In his new body of work The Gates of Heaven, Keith Langergraber draws from a multitude of sources, ranging from the imagined cities of science fiction novels to the crystalline silica growths of the Queen Charlotte Sound glass sponge reefs. Fact and fiction are melded and time scrambled in his references to the past, present, and future: NASA photographs of meteorites and solar flares, the Jurassic era, extraterrestrials, wormholes, Star Wars movies, deep-sea diving, the impacts of climate change, and model-building kits. Nature is also a major inspiration; for Langergraber, a dead aspen forest, the imperfections of a fragment of birch bark or tangled strings of kelp all evoke a surreal and sublime beauty. His practice evokes the obsessive research of the avid enthusiast or as he calls himself, “pseudo-hack scientist.” Langergraber’s interests are encyclopedic in scope, readily flipping between micro and macro systems of knowledge.
Comprising sculptures and drawings that sweep through the gallery in wave-like configurations, The Gates of Heaven is grounded in Paul Scheerbart’s science fiction novel Lesabéndio—what the artist describes as a “cosmic ecological fable.” Published in 1913, it tells the impossible tale of an architect whose mad mission is to build a 44-mile-high tower in order to save the imaginary planetoid Pallas. (Scheerbart is perhaps better known for his interest in glass, advocating for its potential as a building material in his manifesto Glass Architecture published a year later.) Langergraber’s in-situ installation features renderings of Lesabéndio’s tower, hybrid edifices that allude to both natural and architectural constructions, including Wyoming’s igneous rock butte Devils Tower and German architect Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion from 1914. Langergraber has created a diorama-like setting of a city landscape—or its ruins—using wood, foam, metal, plaster, and glass, painted in a dull grey with only the occasional hint of colour. The buildings recall the characteristics of crystals, coral growths, Vancouver high-rises, and the architectural models of Russian Constructivist artist Vladimir Tatlin. The viewer is invited to come close to better study the minutiae that make up this intricately textured installation presented at floor level.
Langergraber’s ink and watercolour drawings are hung in clustered groupings on the gallery walls. Comprising dozens of images, this series further traces his musings on the intersection of the terrestrial and the cosmic, the utopian and the dystopian, the imagined and the real. At times, his mark-making is loose and gestural; at other times, carefully detailed, mimicking the precision of botanical drawing. Hidden within the floor sculptures, mini-soundscapes, designed by Heather McDermid, together produce a barely audible, otherworldly opus generated from astronomers’ and astrophysicists’ sonifications of cosmic electromagnetic radiation and gravitational waves.
With this dense, multifaceted exhibition, Langergraber gleefully mines the realms of architecture, geology, cosmology, and the natural sciences. The Gates of Heaven proposes a kind of alternate history of the world—one that disrupts the strict categories of rational taxonomies, while generating unpredictable new narratives from the juxtaposition of the seemingly incompatible.
View more of Keith’s work: www.keithlangergraber.com