2015 saw the start of Berger’s latest project Universe, which explores the physical space formed by his skull. It is here – in a volume once again made tangible using a combination of CT scan and 3-D printer – that the artist exists. This physical chamber is occupied by our brain and cerebrospinal fluid. Innumerable philosophers have explored the question of whether the world outside this chamber is the same for each of us. This is a complex question, but it is a given that in order to function within a society we must engage with a common system of coordinates; constructs of ‘consciousness’ in a physical, social and political sense. These constructs form the very core of the Universe project, which raises questions about freedom and restraint, privacy and social behaviour, and the capacity for self-development and self-determination within a humanist tradition. The project makes these phenomena visible and tangible in a new series of sculptures and installations.
The In Case installation is a component of this project. The viewer sees a disorienting scene comprising an assortment of protective casings that reveal only the form of the object that they contain, a phenomenon with a long tradition in art history. Although the contents are secured by sturdy locks, the contours of these casings may suggest to the viewer identify a very well-known setting: the United States president’s Oval office; the desk with one chair on each side and an office chair behind it, and two large objects behind the desk that are probably the flags of the president and of the United States. Between them stand two classical torsos. While revealing the contours of the scene, the casings leave the viewer guessing about their contents. The questions raised relate to the definition of the objects by the enclosures and, more interesting still, the way in which the objects relate to themselves and their meaning. The installation invites the viewer to entertain thoughts of redefining the meanings through which the casings separate our worlds and securely protect their content. These processes may spark associations with Michelangelo’s sculptures in the Accademia in Florence, which were bricked up during the Second World War to protect them and to allow them to wait for better times.
In Case was executed in epoxy, a modern industrial material that is packaging material and, apparently, the end product; content and form are a unified whole. We never discover whether the shapes of the containers diverge from those of their content. The ‘packaged’ ensemble appears ready to embark on a journey – or perhaps it has just arrived. This symbol of a world power (and of democracy and freedom) that does not forsake its roots is in continual development due to its reference to both the outside world and the history of sculpture itself, a history in which Berger knows his place. It is a demonstration of the fact that any sense of attachment to era and location are relative concepts. This sculpture is in the starting blocks; it is ready to move on at any moment – just in case.