In 2010, Daniel Buren created “Multiplications, in-situ Work for a Synagogue,” an installation that uses minimalist means to change the perception of the room in amazing ways. Mounting floor-to-ceiling length mirrors and a few strips of coloured foil accentuating the architecture, the artist made the room as such and the visitor’s relation to it the subject of his work.
The subtitle “in situ” – on site – which Buren bestows on virtually all of his artwork, is simultaneously the defining characteristic of his approach: The works are created on location, yet above all they draw attention to the location more so than to any particular aspect of the artist’s handwriting. The artist reduces his language of form to the neutral uniformity of vertical stripes 8.7 cm (about 3.5 in) wide, which he has used since the mid-1960s to cover any painting surface – billboards, canvas or masonry.
Foregoing the use of an image motif, Buren liberates painting from the need to represent or depict something or to serve any kind of external purpose or content. Not least, the artist also subordinates himself to the subject of his artistic inquiry. Instead, his stripes highlight existing structure and realities of the location, architectonic particulars, the parameters of a given institution and their ideological context. According to Buren, the stripe painting is only a means, a “visual tool,” that he uses to explore a specific show- and presentation-related situation.
“The visual tool is no longer a work to be seen, or to be beheld, but is the element that permits you to see or behold something else.”
Ultimately, this puts the viewer’s gaze at the centre of Buren’s inquiries. “The ‘visual tool’ serves the purpose of revealing the conditioned nature of perception and to make it transparent and thus to recover its natural origin. The work itself withdraws from the field of vision. It vanishes and generates the visibility that matters to Buren – paradoxically by means of its own invisibility.”