In Untitled (Dog)(2006), a video by Alexander Heim (born Hamburg, 1977, lives in London), a stray mongrel loiters in the middle of a busy road in China while buses, trucks and motorbikes rush past him.
A six-wheeler truck passes within an inch of his ear; cars honk. Heim scores this found choreography with triumphant, even radiant, music - transforming the dog into an anthropomorphised, thinking subject; an enlightened canine monk, both aware of and oblivious to the worldly traffic around him. The self-sufficiency of the dog is almost comic, but Heim also frames it as a genuine example of dissent: this mangy dog ignores the function laid out by the developers and users of the road.
Heim's practice encompasses video, installation and sculpture, and addresses those intrusions into urban life where animals, processes and chance routines create self-sustaining pockets of otherness. The work examines things that happen - despite the planned nature of the urban environment - on their own.
In his graduate show at Goldsmiths College, 2006, Heim looked at the Rotherhithe Tunnel in East London. Built in 1908 to accommodate horse-drawn traffic, the tunnel features a zigzagging path designed so that horses would not be tempted to rush towards the light at the other side. Now used by cars, the tunnel is littered with wing mirrors that have been clipped off cars on too-tight corners: battered objects with cracked-glass faces, comparable to detritus such as crisp packets or perhaps even to natural forms such as sea glass. Heim exhibited these items as precious objects placed on a tall plinth that, like the soaring soundtrack in Untitled (Dog), exaggerated the role of artistry in their presentation.
Heim's video Three Seasons (2007) continues this juxtaposition of emblematic purity with the urban mundane: dirt-grey snow melting under car wheels; a tubby middle-aged man swimming in an indoor pool. In the film's final segment - the third of the three seasons in this variant calendar - the rhythm of joggers and exercise machines marks the passing of time. This video corresponds to a series of ceramic bowls, with centres made from elements of melted glass, and both works are being shown as part of Nought to Sixty. When struck, the bowls produce a reverberating tone similar to that of a Buddhist gong. Heim incorporated these sounds into parts of the video's soundtrack. A rhythmic succession of images follows the pace of the musical composition - trees sway in the wind accompanied by random sounds recorded in the corridors outside rehearsal rooms in a music school.
In the altered scheme of nature proffered by Heim, conventional distinctions between 'natural' and 'man-made' are disrupted. Rather than holding up the moral card of environmentalism, the artist's observations appear to provide a view of nature in which everything, even a crisp packet, has its place.