For his solo exhibition “Almost Midnight” Alvaro Urbano re-creates an outdoor environment inside Frankfurt am Main. Using only few elements that are familiar to our everyday’s urban life, the gallery’s space has been transformed in a city landscape at night. Urbano is interested in the cinematic narrative potentiality depicted by this fiction. In this particular set he conceived the particular feeling that one may have at night, maybe walking back home from a late night job, a bar or a friend’s house: sometimes a feeling of solitude, or maybe that awareness of the sense that make you more receipting to notice what is around you (that sense of awareness which makes you more receptive to things around you). The city at night awaits the next day and yet can still can tell (anticipates the next day and yet tells stories) about stories of who have walked the streets before. A cigarette that bears a lipstick trace, a closed door of a local business, a leaf fallen on the pavement: They address relationships, dialogues, and conflicts between reality and fiction. The set up may recall old “smoky” black and white movies, and allow the visitor to step into a diorama illusion, which is actually a double, as Frankfurt am Main itself has a diorama effect when seen from the Wildenbruchstr.
Here remains the unsolved feeling that something is missing.
Text by Anna M. Szaflarski
Throughout the day, the numbers pile onto the clock and I check my phone five-thousand times. When my internal chronometer lapses, my heart pounds until I see the screen. As if water were rising on a sinking U-boat, at Almost Midnight my lips are kissing air off of the steel riveted ceiling.
Then comes the moment of suspension. Inside the threshold between this day and the next and the next and the next, a bubble opens, and I gulp fresh air and I am weightless. Unlike me, the day I look back at still has weight, but it’s now mirrored and everything that was heavy is light, everything light is now so fucking heavy. Things that seem familiar to me become strange copies of themselves, and I no longer know what they wanted from me.
The four zeros of midnight are like the headlights of a pick up truck. I might do a nervous little dance to not disappoint the driver behind the wheel. When I get no reaction I think maybe I miscalculated the line of light. Either that, or they’re getting ready to run me over.
Out beyond the line I can barely see the orange embers of cigarettes floating blissfully in the dark. Or are those fireflies? Either way, a moth enters the lamplight, first innocently and then it flutters right up into my face. I try swatting it away but I’m out-matched and I opt to step out into the darkness instead. I step out a bit further, until I smell the smoke, and I’m watching along with the smokers as the moth traces the outline of the light. We think we’re so much smarter than it but in actuality we’re all just as mesmerized by same thing. It’s enough of an existence for that moment, and the moth has no shame in owning it.
We’ve got less than a few seconds left. A few butts fall to the ground, some words pass between us. Expressions of recognition start animating the smokers’ faces, we begin to know each other again. The bubble pops, the weight of the day slingshots forward, and we’re back to breathing the metallic air again, this time rising from the damp concrete under our feet.
How was it
There’s left overs
See you in a bit
All images: Alvaro Urbano, “Almost Midnight”, exhibition view at Frankfurt am Main, Berlin. Photo: Trevor Lloyd