“Why chess?” I asked as we re-entered the gallery. “It’s my passion,” he responded immediately. Included in the show is a giant black pawn made of records, as well as a wall of vintage chess pieces in the gallery’s gift shop, an aggregate piece titled ‘Pawn Shop.’
It wasn’t until later, when I sat down to write about the show, that I realized the implications of the chess pieces—the show is very much like a game of chess: grids everywhere, hidden motions and movements, and a precise guiding of the viewer along as if through a carefully orchestrated series of moves. Whether this game ends in checkmate or is one that continues throughout the artist’s career is an open question.
With a combination of youthful eagerness and professorial earnestness, Hildebrandt led me through the show, piece by piece, explaining each with a kind of awe that they actually hung before him. His signature materials are all remnants of bygone recording devices: audio cassette and VHS tape are used as canvas, the recordings beneath, paradoxically, are sometimes recordings of the artist making the piece at hand, sometimes musicians he was listening to when making the piece, or an Orson Welles film—but you’d never know.
A corny Pinterest craft project—the vintage music record melted and made into a bowl—becomes, through Hildebrandt’s hand, exaggerated into forming walls that guide the viewer through the gallery, and a “Babylonian tower” that is eighteen meters high and which projects through all three floors of the gallery and into the basement, visible through a grate. It’s a visual marvel that occurs throughout the show and leaves an unanswerable curiosity: what do those many hours of recording hold? What music echoes behind the pieces’ monumental silence?