy objects seem to stake a territorial claim in the gallery, while creating a social and architectural space at the same time. By interacting with the objects, visitors assume the role of promenaders who take up and occupy the space for a while. These Awnings, which is also the title of this group of installation-like works, thus delineate a gray area in which there is a push and pull between inside and outside, and between public and personal appropriation.