Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Alltagszeit (In Ordinary Time), 2001

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s video installation In Ordinary Time is a cinematic experience. For sixteen hallucinatory minutes the architectural space captured by Alltagszeit (In Ordinary Time) encompasses an entire universe.

The narrative of the piece is rather ordinary: the sun rises and falls, an assemblage of characters walk, sit and stand, the day begins, ends and begins again. But there is nothing ordinary about the stage Manglano-Ovalle chose for this performance: the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Mies van der Rohe’s final Modernist cathedral, finished just before his death in 1969. The pavilion, a simple structure wrapped by four transparent walls of glass, is elegantly democratic—a space of genuine freedom and possibility able to be reconfigured for any number of uses. Its open plan captures light in an otherworldly way, generating a continuous vista of shifting planes, changing surfaces, and subtle patterns.

Manglano-Ovalle explores each of these effects with his lingering camera, revealing every architectural nuance as his subjects travel to different points of the interior through the course of a day. Although the action is mundane, I followed the installation’s narrative with the same attentiveness I would a more conventional film., By the time the piece was finished I felt an almost sensory familiarity with a space I’ve never actually visited.

In Ordinary Time is the third and final work in Manglano-Ovalle’s Mies trilogy, in which the artist continues his exploration of Modernist spaces and the abandoned utopian ideals they represent. In 2001 the three video installations, including Le Baiser/The Kiss, 1999, and Climate, 2000, were organized as a traveling exhibition by the Cranbrook Art Museum.

The other two video works, as installed at the Orange County Museum of Art, included additional architectural structures in the gallery to augment the projections and delineate the space. These suspended armatures—metal framing around the screens and through the spaces where visitors were to stand or sit—seemed like an effort on the artist’s part to extend the artificial space of the videos into the gallery. An architectural gesture, but in the end, the effect was distracting.

Free of extraneous materials and without seating, In Ordinary Time is physically engaging on its own terms. The Neue Nationalgalerie unfurls as a near-life size projection in its own room. Standing for the duration of the loop, I found myself identifying with the young blond German, my token host throughout the quarter-hour presentation. With his back to the camera, the young man stares out the glass walls towards Berlin’s urban landscape, seeing what I see, watching the clouds and the sun float across the sky.

Other individuals appear and reappear, often in pairs, briefly looking back, just to the side of the camera as if they are looking past me. Some portions of the video play in real time, while in others the sunlight races across the floor in time-lapsed sequences. Many of the figures—a man with a child, an Asian woman—enter the space and gaze into the distance, shifting slightly from their left to right foot or vice versa. When sped up, this motion is very apparent, calling attention to the shifting I myself have been awkwardly making, as I’ve been forced to stand throughout the video. Is this some connection, some statement that I am ordinary like the players on the screen? Am I also frozen in this space, bound to play out the same drudgery indefinitely? In asking myself these questions, I realized that it was quite possible that Manglano-Ovalle had achieved something in this video that Mies never could—the Neue Nationalgalerie becomes a universal space, a populist setting, rather than iconic architecture.

The work is mesmerizing. The hypnotic soundtrack of impending doom, arranged by composer and electronic musician Jeremy Boyle, perfectly accompanies the montage of light, movement and form that danced across the screen. For those sixteen minutes I felt truly transported to another place, another architectural space and this is a feat no ordinary artwork could accomplish.