Private Collection, UK.
London, Fire Station 1 Chiltern Street, Paul Fryer: Potential and Ground, 8 Feb. – 10 March 2007.
‘The present work consists of a dangerous, destructive force beautifully housed in a tall, elegant, protective glass casing. The rods, once they are injected with high volts, create an irresistible surge or electrical power that connects them, forming a ladder-like step of pure maniacal energy and light, sometimes scaling the entire work.’ (D. Ward, ‘By Way of Introduction’, in P. Fryer, Radiations, London, 2007, p. 8.) Harlech writes: ‘Leiter is the German word for ladder. Something as Platonically simple as a chair or a table, objects that recur in Fryer’s work, are obdurately ordinary, but when they are illuminated or put into a different perspective, they always seem to communicate unnervingly: the atoms of the structure are revealed, and we see the energy within…’
As Harlech has explained: ‘Leiter was originally made in Berlin, hence the German name. It is a monumental vitrine, inside which power runs continuously upwards in the form of a writing plasma flame. An arc is generated between two rods inside the glass box, and it rises because the hot air rises, drawing it upwards. It looks like a beautiful Japanese recreation of a tool from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, or an elegant, oversized cigarette lighter. They used to call this kind of electrical curio a ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. In some ways, Leiter is nothing more than a beautiful and simple sculpture that incorporates this phenomenon. But is has been tuned so that once in a while, the arc travels all the way to the top of the cabinet and breaks out like an underpowered phoenix. Yet so many arcs struggle in vain, and are extinguished before they reach the top. When one makes it, the rarity of the event cannot fail to imbue it with some kind of meaning. The fact that the flame’s escape is meaningful seems to suggest that all we can do is persevere. It is aspiration in perfect focus.’ (A. Harlech, ‘Wreathes and Nests’, in P. Fryer, Radiations, London, 2007, p. 15.)
The artist has described the visual force of Leiter: ‘The flame seems to struggle […] I always think of it as striving. It seems like it’s trying to get to the top, and people seem to be willing it to go higher, but it doesn’t always do it. Maybe once in 70 times it goes to the top, maybe not even that […] We could make it go to the top every time if we wanted, but I like the idea that it struggles. It struggles against what is essentially nothing. The last stage [in creating these works] is often tuning these things to get the right emotion from people, so there’s actually something for people to engage with. And this, for instance: going all the way to the top every time wouldn’t be the same piece; it wouldn’t be worth doing.” (P. Fryer and C. Dancer, ‘In Conversation’, in P. Fryer, Radiations, London, 2007, p. 15.)
We are very grateful to Paul Fryer for his assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.