Gerhard Mack, Paula Van Den Bosch, Jeremy Millar
Phaidon Press, London, 2006
Roman Signer is an artist like no other. Although he identifies himself as a sculptor, he is best known for actions in which simple materials (rockets, balloons, rushing water) react with natural forces to yield surprisingly lyrical results. Part mad scientist, part sorcerer’s apprentice, part Buster Keaton, Signer often appears in these actions, sometimes at considerable risk to himself. The real star of his works, however, is time. In works such as Sandbag with Timed Detonator (1988), an auto-destructive device featuring a plastic alarm clock that realeases a heavy sandbag hanging above it, two periods of tranquil rest are bridged by an instant of sudden violence. In others the change is more gradual, as in Action with a Fuse (1989), a twenty kilometre, thirty-five day ‘time sculpture’ in which two hundred lengths of fuse burned a path to Signer’s current hometown from the village of his youth.
Signer’s Dadaist love of the absurd can be seen in artworks as diverse as Cap with Rocket (1983) – in which the artist lights the fuse on a rocket and waits tensely until it shoots high into the air, taking his hat with it – and an enigmatic Table (1994) floating off the coast of Iceland, blithely unaware of its sublime surroundings. Signer’s work has been exhibited at major venues across Europe and North America, as well as such top international exhibitions as Documenta 8 (1987), Skulptur Projekte in Münster (1997) and the 48th Venice Biennale (1999), in which he represented Switzerland.