Éclair presents Kangaroo Stele, a new body of work by Jason Loebs. For the exhibition, Loebs has taught himself Teeline, a shorthand writing system commonly used in courtrooms and police-evidence recordings. The practice of writing in shorthand (formally known as stenography, from the Greek stenos, meaning “narrow”) allows a writer to take down information more rapidly, using abbreviated symbols. It’s an ancient practice; there are shorthand notes inscribed in marble on the Parthenon. Here, the artist borrows a method from antiquity: Loebs has etched stock phrases from English-speaking courtroom trials (drawn from his handwritten shorthand notes) into marble: “The exhibit is accepted into evidence”; “As jurors, you are not to be swayed by sympathy.” Using this judicial form of record-keeping, the artist considers the democratic judgment of art. By recasting the experience of contemplating art as a hypothetical trial, Loebs asks: Who might the prosecutor be? The accused? The exhibition’s title recalls kangaroo courts—a judicial assembly that ignores recognized standards of law or justice, and carries no official standing in the territory in which it’s carried out.
On display in a second room is a series of photographs of smartphones laid on a workplace table. The phones reflect images of Berlin’s Moabit Courthouse, disclosing an anterior source for the image on their surface. Loebs has lit Éclair by installing cleanroom lighting typically used in labs for manufacturing and photo developing. The lighting comes to stand in as a generic site for scientific procedure and production—pointing to the double meaning of the word “trial”—both experiment and as tribunal.