Robert Keil & Scott Roben at BPA// Raum / Berlin

Robert Keil & Scott Roben /  Base Motive

01.07– 12.08.23 

BPA// Raum
Sophienstraße 21
10178 Berlin
Photos: Eric Bell

Base Motive


The title Base Motive signals intentions underlying certain behaviors, perhaps concealed or even improper. Working off of the term as a shared point of reference for their collaborative exhibition, Robert Keil and Scott Roben follow its linguistic components to their own root meanings in terms of architecture and movement. In the indirect, relational space of the installation, qualities like atmosphere and mood take on heightened significance — perhaps partly, as the cultural theorist Lauren Berlant had suggested, as ways into judging situations and environments that are emergent in the present.


Keils work in sculpture draws attention to the way that objects and materials assert their own realities.  A mouth-blown glass object filled with methane gas becomes a lens through which to observe the space, other viewers, and surrounding works. The irregular distortions on the object’s surface trace to the blowing process, in which hot glass comes into contact with a colder steel mold and buckles — an expression that arises from the glass itself. His ongoing series of works strings is produced by disassembling robotic dogs and reassembling their parts, including the programmed scores that govern their motor responses to external stimuli. These are then reassembled as kinetic sculptures that move constantly but nearly imperceptibly, and joined with the electric circuitry of the exhibition space.


Roben’s paintings are driven by the medium’s tactile qualities, including the close relationship between touch and affect. The painting Curb employs a frottage technique in oil paint, in which paint is scraped away from the surface of the canvas to register impressions of what lies directly underneath. The directness of its (seemingly) factual approach is countered by nearby works that appear more artificial or constructed. These follow the motif of a figure staged mid-movement on a wood floor that resembles the floor of the exhibition space, as well as the nonhuman figure of a partially opened umbrella. Directional forces, gazes, and touches circulate between the paintings, as well as elements of the space and Keil’s works, in an open-ended exchange.