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Robert Barry is an American artist. Since 1967, Barry has produced non-material works of art, installations, and performance art using a variety of otherwise invisible media.

Robert Barry – Remains

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Kunsthalle Tropical

Discover what's left of an iconic conceptual artwork that has long been considered lost and untraceable. For one full month, the remains of Robert Barry’s Inert Gas Series (1969) will hover in the air above the Kunsthalle Tropical.

What we see is infinitely less than all we can imagine.

Thoughts
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The notorious 1969 Inert Gas Series by Robert Barry consists of five works. For several days in early March, Robert Barry travelled to five outdoor locations in southern California, from Beverly Hills to the Tehachapi Mountains and the Mojave Desert. At each location, he set free varying amounts of different noble gases.

The infinite expansion of the gases in the atmosphere—“from a measured volume to indefinite expansion”—constitutes the work; a process that is imperceptible, never-ending, and barely graspable even in theoretical models.

Originally, the the Inert Gas Series consisted of verbal descriptions alone. These remained intentionally vague and emphasized the indefinite expansion of the gas. It was impossible to know exactly how the gas would expand, and as a result, the work presented a situation of utter potentiality.

However, photographs of open or broken containers in the landscape were added to the exhibited documentation. It is primarily through this photographic documentation that the work has come to be known. Barry took these photographs as a way of showing that there was nothing to show, as proof of the works invisibility. [1]

The Inert Gas pieces were never “restaged”. However, since helium is light and rises immediately, it quickly spread all over the globe with the air currents. According to the gas equation there are still around 130,000 helium atoms per square meter of atmosphere. [2]

Play interview with Robert Barry by James Merle Thomas.

[1] Extract from the research article "Walking with a Ghost: Phenomenological Explorations of Space in the Works of Robert Barry" by Elise Noyez
[2] Research by Katrin Hornek for her performance "To Inhale Robert Barry’’s Noble Gases and hold them as long as you can, 2007"

The exhibition took place at Kunsthalle Tropical and was open from February 13th to March 14th 2016. More exhibitions at Kunsthalle Tropical from a series initiated by Marcel Meury can be found here.

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