March 24 — May 20, 2017
“Very well. So then let’s talk about your exhibition. About the first portrait by the entrance, the one of the gray goose. It receives the visitor right away with one of those ‘What are you doing here?’ gazes that are so characteristic of your portraits—at least that’s how it felt to me, as though I were a guest in inappropriate attire standing before a concierge at some luxury hotel.”
Lisa had prepared for this.
“A very good choice, I think, that hard-to-read facial expression—to my mind it seems mystified more than anything, if its gaze is indeed fixed on me who is looking at it, which was my initial impression, or its bewilderment isn’t rather quite general and about the situation as a whole, with all the dubiety that results when, as a sitter in a portrait, you abruptly find yourself set behind such a strange abstract chromatic space, condemned to gaze through a pictorial world that, despite all the meticulous elaboration and layering, remains transparent like a more or less artfully smudged pane, and to gaze at a no less inscrutable world beyond it that consists of the exhibition space and, at that moment, myself. It already gives you a sense of the inversion of the relationship between beholder and beheld that’s discussed in the second essay in the exhibition catalogue, which, I should note in passing, would definitely have merited better-quality reproductions.”
“I’ve always wondered—if I may interpose,” Marc said, and I thought, the moment he pipes up he speaks out of turn—“whether Lacan didn’t kind of pull the thing about the blind spot, which properly speaking is the place where the visual nerve passes through the retina, out of his ass. Incidentally, in birds, and only in birds—if you even care—the blind spot is overshadowed by the dark and pleated pecten oculi, which helps the eye breathe, as it were. If its shadow fell anywhere else, it would impair the animal’s vision.”
“Aha, but let me come back to the—”
“Where’s that coffee, by the way? Which reminds me of another anecdote on the subject of the differences between our eyes and those of birds. A famous former animal photographer who’d specialized in close-up shots of birds once hypothesized that the gaze of a bird was sometimes so haunting, so penetrating, that it apparently overwhelmed his camera, which responded with blurring, in pictures in which the rest of the head was in perfect focus.”
As Marc went on to expatiate that the actual reason for this optical blurring lay in a movement, imperceptible to our eyes, of the haw—a nictitating membrane that both protected and cleaned the eye—Lisa chewed on her pen and gazed out the window.
“Humans, unfortunately, no longer have such a cleaning device, which is why ornithologists like to joke that they probably invented art for themselves in part as a way to get the incessant contamination of our primary sensory organ, all the opacities and fogging, under control.”
Lisa proceeded to suck on the cap of her ballpoint pen until it stuck to her lower lip and watched me, as I for my part made an effort to demonstratively slump in my chair to signal that I was ready to engage in dialogue.
“Let’s get even more specific,” she said.
“Yeah, so, it’s kind of going back to the portrait thing, in very basic terms. So let’s suppose I’d asked you about your personal emphases, ok?”
“As you wish,” I said and cleared my throat several times.
“Keep calm. Simple question. Focus. Clear answer. The aspects that strike me as central here are—”
“Alright. Got it now. So at bottom there’s not a whole lot to be said about it. Two things, mainly. Gaze and posture. That’s all there is to it.”
“Yeahhh, that makes total sense,” Lisa replied and took a deep breath. This wasn’t how she’d imagined it.
March 25 — May 13, 2017
La Vie des Souris
George Orwell’s 1945 classic fable “Animal Farm” no doubt inspired Willi Fährmann’s children’s book “Der überaus starke Willibald” (“The Exceedingly Strong Willibald”), a work of reform pedagogy that came out in 1983. But unlike Orwell’s protagonists, those in Fährmann’s short story are almost all mice. And where Orwell handled his historical references with painstaking accuracy, Fährmann, in writing his short story, seems to have aimed primarily for an easy-to-grasp parable about a theme that seems perpetually relevant: populism and how it reduces complex issues. The lifeworld of the author’s target audience is evident also in the tower of children’s building blocks with which the gang of mice under Willibald’s dictatorial leadership tries to reach the sausage heaven in the pantry. In the reality of my own life as it was in 2005, that tower was the enormously tall bookcase in my unrenovated subsidized flat. On the top shelf, wrapped in golden aluminum foil, stood a chocolate replica of a beer bottle from the south German brewery Rothaus. A giveaway advertising the Tannenzäpfle brand, it had been given to me in the summer of 2005 by Karola Grässlin, director of the Braunschweiger Kunstverein, as a thank you after a performance and lecture in her gallery. That fall, the Italian restaurant directly below me closed due to bankruptcy, and the resident mice migrated up to my floor. Life with these guests turned out to be less spectacular than I’d feared. I deported a few who’d walked into live traps to the next park, and over time the others left as well. The episode faded from memory until I wanted to reposition Grässlin’s gift. To my surprise, all I held in my hand was the immaculate golden chocolate beer bottle mold. The smart and agile rodents had removed the content in little pieces through a tiny hole in a corner, presumably so I wouldn’t suspect a thing. All that was left was a fragile empty wrapping foil and the echo of the mellifluous words with which the director had handed me her present: “In St. Georgen, Tannenzäpfle is just beer, but in the rest of Germany it’ll soon be a hipster brand!” As I later read in the paper, Thomas Schäuble, then chairman of the board of the brewing company deep in the Black Forest, didn’t think so. What would make any manager ecstatic was seen with mixed feelings at Rothaus. Expansion, he thought, was a self-defeating proposition: “We can’t do that year after year!”
By January 2009, the wrapping, now a crumpled-up ball of aluminum, still sat in the dusty corner between my coal-fired heating stove and the bookcase. No mice had visited me in a long time. Perhaps because the rooms previously occupied by the Italian restaurant had for some time been taken up by a wine store with an exquisite lunch menu. It was around then that a musician friend invited me to join him on a trip to Tangier. He knew I was a fan of the Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane and suggested that I should come and learn more about the music scene. Morocco had long been a dream destination. I saw myself chatting with the Gnawa singer Omar Sayed in Casablanca and bringing a truckload of vintage vinyls back to Germany. Tangier, too, was a fantastic place to start: the historic distinction would open all sorts of doors for me. But once we were there it turned out that you don’t get in touch with a national hero on short notice. Our hosts were appreciative of my peculiar interests, but any possible avenue I might pursue was dismissed as too complicated. We toured northeastern Morocco with a Maghrebi gangsta rapper, chaperoned most of the time by paramilitary security guys who helpfully served opium tea against our diarrhea. I didn’t find a single record. The format was unpopular; I was told that in the more recent past, music had been circulated on audiocassette. The vinyl editions of Nass El Ghiwane’s albums were manufactured in Paris and solely for the melancholy-affluent-migrant market. CDs and MP3s were the present, and the mobile phone was the playback device of the future. I soon realized that the problem of distorted perceptions was mutual. When I assured people that I’d exchanged my few euros for dirhams and my bags weren’t stuffed with dollars, my interlocutors, looking over their shoulders toward the Spanish coast, accused me of lying. The mood usually didn’t turn truly aggressive until we consciously tried not to act like tourists. Then again, that was mostly because our interactions played out on stages like the medina. What we naïvely thought of as authentic was a playing field on which strict rules were in effect. The young men who worked it had become accustomed to catering to the postcolonial expectations with which the majority of the Europeans who flocked there on a regular basis approached them. Neither side seemed willing to change that without a fight. I wished I’d never left the Schengen Area.
The agreement on Switzerland’s entry to the Schengen Area went into effect in March 2008 and was implemented after the necessary security systems had been put in place at the country’s borders by the end of the same year and at the airports in the spring of 2009. Even before the end of 2008, border controls had been gradually wound down and replaced by random police checks in a 30-kilometer-wide swath along the border. So when I was awarded an almost yearlong residency in Basel—not far from the three-country point—in 2013, I didn’t need a visa. Before I even got there, I was issued a temporary passport indicating that I was not authorized to work. I was welcome, but with restrictions. It was in Switzerland that I first sealed my Macbook’s camera with a colorful marker sticker. I’m not sure how much that decision had to do with the residency, but the inspiration of a custom-made sticker pack by the Electronic Frontier Foundation certainly fell on fertile ground in the Helvetian climate of social control. The EFF had advertised its sticker as an “unhackable anti-surveillance technology.” From that moment on I often caught myself staring at the covered camera and wondering whether I was being paranoid. I imagined mice sitting behind a taped-over hole and trying to interpret the noises and reflections of light on the other side. In Fährmann’s book mentioned above, Willibald insisted on nailing the cat door to the garden shut. What the ruler over the mice either didn’t know or deliberately didn’t tell his subjects: the door had only swung outward to begin with, so no one was ever going to break into the house that way. By contrast, the threat that someone might invade my private sphere through the camera portal integrated into the computer wasn’t imaginary at all. Researchers had demonstrated how to remotely activate the camera without turning on the green control light that would alert the user. A new market seemed to open up, though one that promised to close the doors forever.
Geordneter Rückzug / Orderly Retreat
Orderly Retreat is the title of the exhibition of works by Steffen Zillig at Galerie Conradi’s Brussels showroom.
A video (Part I: Soil Samples) gives the floor to conspiracy theorists, fanatics, and others on the fringes of society who, in a tragic quest for self-expression, have painted themselves into a corner. Numerous YouTube videos appear on the screen, shifting around like windows on a computer desktop to form forever changing constellations. The magnetic allure of the collage pulls the viewer into lonely depths where the distinction between public and intimate expression no longer applies and truth disintegrates into “alternative facts” (as Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway put it). Amateur musicians repeatedly interrupt the narrators’ ramblings with selections from Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a popular Pink Floyd song. It is dedicated to the band’s former member Syd Barrett, whose heavy drug use led to a psychosis in which he lost touch with the real world around him. Another video in this section surveys the barren surface of the moon in silent and steady panning shots.
In the second part of the exhibition (Part II: Space Fantasy), a comic strip in eighteen panels explores the idea of an organized escape from Planet Earth. Collaging diverse adventure cartoons in the style of the 1970s, the picture story opens with dialogues in which the speakers voice their despair and disappointment over the state of Western civilization. They articulate views many visitors will have heard acquaintances or talk-show guests express; op-ed articles in newspapers, too, are rife with this sort of pessimism. In Zillig’s plot, the members of a secret society decide that they will no longer stand idle as the end of the world draws near. To prevent the complete and utter defeat of the Enlightenment ideals of emancipation and solidarity, they plan to separate the civilized segments of society from the idiotic masses—fear that the accomplishments of social progress will be lost turns into elitist isolation and conspiratorial escapism. Next to the comic strip, a projection shows a solitary astronaut floating in the void—the patient screensaver, as it were, of fatalism.
In terms of seeking, finding and using found material, Zillig’s installations, too, are permeated by an ‘internet state of mind’ (as curator Carson Chan once called it), an approach to thinking and linking learned through the internet and its mechanisms. At the same time, they contradict everything that is fashionable, any fascination with the purely technical, any unbroken pleasure in the contemporary. ‘The aesthetically new’, Zillig wrote in a text recently published in Kultur & Gespenster magazine, ‘is itself already corrupted; as the ultimate accelerator, it has entered into a union with the dominant economy’. Zillig’s work, too, speaks of the digital breaking into the material world. But his interest in this world remains political even where it seems concerned ‘only’ with aesthetic issues. (Kito Nedo, Frieze d/e)
Handlungsanweisungen / Instructions
Rue de la Régence 67
Conradi Gallery is pleased to show solo exhibitions of the work of Andrzej Steinbach in Brussels and Hamburg. The shows will present the artist’s new video Untitled (Instructions) and a selection from the series Figur I,II and Ordinary Stones (2015–2016). Steinbach’s interests focus on forms of representation and the way sociocultural factors inform contemporary constructions of identity. In his art, he undertakes a sustained engagement with the visual mechanisms of the photographic portrait.
Hoodie, jump boots, basic poses, and a simplistic setup—‘Figur I,II’ appropriates the style of a cutting-edge street wear photo series. The shaved head and other signals the model sends with his body would seem to confirm the subcultural codes implicit in the apparel. But certain choices cast doubt on any interpretation that reduces the pictures to a political or otherwise individualized message: the redundant repetition of similar poses and looks—the series, of which we show only selections, encompasses 184 shots—cancels out any singularity. The numbered figure does not permit inferences concerning the individual, wearing a more or less apathetic look in most pictures. The other character in the series, a dark-skinned young woman, does not seem to share this disavowal of her representation. Unaware of the fact that images are being produced, she does not pose; wrapped up in the scene and absorbed in her own action, she communicates authenticity. But then it is not ‘she’ but she as a ‘figure’ who unexpectedly gazes at the viewer from the picture—veiled except for the eyes, she is unrecognizable.
The more recent series ‘Ordinary Stones’ extends this critical engagement with the idea of personal identity. Although one of the pictures gestures toward a specific context in contemporary leftist politics—the young woman reclining on the bed is reading the new book by the French writers’ collective The Invisible Committee—she and the other individuals and objects appearing in the series are mostly treated with a view to a theoretical concern with depiction and as screens on which cultural codes are projected. The titles, simply consecutive numbers in combination with labels categorizing the poses and objects, suggest as much. A tension is palpable when the pictures are read as a cohesive ensemble: clenched fists, torn garments, a bomber jacket flung on the floor—the visual idiom, meanwhile, remains austere, matter-of-factly, and aesthetically compelling in a mysterious way. The conflicted subject is trapped in the moment of freezing-into-image, of self-contemplation and representation; emancipation is attainable only through action as an individual interwoven with society.
September 9 — October 15, 2016
Alejandro Almanza Pereda
Proposed by Thomas Jeppe, Umwelt Inversion brings together a group of works from Marina Pinsky, Anna Franceschini, Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Martine Syms, Richard Frater, and James Vinciguerra. In the frame of the switched, the reconfigured and the re-inscribed, these works are inversions of environmental elements which form in turn an inverted environment. This exhibition is the (inverted) spiritual sequel to the Unsere Umwelt gallery project held in a hole in the ground in Basel in June 2016.
Inversion is a process of transition between incompatibilities; conditions which cannot exist alongside one another. The overcoming of their counterpart state is a necessary step to be and to flourish.
Inversion implies a structural reconfiguration, for the object cannot change while continuing to obey the dictates of the thing which it was ceased to be.
The thing inverted has an ambivalent relationship to the idea of negotiation.When the thing is mercurial, floating and un-fixed, it knows diplomacy. At the point of inversion, it becomes unequivocal. This is the crossing of the threshold. For reasons peculiar to the case, the former state can no longer be tolerated and must be surpassed.
What appeals to the imagination is not the moment of inversion, but its vocabulary, both in the midst – and the aftermath – of transition.
And this transition, its incremental stages floating between the concrete ends of a spectrum, appears so uncanny because its working materials are 'the familiar'. The thing that is 'known' in one state only; a process at the knowledge of which the conservative feather cannot help but be ruffled.
But the thing does not change entirely. To be 'one thing' – then to undergo a shift – is not to obliterate an objective history but to embellish it.
To even be capable of such transformation – an initial malleability giving way to so emphatic a transition – inversion is an expression of 'stamina'.
In this stamina, the momentum of 'new order' meets with the thrill of variation; the thing's inverted aspects, aligned with perennial qualities of the former state, a certain sign of a dynamism entrenched.
The 'flip' is a ponderous concept, lavished in the sentiment of reflection.
Inversion does not simply mirror a situation; it produces it. In a decimating account of the thing's facets, it describes them and makes them concrete in the singular fell swoop of an opposite proffered.
The apparent opposite, trusted as definition, serves only to outline the complexity of endless oppositeness embodied. Rather than to each object its own certain inverse, there exist multiple possible inversions, any number of semantic realignments that serve to sever a moored being thought stable.
In the face of this inverted multiplicity, a binary conception dissolves in the realm of hyperbolic alternative. The 'mirror stage' of the knowing self becomes thus evanescent: no certain other emerges from the mottled view of crude reflections dormant at the glass.
To embody a difference anew is to crystallize a latency. This latency is a testament to an in-built fragmentation, one of myriad exclusivities; the inverted thing did always have a fractured unity.
The thing shifts in obedience to an obscure but irresistible impulse – the desire to know an altered state. But the certainty of the shift – the process a categorical re-inscription – 'bathes' the thing in a new lucidity.
As lucidity is next to luminosity, obscurity is next to the shadow; cast by the clarity of the thing inverted.
The true form of inversion presents a paradox of untold reach: to grasp inversion is to know perpetual shadows, ladies-in-waiting with each that fragrance no artifice can impart.
Burning in this diaphanous field, the original is reduced to ashes, but these ashes are not cast from memory.
Neutrality is a vacuum, an abyss; inversion is its definitive refute.
The analysis of inversion requires venturing towards contradiction to obtain the confirmation of a fact, the thought of which enchants me.
Inversion is, at its political peaks, testament to a coexistence. These ruminations on the topic, the 'barren' frivolity of which we forget for the windfall of a single revelation, are devised to elaborate on some lingering uncertainties around the mechanics of inversion.
They are shared in the hope that there will soon be no illusion left to shatter.
June 24 — July 16 2016
Soft Core-Audio-Visual Room
Alice Peragine’s work employs the means of performance and installation art to scrutinize institutionalized power relations. She transposes everyday mechanisms of control such as airport security procedures into new contexts in reenactments that allow us to see them with a fresh and critical eye. Central themes in Peragine’s work include rituals of inclusion and exclusion, the imprints of structural violence upon the body, and the definition of public and private spaces in light of changing conceptions of security.
The centerpiece of Soft Core – Audio/Visual Room, her first solo show at Galerie Conradi, is a looped slide projection showing a projectile as it enters a bulletproof vest. The artist dismantled the images—found video footage recorded on a high-speed camera—into separate segments and transferred them onto slides. A contact microphone transmits the sound of the projector as it loads picture after picture to a mixing console connected to a walkie-talkie that in turn amplifies it and broadcasts it to additional walkie-talkies scattered throughout the room. With this arrangement, Peragine has created an inexorable and claustrophobic cycle that dissects the act of physical violence and enhances it with a psychological component. Endlessly repeated, it not only leaves an indelible mark on the exhibition space, but also becomes seared on the viewer’s mind, evoking a powerfully oppressive sense of menace. The ruthlessness of the machine contrasts with the vulnerable surface of the human body. Peragine stages the sinister scene of an unstoppable machinery to symbolize questions that are essential at a time when growing fears and a new desire for protection reshape contemporary life.
Additional typical implements of security and surveillance technology complement the exhibition while gesturing back to the performance Soft Core — Protection Procedure Peragine staged in May 2016 on Rathausmarkt square in Hamburg as part of Stadtkuratorin Hamburg’s festival What Time Is It on the Clock of the World*. Eight actors dressed in flesh-tone uniforms tethered to each other by dog leashes marked out the scene in front of Hamburg’s City Hall, moving in ever closer circles as instructed by an anonymous operator. The commands were simultaneously transmitted to wireless headphones that were handed out to festival visitors, passersby, and tourists. In the exhibition, the audio recording of the operator’s voice can be heard echoing from a security headset suspended from the ceiling. The actors’ vests and leashes, too, resurface in the gallery as traces of the performance and its protagonists, illuminated, like the Ear Guard, by flashlights. The artist thus transfers the performative intervention in public space to the comparatively private setting of an art gallery. Heard in conjunction, the two strands of the exhibition lay out an artistic analysis of the analogical and causal interrelation between our personal need to feel safe and the potential consequences for individual freedom.(Tobias Peper)
8 April – May 28 2016
Shiver Metimbers – I Don't Mind Watching Things Split
Ehsan Soheyli Rad
Shiver Metimbers—an exhibition on competitiveness, excellence, the will to prevail, and adaptation strategies in art and society. The selected videos, objects, and pictures scrutinize the affirmative as well as self-reflective stance art takes vis-à-vis a globalized society and its systems of media representation from a variety of angles.
Rosanna Graf’s video Cargo, for example, incorporates material from the digital image archives of so-called scam baiters: vigilantes posing as clueless victims who respond to fraudulent scam mails in order to gain the confidence of the anonymous offenders—and eventually out and shame them. The archive contains a collection of portrait shots of exposed “Nigeria scammers,” the majority of them from southern or western Africa. Two cultures with two narrative patterns of mutual deception clash; the authors interact under cover of pseudonyms such as Shiver Metimbers, the moniker chosen by the founder of one online forum. The collective narrative practice engenders a disturbing pictorial typology, not least because the loss of anonymity is especially apt to shatter the victim’s personal dignity. Cultural anthropologists have discussed this example of trans-media storytelling in the context of post-colonial and global economic power structures. Cargo turns these structures upside down—the bizarre poses and acts are reenacted in a media-savvy production featuring professional performers from Western industrial countries. Their routines have the air of an initiation rite practiced by a modernized society that invokes its faith in progress through mantra-like repetitions and pseudo-religious gestures, a ceremony for which it has appropriated an exotic phenomenon: the belief behind what are known in cultural anthropology as cargo cults. The real horror is transplanted into the cultural context of a sophisticated society given to playful navel-gazing, a transfer that highlights the inextricable entanglement. The imperturbable cool with which beautiful young people pour out the white liquid from a JA! milk carton over their heads is so excessively ‘arty’ that little remains of the authentic misery that resonates in the original. Regardless of how credible the source images are, the reference is precarious, unlike the situation of the characters—sheltered by the neutralizing white cube aesthetic, their integrity remains invulnerable to actual ridicule.
Ehsan Soheyli Rad’s work pinpoints moments of transition and ambiguous situations, visual constellations that challenge the viewer to decide. His contribution to the exhibition is a work from the series untitled #7, which shows various chess positions captured before monochrome backdrops in the style of sober studio photography. A minor alteration of the original photographs—all pieces are gray—has rendered all decisions obsolete and the chess set unusable. The sight of a purposeless strategy game in which no move has any consequences raises a question that is existential to art: that of its own variables. At the same time, the metaphor speaks to a society whose self-image is based on the notion of limitless freedom of choice among individual visions of how to live. Today’s prevailing multioptionalism, which is also reflected by the complexity of global economic and political developments as portrayed by the media, leaves the individual mentally overloaded and disoriented; hence the growing need for clearly defined enemies, threat scenarios, and control mechanisms that help shore up shared identities. The chess match figures as a visual analogue to a capitalist society in which the spectrum of individual decision-making is largely defined by economic parameters.
Johannes Bendzulla appropriates ideas about art that have become popular stereotypes to make works that adumbrate the alarming possibility that art might itself be driving the commercialization of the concept of creativity in marketing and the lifestyle industry and fueling the ascendancy of the neoliberal zeitgeist: is not the artist, the poster boy for authenticity and highly efficient self-management, the new capitalism’s model citizen? Bendzulla’s works ratchet up the mannerisms of artistic self-styling until they become semantically hollow. An abstract picture in the exhibition bears the inscription Young Businessman Relaxing While Painting. It is one in a series and makes reference to the Pantone® Fashion Color Report, a brochure published biannually in time for the fashion seasons. With trendy cultural disaffection, the report describes the colors for the 2015 spring season as tokens of the growing longing for authenticity and naturalness in a society stressed out by alienation and short-lived fads. The artist adopts the marketing strategy for himself: the title of his series, Spring 2015—En Plein Air, invokes the lushness we associate with outdoor painting and Impressionism. The backdrops in the pictures on display feature the current season’s in-colors; the gestural style is a product of digital manipulation. For his motifs, Bendzulla resorts to stock photography databases, subordinating the use of his own creative energies—his authorship—to the fashion of the day: a conceptual curtailment of the artist’s ambitions.
The Russian avantgardists saw themselves as the creators of a progressive art that would remold society; their ultimate goal was to forge the New Man. Translated into Indonesian, the phrase is emblazoned on a large fabric picture by Edi Danartono: Orang Baru. The contemporary feel of the typography and the exotic aesthetic bring the avantgardes’ ambition up to date by intertwining it with a reference to modern colonialism: as a wealthy society seeks healing from its profound ennui in slogans about sustainability and various schemes promising a new sense of purpose, small farmers in South America and Indonesia keep being edged out by big agribusinesses that plant monocultures to cater to consumers in the European Union. The air of craftsmanship and folklore the work exudes hints at another civilizational nexus: the graphic design of the backdrop is borrowed from the endpaper of an illustrated book in which the nineteenth-century anthropologist and African explorer Paul Du Chaillu published his observations of the Koolookamba, a hybrid of gorilla and chimpanzee; legend had it this species was the closest relative of Homo sapiens. According to one study in evolutionary biology, however, it is birds that have won out in the contest for advanced adaptability, whence the Pinnacle of Evolution award given to their species in a ceremony featuring an ensemble of eight sculptures.
February 12 — March 26 2016
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
I don’t feel like painting! … but he has no mercy on her, she is his, the artist is on the leash and has everything she needs to paint. Her master has taken care of that. Cordula Ditz has assembled these and other sequences and stills from over three hundred digitized horror movies in four filmic collages that were on view as part of her multimedia installation Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye at Galerie Conradi.
Compared to earlier videos by the artist, these new pieces reveal a different approach to the material she appropriates. In the video loops—see, for example, the series You’d Better Run—her intervention is minimal, serving merely to isolate certain sequences from the narrative continuum in which they are embedded. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye now consolidates several sources in each of the videos, by collaging the results of a similar systematic process of ablation: Ditz prunes the films she works with, removing visual material to obtain brief self-contained sentences. Manipulated versions of these fragments appear superimposed in staggered arrangements and in new settings. Projections, monitors, and the other elements of the exhibition multiply the effect of the simultaneity of images, transposing it into an installation mise-en-scène in the gallery.
A computer-generated animated black-and-white grid pattern breaks up the flood of images, resolving in an even and calm motion into its constructive elements and then reassembling as though of its own accord—a reference to the normative principle of visually powerful productions as well as an analogy to the numerous layers of reality and surfaces. When an indentured painter and a blind art dealer appear amid all the women looking alarmed or delirious or trying to escape, that is an ironically self-reflective examination of the idea of authenticity, gesturing beyond gender-specific questions to culture and the formation of identity as a constructed framework constraining individual action—the film intertwines subjectivity, perception, delusion, and disillusionment in a vortex of paranoid visual spaces and situations. The attractive female figure unconsciously parodying her sensuality is left with the choice between flight and destruction, and in a moment of epic resignation, she declares: … Nothing is Real!
November 21 — December 20 2015
Hoch Über dem Un/Mut Thront die Kraft/ Endzeit iNIKE
Maximum performance, expertise coupled with the utmost efficiency. iNike: my own power makes me compelling. A consumerist aesthetic that promises optimum capacity—beyond any quality—suggests premium profit without limits on availability. Self-exploitation under the spell of an illusion, for the complete self-realization of an I in the purely narcissistic style. No imperfections, no scratches, nothing but sleek and flawless planes: the hallmark of our time. The play with surfaces and superficiality is refreshing. Arrangements of what seem to be ordinary objects and rituals. Yet the focused gaze uncovers a sensual dimension, and as its true purport emerges, sleekness gives way to vulnerability. (Text: Marenka Krasomil)
The Swiss artist Balz Isler’s performances and exhibitions examine today’s visual culture. His critical study of conceptions of identity and contemporary manifestations of pathos unfolds as a hypertext combining a wide variety of visual, sonic, and spatial planes of reference. He draws on a wide variety of popular imageries, primarily Internet folklore and the culture of clips and documentaries. Isler’s art encompasses performances, videos, pictures, and objects conceived and presented in an installation setting.
Balz Isler (b. 1982) studied time-based media with Jeanne Faust at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg and now lives in Berlin. He has staged lecture performances and performative concerts at numerous venues and institutions, including Museum Folkwang, Essen (2012), and Kampnagel (2014), and performed with Boyz in the Woods as part of Art Basel Salon. In 2015 Isler has been on stage at Ludwig Forum, Aachen, the Burgtheater, Vienna, and during the Videonale at Kunstmuseum Bonn.
September 13 — October 16 2015
See What You See!
For his third solo exhibition at Galerie Conradi, Sven Neygenfind has selected four large works on canvas. The show’s title, See What You See!, refers to a popular Frank Stella quote—and expressly contradicts it. Stella, who sees himself as an exponent of the first generation of artists for whom abstract painting was an unquestioned—and perhaps even the only—option, took aim at abstract expressionism with its emotional intensity and gestural mannerism when he asserted a basic form of objectivity: What you see is what you see.Neygenfind is no less wary of dramatic gestures and expressive theatrics, but unlike Stella he assumes that the beholder looking at his work cannot be objective—what you see is never just what you see! Only our awareness of our own subjectivity makes a meaningful engagement with the world, and art, possible: that is the basic idea underlying his art, and so each of his pictures is a fresh quest for strategies to avoid constraining the viewer’s interpretation with explicit guidance. This work, we should note, is not about the implementation of an idea in a picture. Neygenfind’s aspiration is to make the authorial involvement fade away as a complex ensemble of surfaces, planes, and structures emerges, by initiating processes of dissociation and gradually leaving the picture to its own—and the beholder’s—resources. Working on individual pieces over extended periods of time, he applies various techniques of elution, effacement, and ablation. Classical and utterly simple materials such as linseed oil, turpentine, pigment, or packing tape form crusts, traces, residues, impressions on the unprimed surfaces. The support medium’s physical characteristics come to the fore. Neygenfind describes these interventions as a sort of progressive decluttering, a work of unearthing, a search for the picture. Eventually, the painterly processes result in the desired outcome: a state of affairs in which as much as possible is left in abeyance—the vestige, we might say, of a struggle with ideas whose sway the picture has shaken off in the process of its genesis.
Sven Neygenfind was born in Wolfsburg in 1975 and lives and works in Hamburg. He studied with B.J. Blume at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg.
June 5 — 11 July 11 2015
Axel Bullert was born in the final minutes of World War II. In Berlin. In the basement beneath the hospital in Wilmersdorf. He never met his father. In 1947, his mother moved herself and the baby to Hamburg, where she started working at the Harburg theatre.
Axel lived with his grandmother for a while before his mother gave him into the care of an orphanage, not an unusual arrangement at the time. Later on, he and his mother moved to Neu-Wulmsdorf, where Axel started to show behavioral problems that—also something that was hardly unusual at the time—got him committed to a youth center.
In the early 1960s, he and many other runaways roamed the streets of Hamburg, where the scars of the war were still visible everywhere. One favorite haunt of these voluntarily homeless teenagers was the Palette on ABC-Straße just off Gänsemarkt. When Axel clambered down the stairs to the joint one summer day in 1962, his speechless appeal had already won him many admirers. That summer, however, he became an epiphany for the writer Hubert Fichte, his senior by ten years. Fichte’s desire transmuted Axel into the “Rose of Sharon,” a protagonist in the Song of Songs, sung by Solomon, who was “sick with love”.
Unlike the lyric poet Stefan George, who, around the turn of the twentieth century, created a cult around Maximilian Kronberger, a boy from Munich, Fichte was only peripherally interested in idealization. His love for Axel became Axel’s love. Axel’s speechlessness became the foundation for the writer’s projections: he became a vessel Fichte integrated into his literary oeuvre in forever new variations, including as the writer’s alter ego. Yet Axel was by no means a victim. He was very much interested in being part of something. As Ingeborg Bullert described her son, he was, despite his autistic disposition, unwilling and incapable of immersing himself in anything: he needed feedback and valued his effect on others.
After a romantic excursus into seafaring came his first encounter with LSD. The drug presumably served him as a social trigger—Harun Farocki recalls Bullert coming back from a trip to Switzerland with entire hospital packs, to the thrill of the denizens of the basement bar—but it probably also helped him in his struggle against heteronormative rituals. The American philosopher Terence McKenna has described cannabis, psilocybin, DMT, LSD, and other psychedelics as “catalysts of intellectual dissent.” In his book The Archaic Revival, he suggested that these drugs were illegal “not because it troubles anyone that you have visions” but because “there is something about them that casts doubts on the validity of reality.” This makes it difficult even for patriarchal “dominator” societies to accept psychedelics.
This observation sounds like an echo of Fichte’s calls for what he labeled “Verschwulung der Welt,” “queering the world.” The formula was meant as a shorthand for a utopian scenario in which ritual barriers become permeable or vanish altogether. Ultimately, “queering” means humanization: a vision in which human beings are seen as themselves. Axel and Fichte discussed their bi-sexuality in probing conversations. Fichte championed “ideals not idols”—his desire for a relationship, however, remained unrequited.
Axel found what he believed was the realization of a utopian vision in the American theater company The Living Theatre. Founded in 1948 by Judith Malina and Julian Beck, both former students of Erwin Piscator, the Living Theatre was a troupe of professional actors as well as amateurs who sought to jolt audiences out of their civilized lethargy with transformative experiences of excess and ecstasy not unlike Artaud’s theater of cruelty. Their ambition: “Whatever is yet unborn can be born (through theater).” The group had fled the U.S. for Berlin in 1964 after being prosecuted over a tax dispute. Axel joined the group in 1965, in a double role: as an actor in the troupe’s outer orbit and as its designated purveyor of drugs.
He’d begun to professionalize his trade in illegal substances; he was hardly the postwar era’s first drug dealer, but he stood out for his excellent access to drugs and information. Captagon and Pervitin (two amphetamine derivates that were popular with beatniks) and Preludin (a synthetic morphine) were among his basic staples. The segue from psychedelics to uppers and downers was characteristic of the period leading up to what is often described as a paradigm shift in the transition from the 1960s to the 1970s. The juvenile home system had instilled a yearning for freedom in him; magazines like twen, meanwhile, capitalized on the same longings. Against what the parents, the war generation, meant when they said “we and you,” these young people sought a new “we,” but in the oppressive social atmosphere of the time, what was initially a vision of gentleness and unity degenerated into a drift toward radicalism. And radicalism needed no artificial second reality, only clearly labeled “On!” and “Off!” switches.
Soon enough, Axel was involuntarily institutionalized. It was his second stint in a psychiatric hospital; a few years earlier, he had committed himself in the vain hope that he would find illumination in a therapeutic setting (“I’ll take assisted living over living a lie!”). This time he was forcibly admitted after a breakdown; it took the dedicated efforts of a young lawyer, Otto Schily, to get him out. As a condition of his release, the court ordered Axel to stay away from Berlin and return to his mother’s apartment in Hamburg.
As luck would have it, the Living Theatre was just then—this was in early 1967—beginning preparations for a production in the main auditorium of Hamburg’s university. Yet the project ended on a disappointing note for Axel: he learned that the ensemble would leave without him for its first appearance in the U.S. after three years in exile. He started shooting up synthetic morphine and made a first attempt to take his own life.
A few days later—on June 27, 1967, three weeks after the murder of Benno Ohnesorg—Axel asked a female friend he knew from Palette to stay with him as he overdosed. Coming home, Ingeborg Bullert found her son dead on her bed. They’d made plans to see Peter Brook’s movie version of Peter Weiss’s The Persecution and Assassination of Jean Paul Marat that night. Axel had been very fond of the play, especially the final scene in which the mental asylum inmates led by de Sade threaten to tear down the barrier separating them from the audience—inaugurating the triumph of irrationality and the unconscious over Marat’s cool reason and the social principle he represents.
The first spy mirrors were installed in 1964, when Helmut Schmidt, who would later become chancellor of West Germany, was Hamburg’s senator of the interior; the last mirror was placed in the public bathroom on Rathausmarkt in 1973, after the second reform of section 175 of the German penal code had decriminalized homosexual acts. The authorities argued that observations of public bathrooms were necessary to put a stop to the “disgusting advances” (police spokesman Peter Kelling) by importunate homosexuals reported by “unsuspecting normal users” of these facilities.
twen & Peter Moosleitners interessantes Magazin
twen also regularly broached political issues such as the Nazi past the majority of West Germans preferred to forget, or the student movement. Its basic tendency was leftist-liberal, and the magazine’s writers moved in the same circles as the makers of konkret, pardon, and the popular-science periodical P.M.-Magazin. In this regard, twen may also be regarded as part of the media environment of the extra-parliamentary opposition and, subsequently, the “movement of ’68” broadly conceived.
Behind the green door
Marilyn Chambers is abducted and taken to a sex theater, where she is forced to perform various sexual acts before a masked audience. In the opening scene, a female pantomime appears on the stage with a green door in the back. Backstage, Marilyn is seduced or hypnotized by Lisa Grant. Then the green door opens and Marilyn is led onstage, where six women undress and sexually stimulate her. Group sex and other scenes follow. Marilyn Chambers says not a single word in the entire film.
St. Pauli at night
Otto Retzer’s pseudo-documentary film Babystrich im Sperrbezirk (1983) about the various forms of prostitution shows the director in—usually staged—interviews with underage as well as adult prostitutes, both female and male, in the streets of various German cities (the different locations also prompt funny dialogue in local vernaculars without which the flick wouldn’t be a true Lisa Film production). Unfortunately, Retzer’s interviewing technique leaves no room for truly surprising insight. Time and again, his interest, which may well have been genuine, is undermined by his sensationalism.
The room sheet
The two-dimensional universe of images and surfaces may be an evolutionary step forward, but it is not the final destination. It gives way to writing, which satisfies the need for cause-and-effect connections; causality promises order and persuasive explanations. This new universe of writing and history is linear and one-dimensional, accommodating the narrative and process-based logic of beginnings and endings, events and their repercussions and giving rise to the “world of ideas” and the “conceptual universe of texts, calculations, narratives and explanations that serve as projects for nonmagical action.”
March 27 — May 9 2015
Lazy Poet Read A Book
Galerie Conradi is pleased to present Lazy Poet Read a Book, a set of new works by Suse Bauer in which she revisits her critical exploration of the painter’s support medium and questions of composition.
In the exhibition, coins, blanking chads, nails, worm-shaped ceramic curls, and similar detritus add up to a subjective collection that might have its origin in the artist’s studio, in a personal interest in anthropology, or in an effort to build a record of a history. Together with pictures and fragments of pictures, these elements are arranged on five large monochrome primed canvases on metal backings and held in place by magnets. The various components form temporary ensembles that reveal closer or more distant affinities and read as pictorial proposals the artist offers the viewer. The ceramic objects evince traces of their manual facture; they are bits and pieces isolated from the physical context of the studio in which they figured as tools or residues of the creative process. The painted pieces of canvas as well as the paper monotypes—a printing technique in which only a single print is made from a plate, producing a unique work of art—serve as visual media duplicating the canvas, reducing the latter to the status of a colorful backdrop.
As in earlier works by Bauer, similar objects appear several times over in the arrangements, functioning in different ways in the respective visual contexts. Yet the magnetic fixation of the objects on the canvas leaves the arrangement open to modification, turning the index of the artist’s manual intervention into a compositional proposal, a status quo between random configuration and signifier that operates on different scales.
The compositions, moreover, are now created in the horizontal register: laid out flat on the ground, the canvas acts as a segment of floor or the surface of a desk or drafting board, to be subsequently set upright like a painted panel. This approach has its origin in Bauer’s use of the scanner, with which she turned various paper and cardboard arrangements into digital collages she then printed out to make wall pictures. Calling the picture plane a “flatbed” (Leo Steinberg introduced the term in “Other Criteria” with reference to Robert Rauschenberg’s work, alluding to the printing press’s flatbed) has been one way since the advent of postmodernism to describe the ways artists have used the visual support medium for purposes other than the illusion of depth: as surfaces on which diverse information can be placed and assorted.
The metaphor of the computer display as a desktop builds on the same conception of the visual surface; our habits of seeing have adapted to the idea of the monochrome flatbed as a user interface on which information is collated. Suse Bauer’s arrangements transform that interface into the scene of an artistic gesture that acknowledges the need for sorting but defies the attempt to impose a univocal reading.
Curated by Rebekka Seubert, two guided tours of the exhibition have been held on April 8 from 6 to 7pm. The archaeologist Kay-Peter Suchowa, who will excavate the foundations of the old city wall and the earliest Church of Saint Nicholas on Hopfenmarkt until June, and the philosopher Roger Behrens, who studies critical theory and the aesthetics of postmodernism, shared their particular perspectives on the exhibition with the audience.
January 30 — March 14 2015
Schwerwiegende Übersetzungsprobleme (Serious Translation Issues)
In the beginning there is a moment of confusion. ‘Bladerunner’? Philip Gaißer’s new exhibition opens with a comic strip. The visitor who initially misreads the title is led astray by the popularity of the movie. But the name really is ‘Bladeruiner’; styling himself as a dark hero, he is wanted for eco-terrorism—the comic strip illustrates the method of ‘tree spiking,’ an act of radical sabotage against the logging industry. The original can be found in ‘Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching,’ a book edited by the American environmental activist Dave Foreman that came out in 1985. Another misreading: environmentalism is clearly not what this show is about. Gaißer presents the source as well as two versions of his own in which he has replaced the copy. Two artists were provided with very different information and wrote texts to accompany the original comic strip in the show. Matching this thorough recasting of the content, the sheets evince a shift of tone: they were made using the cyanotype process, with varying exposure times. This use of a process from the early days of photography is one of many references indicating the exhibition’s media-specific discourse tying the photographic works, drawings, prints, and sculptures together. The complex use of media and the incorporation of cross-references are characteristic of Philip Gaißer’s approach; they suggest the rigorous theoretical construction guiding his engagement with the concept of photography. A conception that ranges far and wide through cultural history—from zoological archives to enthusiastic travel accounts from the age of Enlightenment, from inventories of extinct species to the militant defense of nature in the 1980s—in an effort to compile potential points of reference defining the exhibition context as a scene of synoptic contemplation that challenges the viewer to reflect on techniques of presenting and seeing.
The series of five pictures of prepared Eurasian jays, for example, ties in with the comic-strip posters in formal terms. Here, too, an aspect of imaging is explicitly included in the picture: in all five photographs, the identical color sample card—labeled ‘normal blue,’ it features a scale of three shade of blue—served as the neutral backdrop before which the jays were captured in the decorative style of classical studio photography. In the context of the bird’s scientific classification and the presentation of the Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Russian variants of the species, the tableaux give the bird an opportunity to show off its phenotypes. Demonstrative behavior, for that matter, is one of the jay’s special skills, though it primarily relies on it for purposes of simulation and mystification. That is something the timid woodland bird has in common with the mysterious ‘Bladeruiner’: both are masters of deception. The taxidermied specimens have lain for decades in forgotten archives of Hamburg’s zoological museum; each has a label with detailed information about its provenance, the year it entered the collection, and the associated archival record number tied to its feet. The question of the actual scientific value of these objects hardly matters: they are fetishes, the prized possessions of a passionate collector.
Deeper into the exhibition, a thirty-three-part work on paper constitutes a chart of extinct bird species. The images are drawn from a variety of literary sources from the age of Enlightenment, among them the memoirs of traveling natural scientists like the eighteenth-century German ethnologist Georg Forster, who joined James Cook’s second voyage round the world. The spare aesthetic of the folios and the archival austerity of their presentation contrast with illustrious names such as “Guadalupe caracara” or “Réunion ibis.” The beholder fills the void left by what cannot be documented in his imagination, supplying the colors and sizes of the eyes specified in notes. We have no way of ascertaining even remotely objective color values for these erstwhile denizens of the South Seas.
November 22 2014 — January 10 2015
Liquid Ghosts - Linked Machines
Liquid Ghosts—Linked Machines is the first solo exhibition of art by Yann-Vari Schubert (b. 1984) at Galerie Conradi. The works on display derive from Schubert’s searching reflections on the aesthetic functionality of contemporary media of communication.
The naturalizing metaphors in the realm of digital information technologies and their technological implementation in interface designs that facilitate intuitive use suggest that a utopian vision of cybernetics has become reality: the harmonious coexistence of man, nature, and machine. But this ideal contrasts with the growing regimentation of the circumstances of our lives by algorithmic organizational structures that remain concealed beneath the veil of appearances to allow for smooth workflows.
One metaphor that has become established as a prominent ambassador of this immaterial world of free information exchange relies on the vehicle of liquidity. It is not limited to the linguistic domain; the visual universes of the IT-related industries brim with images of computer-generated liquids, inviting associations of naturalness. Yet just as data streams cannot be compared to the physical laws of fluid mechanics, these animated liquids have no flow properties resembling those of actual fluids. Very much unlike the unpredictable characteristics of the latter, their flows are defined by a system of channels whose inputs and outputs are defined from the outset by algorithmic functions.
Schubert’s artistic practice employs computer programs and their functions. However, he manipulates the technical manufacturing processes to lend his pictorial products a physical presence informed not only by the digital input, but also by the physical properties of the specific material he works with.
In “H2RHO,” the fluid acts as a disruptive element: a water basin serves as the support medium in a UV printing process. The original motif is a regular field of horizontal black lines that match the trajectory of the print head. As the automated printing process takes its course, the water is set in motion, producing ripples whose propagation runs contrary to the path of the print head. Due to interference between these diverging movements, the original line graphic disintegrates, revealing the printing inks (cyan, magenta, and yellow) that would otherwise be buried under black. The final visual outcome is also influenced by the evaporation process and varies depending on the ambient temperature and humidity.
To make the crayon drawings, Schubert uses a computer-controlled milling cutter he adapted for this purpose, replacing the milling bit with a holder for crayons. The panels shown in the exhibition hint at an individual hand, but the crayon strokes stylistically match the constant parameters of machine-made work.
September 7 — October 25 2014
Lost in Connotation
Lost in Connotation is the title of Thomas Jeppe’s second solo show at Galerie Conradi. An expansive structure painted sky-blue, the open architecture of the pergola (Social Sculpture 1, 2) defines an organization of the exhibition space that is echoed by the sculptures and pictures as an arrangement of corresponding elements. Face to face with the paintings, an architectural intervention in the gallery space and specific local reference (The Bench) points to a social praxis in the urban context the artist himself engages in. The Bench is the show’s thematic pivot, as the essay published in conjunction with the opening explains:
One of our basic community practices is Benching, a ritual of critical disengagement in a fixed civic ambiance. Benching involves playful-deconstructive behaviour and awareness of psychosociological situations, and is thus quite different from the classic notions of relaxation and recuperation. (...) from a Benching point of view cities have psychosociological contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly encourage stopping at certain zones. But Benching includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychosociological variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities. In this latter regard, social theatre, despite the narrow public space to which it limits itself, provides abundant evocative data. The ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures in the urban network, of the role of microclimates, of distinct neighbourhoods with no relation to administrative boundaries, and above all of the dominating action of centres of attraction, must be utilised and completed by this psychosociological method. The objective passional terrain of the Bench must be defined in accordance both with its own logic and with its relations with social morphology.
(Manuel Bürger & Thomas Jeppe, Theory of the Bench, 2014)
* (Théorie de la Dérive, Guy Debord, In: Internationale Situationniste #2, Paris, December 1958).
The essay, an appropriation of Guy Debord’s 1958 text, draws connections between concepts developed by the Situationist International and the reconquest of public spaces practiced by the artist and his circle. An anarchist publication from 1970s Zurich provides a visual motif that is central to the exhibition: the globe as a blind man walking with a stick—isolated from its original context and transplanted, as an allegorical figure, into the referential system of the show, the forward-looking world comes to illustrate a critique of cultural production: Lost in Connotation. The public space as a site of social interaction (The Bench) and The Club as a paradigmatic scene of heightened mental and physical awareness and experience mark the points of departure for larger questions of cultural theory. The painting of the Darkroom pictures is so austere and classical as to verge on the theatrical; the architectural elements in the show, meanwhile, invite active participation.
June 13— July 26 2014
Tintin Patrone describes herself as a performance artist, instrument maker and—using a label she has adopted from the experimental musician and performance artist Frieder Butzmann (b. 1954)—‘noisemakista.’ Her performances and installations include elements from punk rock, Fluxus, and Futurism. Another important inspiration that informs her artistic practice is the culture of associations and clubs; she often performs with her orchestra or cooperates with other artists and collectives. For her first solo show at Conradi, the artist has designed a site-specific work in space. The opening will be celebrated with a performance of her Krachkisten Orchester in the gallery.
The Krachkisten Orchester produces improvised electric sounds. In addition to gigs at Hamburg’s Golem and Golden Pudel clubs, the orchestra, which was founded in 2009, has toured Germany and Europe. In the past several years, various artists’ initiatives such as the French performance art network dimanche rouge and the Belgian project for performative art sign 6 invited the Krachkisten Orchester to Paris, Brussels, and Helsinki; machine raum, a Danish platform for video art and digital culture, brought the ensemble to the Vejle Kunstmuseum.
Inspired by the intonarumori (noise-intoners) the Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo (b. 1883) invented, the Krachkisten or noise boxes used in the orchestra’s concerts are homemade analogue instruments enhanced with electronic components taken from dismantled children’s toys. The presentation in an exhibition space highlights the modernist-looking design of the boxes, lending them a sculptural appeal that complements their functionality. This sort of interplay between music, art, sound, and experimental gestures is what Tintin Patrone is interested in.
With its monumental aura and visual allure, the multipart picture that takes up the entire row of windows in the gallery creates the impression that one is standing in a cathedral or before an altar. At the center of the loudly colorful triptych, Big Bird sits on his throne in the guise of a double-headed hybrid eagle, flanked by Dave Gahan, who has fallen to his knees in reverence, and other legendary creatures, Aztec deities, and assorted minor beasts that populate this stylized world out of time and space—all of them icons from typefaces that are available for free online. Letters turn into little birds, text becomes image, the popular code for an iconographic program that aims at rapid persuasion and the ritual annunciation of ebullience, everywhere and in radiant colors and as secular as possible! Like the artist’s work in the performative register, this visual production implements the processes of appropriation on which it is based with a self-reflective gesture. But where the Krachkisten Orchestra and projects like the Musicmotorcycle Club stand for social interaction, what the artist composes in her monumental picture, though no less loud, is also desolate distortion by overmodulation of image, culture, and history: a winged altarpiece for the new positive society.
Tintin Patrone was born in Marburg in 1983. She studied at the University of Fine Arts, taking classes with Korpus & Löffler, Haegue Yang, and Matti Braun. In 2013, she received the Kunstbeutel Förderpreis emerging artist award. Her noise boxes were recently on display in the exhibition “Booster. Art Sound Machine” at the MARTa, Herford and at the Moscow Biennale.
April 29 — May 16 2014
Rock Shop II
Rock Shop II is Nadja Frank’s second solo exhibition at Galerie Conradi. The artist, who lives in New York, spent much of the past several years working on various projects in the deserts of North and Central America, returning with a sizable collection of rocks. They form the basis for a series of silkscreen prints the artist presents together with an installation produced in the gallery. One defining aspect of Frank’s art is her abiding interest in the prerequisites of painting, sculpture, and a process-based engagement with the landscape and public space, as was already evident in the paintings she executed in the marble quarries of Carrara such as 44° 05’ N 10° 08’ E ZIDO.
The exhibition is clearly structured: three elements, each of which charts an approach to a cross-genre artistic practice, relate to each other on several levels. The silkscreen prints show selected rocks from the artist’s collection. The labels included in titles such as rock19 (White Sands/New Mexico) identify the place where she found a particular rock, in a nod to the systematic approach of object collectors. The process of archiving, categorization, and depiction and the serial presentation place the found rocks on one plane of reality with the specimens she bought as souvenirs in so-called rock shops as well as the replicas of rocks and nuggets the artist has hewn from her own temporary sculptures.
Across the room, several monochrome painted panels mounted on simple wooden slats are set against the wall. At first glance, the installation Not Now But Later suggests disused picket signs or guide markers someone picked up and put into storage. Beheld side by side, the natural color pigments on the panels—warm earth tones and metallic blues—blend into a varicolored horizon line or a monumental painting reflecting the light and colors of the American desert Southwest, where signs posted here and there in the desolate landscape propose a form of localization in space. The installation responds to the gallery’s architecture: composed of numerous different partly overlapping and juxtaposed surfaces, the painterly-sculptural composition strives to make a mark while also seeking to spread out into a broad expanse. The painted surface is the source of an opening toward a three-dimensional pictorial space, a staggered arrangement, the intimation of a landscape.
The transitional aspect returns in the sculpture The Moon Moves 1 Inch a Year Away from Us. Two glass cases filled with different materials rest on simple pedestals made of porous concrete. In the lower container, the reaction between water, sand, concrete, and pigment has run its course by the time the exhibition opens, leaving the case filled with several accreted layers in different colors. Meanwhile, the process in the second vessel remains incomplete: salt, gold pigment, and water react to produce golden salt crystals growing upward along a jute cord toward the gallery’s ceiling. The piece is primarily about visualizing generative processes that continue as the exhibition is on display, tracing an evanescent horizon line through the exhibition space.
February 2 — March 15 2014
A Bankrupt Heart
In her solo exhibition, Cordula Ditz presents a video work shot in Detroit and the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada, A Bankrupt Heart (2014); a selection from Ohnmacht #1–#60 (2013), a series of altogether sixty pictures; and the works on paper Shooting Drawings Detroit, Glock (2013), also made in Detroit.
The extensive collection of images of unconscious women is drawn from found footage, primarily from horror and monster movies. In its visual clarity, the series illustrates the principles of Ditz’s approach, which the artist also brings to bear in her video pieces: appropriation, visual reduction, repetition, and standardization foster comparability, disorientation, and displacement. As in her earlier works on video, Ditz resorts to an analytical and formalist practice to address issues in the theory of art and media as well as questions of gender in the making and consumption of art. In its iconography, the series refers to the cultural history of images of woman in film and art history between the passivity of the helpless victim and her idealization.
The twenty-four selected feminine pose of ostentatious powerlessness contrast with the video work A Bankrupt Heart (16 min.). It features photographs and film sequences shot in the ghost town of Rhyolite and deserted streets in Detroit. Desolate cities and abandoned homes carry sinister undertones; classical motifs in the horror genre, they are subject to structural examination in other video pieces by Ditz as well. In addition to these formal aspects, the works in the exhibition are united by the social anxieties they register: the powerlessness of the individual in the face of overriding economic forces and political systems. Rhyolite was a highly modern city in Death Valley that was rapidly built during the gold rush of the early twentieth century and abandoned after the nearby goldmine went bankrupt. Detroit suffered massive white flight until the late 1990s and more recently faced the repercussions of the economic and financial crisis.
The video work juxtaposes two historically distant examples of the economic rise and demise of cities. A photograph that ran in the August 3, 1943, edition of The Detroit News, recalls what the accompanying article describes as another ghost town: Hamburg after Operation Gomorrha.
November 2 — December 14 2013
Was bisher geschah ...
In his first solo exhibition at Galerie Conradi, Steffen Zillig presents the installation “Was bisher geschah …” (“Previously on this show …,” 2013). Part of it is a dystopian story in pictures recomposed from multiple comic strips that sketches a society in which a dream of mankind seems to have come true: every single person is a star. But what looks like bliss takes a catastrophic turn, spurring reflections on the capitalist occupation of identity and creativity.
The ten-foot picture story points to the future; meanwhile, the associated film, which combines six projections, looks back to the period from the 1990s to the present. Anchored by a speech in which the British parliamentarian Peter Lilley announces his plans “to close down the something for nothing society,” it contrasts singing contests of the 1990s and the 2000s—specifically, the star-imitation competition on the “Rudi Carrell Show” and the ongoing TV show “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” (the German version of “Pop Idol” and “American Idol”). The comparison reveals how the pressure to perform has grown in the most recent past—we have effectively become a society of casting candidates—and limns a caricature of two salient metaphors in the work of the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk: on the one hand, the Crystal Palace, an air-conditioned greenhouse where the megastars are pampered; on the other hand, the fitness imperative—You must change your life!—governing the lives of legions of C-list celebrities. Like the picture story, the projections with their constantly shifting focus build up to an apocalyptic finale, as is suggested during the 30-minute running time by the menacing soundtrack setting the rhythm of the images. The installation also includes five dated photographs of underground facilities furnished with high-tech equipment that mark a present-day point of departure for the fictional terrorism of a community of people without identities.
Steffen Zillig was born in Mannheim in 1981 and studied at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg and the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. He regularly writes essays and reviews for publications including Texte zur Kunst and Kultur & Gespenster. Zillig is a cofounder of the exhibition series Foto Folgen and the artist’s cooperative Galerie BRD. He lives in Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main.
6 September — 5 Oktober 2013
MDC More Dust Covers (Buchmesse)
“Dust cover,” an English term that is commonly used in German as well, describes a detachable cover printed on glossy paper for first, and usually hardcover, editions of new books. One factor behind the rise of the dust jacket was the growth of the railway station bookshop business in the 1940s: loud colors and advertising messages on the cover were designed to target travelers who had to make a choice in a hurry.
Baldischwyler’s installation mostly consists of “travesties” of actual dust covers painted on a classical support medium—canvas—in portrait and landscape formats. Alterations to the original titles make for commentarial updates, as with the German edition of Jack Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums” or the cover of the original edition of Geoffrey Household’s “Rogue Male.” Other pictures imagine the glossy covers of books that were never published, such as Hugo Ball’s 1910 dissertation “Nietzsche in Basel.”
Baldischwyler thus blends the semblance of “applied” art with a reflection on the potential indiscriminateness of today’s “research-based” art—the practice of a generation of young artists who use pieces from the history of modernism as building blocks and seek to reassess its influence on contemporary discourse. Does appropriation inevitably mean that written records are yanked out of their historical contexts and degraded by fetishization?
In their second solo exhibition, which opens at Galerie Conradi, Hamburg, on February 22, 2013, Janine Eggert and Philipp Ricklefs continue their critical engagement with the standardized shapes and modes of production of industrially manufactured goods. The four sculptures they have created for the show also raise a question that is new in the artists‘ oeuvre: whether and how art may devise contemporary representations for our ideas about technology, and how such representations relate to the reflection of technological progress in industrial design. The new sculptures are modeled on the mainframe-supercomputer as the exemplary monumental body: its outward features are meant to suggest notions of omnipotence and cutting-edge development. The design of its case is a screen on which visions of progress and the performance of the technology hidden behind it are projected. The sculptures are based on an identical simple solid figure and were created by subjecting metal sheets to complex folding sequences.
The Hamburg-based artist Nina Hollensteiner explores structures of communication that reflect the implementation of specific visual forms and the systems that underlie them. In her solo exhibition at Conradi, the particular focus is on dressage as a special variant of formation. Formalist photographs and glass sculptures whose lucid aesthetic conceives the instruments as tools for the production of fundamental structures make up the core of the exhibition École de Légèreté—the title is a reference to the highly elaborate French dressage school of the baroque era, while also raising a question that has lost none of its relevance: what is the relation between art and skill, between masterful craftsmanship and dilettantism?
In her work Hollensteiner deals with artistic strategies that thematize the production conditions of art itself. In 2012, at the Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof, Hollensteiner realized a large-scale floor work, Conversation Floor, which visualizes and analyzes social interaction, thus creating a kind of “playing field” on which the choreographies of social interactions take place.
In Suse Bauer’s works, material, form, and color take the helm and direct the conception. The evolution of form is guided by the physicality of the clay and the chromatic values of the oil crayons in an experimental quest for depth and dynamic potential. What Bauer does is not painting in the classical sense but, as she sees it, a sort of construction design drawing, a preliminary stage or description of possible sculptural work. The techniques she brings to the material are adopted from manual crafts and artisanship: the sgraffito, a fresco technique known since the Renaissance that has largely fallen out of use, and the work with clay, which presents an opportunity for hands-on expressive and creative design. Beyond material qualities and techniques, form and composition play a central part in Suse Bauer’s art. The same shapes appear again and again in different colors and positions. The series of eight medium formats systematically maps this interplay of recurring forms and colors and their composition, unfolding a dynamic dialogue between figuration and abstraction. The ceramics also transform concrete tools—the very means of production—into abstract shapes. They do not tell stories or function as a facile referential system or symbol but instead make production itself the subject of the work. They visualize the artist’s practice as a process of appropriation and the evolution of form implicit in it, which always also leaves room for improvisation.
Suse Bauer’s works come into being in accordance with the principle that making is thinking. Her production is not a means to an end but instead the point of departure of her work and the problem it addresses; Bauer explores “how the work of the hand can inform the work of the mind.” The simultaneity of thinking and making defines her art. The idea is at once: construction and cognition. The works contain splinters of the visions of classical modernism as well as elements of East German vernacular culture and echoes of Sumerian stone tablets. The title of the exhibition points to the present day: planning horizons shrink and biographical designs have short lifespans in today’s crisis-ridden late modernity—the future dissolves into the present.
Thomas Jeppe is a painter and sculptor with a background in publishing and cultural studies. His practice engages aspects of cultural production and transition, where strategies of appropriation develop into semantic reconstruction. Through traditional portraiture, laborious formal abstraction paintings and highly-finished sculpture, Jeppe’s works become props; critical tools pointing to cultural fissures while underscoring their own nature as theatrical constructions in a secondary role to ‘the bigger story’. Asiatische Adlernase began with an interview made in 2010 with a German gallerist who left the art world in search of a prestigious cultural form with a foundation of objective reasoning. He found this in Taiwanese tea, and subsequent attempts to introduce this practice to Germany were confounded by a broad range of cultural structures - primarily stemming from the clichéd divide, East and West. Informed by the themes of master culture, vernacular rituals, anti-globalism and the difficulties of cultural transposition, Jeppe travelled to Taiwan in 2012 to conduct his own research on tea and its surrounding context. The exhibition features six large-scale paintings based on a lamp from the reading room of a Nineteenth Century Taipei mansion. Though simple in form, the series cannot be readily classified, presenting an uneasy combination of false geometry and unidentifiable fruits and vessels. Monochrome in thick gloss enamel, with artist-made two-tone frames, these paintings become an analogy for cultural incommensurability. An earnest re-creation of Jean Honoré-Fragonard‘s Der Philosoph oversees the analogy; a laborious enlargement of a proto-Impressionist anomaly of the Rococo era, a stand-in for emphatically Western tradition, knowledge, and anachronism. Together, these pictures are housed within a Fachwerk architectural installation, an icon of early-Renaissance European houses, making visible the ordinarily hidden frameworks of construction. Thomas Jeppe lived in Hamburg in 2010 with a grant from Fleetinsel Gastatelier, when he also made the show The Peoples Poet: Prevention of Education Through Poetry with Thomas Baldischwyler at Conradi.
Nonchalant and focused but without any oppressive pathos, Philip Gaißer’s “One Could Look South and See North” transforms Galerie Conradi’s rooms into a contemporary cabinet of wonders. Zurich to London round trip, please. For a bronze sculpture that weighs eight tons and is more than twenty feet tall: Auguste Rodin’s “Gates of Hell,” the masterwork on which the artist worked for thirty-seven years and the framework for the creative output of a lifetime—many of Rodin’s famous sculptures were originally conceived as parts of this ensemble. There are eight casts of the object worldwide; the Zurich copy was restored in 2006 and then went on loan to London. At the time, the newspaper “Die Welt” described this transaction as “the Gates’ one-week descent into hell: presumably the most complex and costly foreign trip ever made by a work of art from Switzerland.” Philip Gaißer now brings the sculpture and the transport equipment to Hamburg. But not the real thing, of course. We encounter Rodin’s tableau—the artist never saw its complete realization because the original commission had been revoked at some point—in the form of a large black-and-white photograph. A small aluminum model represents the support structure on which the cast was shipped.
The exhibition installation thus spans the distance between two contrary conceptions: the Gates of Hell as an archive of ideas, and the invention of curious and highly specialized technical equipment. In an architecture made of window blinds, Gaißer, who has a keen eye for the sites and forms of the presentation of his photographs and creates customized display fitments for each show, joins several intersecting aesthetic and thematic threads. A family resemblance links the photograph of an electrostatic generator built in 1890 to a shot of a railroad bridge built for the ICE bullet train that was never taken into operation. A slide show running on two 6 x 6 projectors superimposes earlier with recent photographic works. The square format, a new element in Gaißer’s oeuvre, frames a selection from his archive, photographic copies of images that possess sculptural depth and not only blend into one another but sometimes quite literally overlap. Affinities emerge, dissipate, consolidate. Dimly lighted like a club, the gallery space reshuffles how we allocate our attention. Instead of emphasizing the elegiac aspect of photography, Gaißer excites our curiosity about his pictures and other inventions.
The setting of the video work »SORRY« (2010, 8:08 min. loop) is the open carriage of an ICE or a high-speed train of a similar kind, as a distinctly stylised set architecture and the actors’ behaviour clearly demonstrate. Hardly any everyday situation is more ordinary than the lethargic scrum of wearied people in the compartment of a train. Setting out from a supposedly simple scenario, Panhans contrives an in itself paradoxical system constructed of different levels of imagery, narrative and reality which is significant for his video works. One of these semiotic shifts manifests in the cast: The travellers in this train are performed by actors who in turn double celebrities and fictional characters whose transitions might blur though, as we know.
There is no talking in the entire video except for one word, a misplaced and somehow irritating ‘Sorry’. Like in trance, the exhausted look-alikes move to the monotonous soundtrack through the picture whose statics is pushed by Panhans’ typical steady camera position and the sameness of the action to the limits of the medium film. Lighting, arrangement and setting work towards the visual appeal and persuasiveness of this image frame. This iconic quality of his pictures is already recognizable in other works, here though, it is clearly at the forefront in contrast to the narrative continuum. For that reason, »SORRY« approximates in its structure a ‘tableau vivant’. The film becomes a tableau which lists the variety of current role models disseminated by the media, each of them emodying individuality to a maximum degree. ‘Social and medial realities collide here, reality and fiction merge. This train compartment speaks contemporary conditions as well as it becomes carnivalesque-allegorical place of performance, stage of masks and characters, images and projections.
Where the simulation of reality permanently switches place with the reality of fiction (…) Superheroine Lara Croft meets Tokio Hotel’s Bill Kaulitz, the artists’ messiah Jonathan Meese sits tightly wedged between the scandal-voice-wonder Amy Winehouse and the self-committed fashion puppet Karl Lagerfeld, a kind of cavalry captain of an earlier era and a nameless soldier swap places, Vincent Vega, John Travolta’s super-comeback-role as killer in Pulp Fiction, and Brad Pitt, Michael Jackson in stage outfit (…)’ Whether as universal, hyperactive consumer in »Sieben bis Zehn Millionen« (2005) or as excentric, hybrid ficticious figure in »If A Store Clerk Gave Me too Much Change« (2009), the individual gets almost lost in Panhans’ work, it becomes a main-stream neuroses, disappears as self-fallacy behind marketing, coaching and lifestyle, if there wouldn’t sneak in, again and again, some certain ‘errors’. In the case of »SORRY«, exactly these seemingly deliberately embedded, more or less massive shortcomings regarding the alignment of the look-alikes with their celebrity idols inscribe something like small, consoling ‘cracks’ into the picture.
The solo show From Smoke To Smother by Thomas Baldischwyler directly followed a group show, curated by the artist, in which 15 divergent artistic positions were shown exemplarily under one title: The Agony Is The Ecstasy. Within a very personal selection, different artistic life forms were presented to the viewer, which -depending on the definition- didn't necessarily derive from a pure art context. One of the works was an illustration by Mark Sikora, a Berlin based filmmaker, drawer, and music journalist; the illustration was made as a cover for a disk record of the legendary Grindcore band Napalm Death, and ever since has been reproduced in millions on T-Shirts and posters. Placed right next to it for example, was a lithographic print by the artist Lee Bontecou, who left the art scene after a splendid carrier start in the 60s, and was just rediscovered in the last couple of years. Coming from the Kupferstichkabinett of the Kunsthalle Hamburg, the work could be seen again after 40 years.
Thomas Baldischwyler’s dyadic entire show carries the title The truth about the Colonies – a reference to the equally named Parisian colonial exhibition of the year 1931, as well as their critical reflection through the Surrealists. Artists like Albert Londres and André Gides at that time mooted the exploitative system of the colonial rule within a largely disposed counter-exhibition. The protest of the Surrealists failed due to their own demands though, and ended with a rancorous fight with the communist party. 80 years later Thomas Baldischwyler now is commenting on this incident as an example of an art historic and cultural failure: His focus of reflection is on the paradox relation between the contemporary artistic practice and the system it is arising from and denouncing at the same time.
Thomas Baldischwyler therefore first prepared the viewers of the group show The Agony Is The Ecstasy for the economic aspects of art business. As a dominant element a corrugated metal wall was crossing the exhibition space. Through this typical material of informal settlements of the third world, the shady side of colonial history was strikingly brought into the gallery space. With the contrast to the white gallery wall across the room, the purely ideal value of art was clarified. A back reference was made through a small detail on the exhibition poster: a corrugated metal wall from a photocopied photograph by Walker Evans documenting poverty of US country settlements at the same time the Parisian colonial exhibition took place. With exemplarily presented artistic life forms, Baldischwyler is completing the impression of the problematic and confusing role, an artist is playing in society, culture, politics, and last but not least in his own sense of self.
The dyadic disposition now closed with Thomas Baldischwyler’s solo show From Smoke To Smother. Following the first show - reflecting about life models of contemporaries, “hidden” behind the corrugated metal wall - his solo show now is spread over the window-facing main area of the gallery space. The slick surfaces of large scaled lacquer paintings interfuse with amateur-like collaged paintings on found material. With its presentation, the solo show rather appears like a group show. Under the title From Smoke To Smother Baldischwyler is not inviting the viewer to a show of his single works, but to a debate on the conditions of an artist and - at the same time - protagonist of his social surroundings.
“How did the reticent object become so obliging?” the English scholar of culture Claire Robins mused in a 2007 essay of the same title about institutionalized institutional critique. In her perspective—she works as an arts communicator—it seemed curious that a radical approach from the 1990s lent itself to such rapid commodification and integration into the pedagogical conceptions of major exhibition venues. Meanwhile, the aura of the “reticent” or mute object, the work of art, remained inviolable at most galleries, especially as a raison d’être “outside” the institutions. Her essay discusses the exhibition “La Vérité sur les colonies” held in 1931 by the Surrealists in collaboration with the French communist party as a response to the simultaneous major colonial exposition as an example of parodying intervention. Her primary focus is on the adoption of ethnographical presentation techniques.
Thomas Baldischwyler devised a similar conception for the group show “The Agony Is the Ecstasy” he curated at Galerie Conradi as the first chapter of the two-part “Die Wahrheit über die Kolonien.” Its premise was to distort the display and the expectations of the visitors to the gallery: to curate an exhibition in which nothing would be for sale, a show composed of individual and carefully selected works on loan from public and private collections. These works were moreover presented in a salon-style hanging behind a corrugated sheet metal wall, which extended the Walker Evans quote on the invitation card. The selection consisted of works acquired by the Hamburger Kunsthalle that had not left the museum’s archives since the 1960s and had never been on display (including a lithograph by Lee Bontecou) as well as commissioned artwork by artists from the time before they rose to regional or more than regional “fame” (an illustration by Daniel Richter for the music magazine Spex; the original drawing Mark Sikora made for the illustration gracing the cover of the band Napalm Death’s album “From Enslavement to Obliteration”). Visitors received a free stapled brochure containing black-and-white photocopies, the equivalent of an extensive room sheet, which many of them confused for an illustrated list of prices.
Cordula Ditz adopts principles of Appropriation Art. Each of her exhibitions is built up as a complete artistic system, a distinctive composition, made of loops, words, images and sounds. Furthermore, their juxtaposition, as an apparently constructed parody, is based on a precise and clear demonstration of structures.Her installations include found footage video works, paintings, and industrial materials, such as neon. The paintings, with their striking appearance and repetitive formal qualities, complete the system of art history references. Together with colored light and merging sound fragments, her work creates a complex display of images, words and sounds, unmistakably competing for attention.
The film material originates from horror movies of the 70s and 80s, a genre Ditz is focused on, precisely researching and studying the uncanny. Within the course of repetition, that the artist arranges, the horror loses its impact and the principal of a serial pattern shifts into the foreground. The demonstratively hard cuts simultaneously reveal the constructedness of the selected film material and the artistic appropriation itself as an analytical procedure. Lost in the void of an endless loop, the actresses begin to stylize themselves into a pose and their actions into choreographies of ineffective gestures. The removal of narrative content leads to an illustration of the structural system. In this way, decontextualised elements of the horror-film genre, which is based on conventional symbols and image categories, can be viewed in isolation from their linear cohesion. Also, this makes the images being discharged from their original content. Now, free for a new implementation, a work like the one of Bas Jan Ader ( I'm Too Sad to Tell You, 1970) finds its new frame inside a foreign source.
This group show presents paintings by the artists Helene Appel and Anna Guðjónsdóttir, an installation by Nadja Frank and documentary material about her monumental painting at the marble quarry of Carrara, Italy, and a wall picture composed of painted tiles by Claudia Wieser. In the context of the exhibition, these different positions reveal certain conceptual affinities such as their formal clarity and the precision of their critical engagement with the idea of the image. The plane of representation is the object of reflections with bearing on the theories of perception and the picture that become manifest in forms such as geometric-abstract arrangement, representational painting on canvas, or a monumental sculptural experiment in monochrome painting. Each of the four artists charts a different way for the work of art to address the beholder; they share the conceptual approach, highlighting their own strategies and their underpinnings in the finished works.
Helene Appel’s works on canvas present highly detailed renditions of objects. The pictorial naturalism is tempered by the large areas of untreated canvas, which take up a considerable share of the overall format. Outside the contours of the pair of gloves in the picture, there is no iconic logic to establish a link to objective reality, and the unprimed canvas with its fabric structure has nothing to show but itself—a pure surface awaiting the application of paint. Appel strictly avoids expressive elements as well as the use of paint as a material or vehicle of expression. Color and form serve her as technical means of representation in a matter-of-factly contemplation of an object unburdened by symbolism. Only the subtly painted shadow on the otherwise bare canvas builds a bridge between the two-dimensional perspective of the flat pictorial surface and the three-dimensional space of the gallery. The direction and length of the shadow points to the plane of representation for which the painted picture is destined: the wall on which it is mounted.
Working with equal precision but in the opposite direction, Anna Guðjónsdóttir guides the viewer’s gaze into the depths of a perspectival illusion of space. Our entry into the picture is facilitated by familiar principles of distinction in the Western painterly tradition such as foreground and background, above and below, small and large, etc. As it turns out, our attempt to explore a clearly defined pictorial space and ground fails. It remains unclear on which architectonic coordinates beyond those predetermined by the canvas format this spatial construct rests: the perception of art as a dynamic process of orientation and disorientation. Guðjónsdóttir provides the glass display case as a point of reference, a widely established form for the instructive presentation of scientific and museum objects. It becomes an exhibit in its own right when it visualizes its own basis in a complex system of mutually exclusive nesting visual planes.
In the art of Nadja Frank, the engagement with painting takes place in a self-transcendence of media toward the work as a sculptural and performative activity. She seeks to make the process of production and its formal preconditions visible as a scope of action and fundamental aspect of the works. The representation of color in its relation to surface, volume, space, and light is always a primary concern. In the stone pits at Carrara, the artist found individual monumental surfaces created by the marble quarrying operations in a largely neutral setting, beyond the fact of the industrial intervention into a natural landscape. Color and surface enter into a formal interrelation strictly limited to a defined purpose, and color as a material emerges in its autonomous quality and self-referential objectivity. As a monumental gesture of the appropriation of pictorial space, the artist sets several interrelated chromatic surfaces in positions scattered across the stone massif. The arrangement, the color, the light, and the landscape define a pictorial space that is in fact a scope of action whose openness is afforded by the spaciousness of the terrain under the open sky and, more importantly, preserved by the deliberate eschewal of representationality.
Claudia Wieser’s works similarly examine various contexts of perception. On individually painted tiles, color and shape spell out a pictorial ensemble that coalesces into an abstract graphical pattern, with a monumental aspiration toward the vertical that hints at an intervention into the physical space of the exhibition. Counteracting the constructive-sculptural quality of the wall-mounted work, the tiles, as uniform building blocks, submit to the iconic principle of the geometric-abstract formation. The linearity of the latter dominates the overall structure and marks it as a surface. Coated with a dark glaze, the ground accordingly rejects the illusion of three dimensions; although its surface permits reflections of light, the objecthood of the pictorial elements is in permanent transition toward the integrative eidetic process, which is to say, the overarching form. The process of arrangement takes place as an explicitly artistic decision that finds its explanation in the picture itself.
The exhibition featured new work by the Hamburg-based painter Sven Neygenfind. He describes his conceptual engagement with painting as a persistent search for pictures that answer definite as well as indefinite ideas he tries to clarify for himself by working on his pictures. Condensation, approximation, and clutter reduction, for example through ablation, are some techniques to which he resorts in this search. The pictures build on each other in a loose sequence. Ideas for new pictures are always also, and even primarily, the result of earlier attempts to come to grips with a visual idea. As a picture comes into being, aspects surface that call for more dedicated engagement. Numerous avoidance strategies—designed, for example, to avoid “overdoing it”—are fundamental to this process. Letting accidents, even unfortunate ones, happen takes careful deliberation; they must be precipitated afresh in each instance.
After all, this is not about the pictorial implementation of an idea. Instead, the “interrogation” of certain parameters (condensation, approximation, clutter reduction, etc.) is the object of painting. These parameters refer primarily to the how, to the manner in which a picture comes into being. Condensation—especially, one might say, of time—by way of a telescopic layering of different pictorial planes, worked into and through the surface with various techniques of application and ablation. Approximation, during which the process of the picture’s genesis is subject to ongoing reflection; emerging resistances are taken up and elaborated. The initial idea, or more precisely, the occasion, dissolves through painting, as it were, disintegrates to make room for the emergence of a picture that was in that sense unforeseeable.
Setting out from prefabricated structures, this process of pictorial formation is importantly also one of dissolution or disassociation, an erosion of material and idea. Erosion lets something come into being just as something else decomposes. So the picture also becomes a ruin of a sort, a presence of absence. There is often little to detain us, little to linger over. Transitional structures, ablations and what they have uncovered, bring themselves to bear; so do the support medium with its distinct physical qualities and the color saturating it. An open state of suspension, the vestige of what we might call a struggle for ideas from which the picture has emancipated itself, as it were, in the process of its becoming. Clutter reduction, finally, not only as the attempt to identify what is not superfluous, but also with the aim of creating a space in which something can come to pass.
Alam Wassefs curriculum vitae shifts in February 11th 2011, after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Since then, the musician, publisher, performing and visual arist has binded his fictive identities with his acts of political sabotage. From 2006 to 2011 he worked under several avatars, due to the fact that a large part of his work had political implications in Egypt. His work was anonymous or signed with pseudonyms, unrecorded and undocumented such as street performances, installations, images in public space or anonymous radio performances. Today, his work evokes time, oblivion, deletion, the desintegration, loss and repais of personal archives and, finally, silent forms of violence.
In 2008, one of his avatars received an award 'in absentia' for a 2 year long body of work that was exhibited and documented at the OK Museum of Contemporary Art (Ars Electronica, Hybrid Art Category).
Philip Gaisser‘s works are conceived as complex visual arrangements. They arise from mutually interrelated thematic complexes and present landscapes, plants, artificial as well sculptural forms. They blend the documentary register with iconic staging and construction. Things become allegories of themselves. Embedding the individual images in installational contexts, Gaißer creates formal analogies between them, some of which are comprehensible on the level of content, while others are owed to free association, producing arrangements of motifs that lend themselves to multiple readings. The artist‘s production of images thus always also includes a conceptual component, a reference back to the image‘s own qualities as a medium and the material reality of the means of representation.
Wassef and Gaisser have produced and assembled pictures, objects, video pieces, and readymades. In the context of their joint exhibition, they coalesce into an open narrative that touches on various conceptual, autobiographical, and media-specific issues with regard to time.
A young woman attempts to flee. Her name is Maria, and in the following scene her pursuer will brutally murder her with an axe. This, however, together with the entire rest of Dario Argento’s pyscho-thriller classic Tenebre (1982) has been edited out by the artist. For her video Maria (2010) Cordula Ditz only makes use of ten seconds of the film, a clip showing the futile attempt to escape, or rather its portrayal in the delicate sequence of movements carried out by an actress clothed in a miniskirt and pastel tones. She looks back in terror, repeatedly and helplessly, in the way we are used to seeing the woman in her typical victim role in the horror genre.
The sequence is edited into an endless loop – the escape attempt fails again and again at the high lattice fence of the film set. The longer one can bear to watch the video projection and overcome one’s spontaneous aversion to looking at a menacing scene, the more the horror loses its impact and the repetition pattern comes to the fore. The brevity of the sequence and its swift reiteration liberate the movements from their narrative context; they take on an abrupt rhythm of their own. The actress’s behaviour seems odd, and her attempt to flee looks more like a peculiar dance. The murder is omitted; through this manipulation of the narrative structure the woman is rescued from the inescapable fate held for her in the original film, but she remains a prisoner. For the real obstacle to her escape is not the fence, for example, but the loop function. The female figure still serves as material – but her image is now detached from the narrative. The cliché of the defenceless virgin, trapped in well-behaved gestures of helplessness and at the mercy of the voyeuristic gaze, may be up for discussion here – and in other videos by Cordula Ditz – but the victim role is not the real drama: lost in the emptiness of a meaningless loop, ‘Maria’ stylises her actions into a pattern of seemingly contrived, ineffective movements and herself into a pose.
The removal of narrative content leads to an illustration of the structural system. In this way,decontextualised elements of the horror-film genre, which is based on conventional symbols and image categories, can be viewed in isolation from their linear cohesion. The demonstratively hard cuts simultaneously reveal the constructedness of the selected film material and the artistic appropriation itself as an analytical procedure. The music of the film Tenebre comes from the Italian progressive-rock band Goblin. The montage interrupts the soundtrack along with the narrative continuum, and synthesiser fragments combine with the strange behaviour of the protagonist into rhythm that is independent from the action of the film. The running away, the screaming, the panic attacks are transformed into a bizarre choreography. ‘Maria’ will never die; she never existed. The fact that she has a name is probably an ironic commentary on her iconic, looped presence. In fact she is nothing more than a pattern of colour, form and light.
In this latest exhibition, Suse Bauer presents a wall relief in addition to pictures, sculptures and ceramics. Pastose and oil paints are layered one atop the other in Bauer’s works, directly by hand and primarily with the use of templates. The tactile quality and relief-like character of the resultant abundance of surface structures emphasizes the malleability and plasticity of the works. These abstract, largely geometric compositions possess an enormous intensity of expression and poignant immediacy. They work their way into the three-dimensional space, establishing a place for themselves in terms of both form and material content.
Bauer’s use of distinctly modernist aesthetic characteristics encompasses a direct and intentional reference to the great efforts involved in mapping out a utopia; every single element, it seems, is complicit in the aim to communicate a vision, and the pursuit of culmination subsumes every last detail. In the face of such a quest, the design sketch – an embodiment of the state of instability – is itself the artwork. It does not strive for consummate perfection; rather, with its formal strictness and the decisiveness of its sculptural gestures, it asserts itself as a highly dynamic transitional moment. This sense of vitality and intention is distinctly present in the exhibited works, which feature a remarkable presence and subjective nature.
The artist employs numerous resources to create her own symbolic language of pictures and emblems in candidly impartial contravention of their actual historic and cultural context. She redefines things, resituates contexts and, in the end, describes things from the subjective perspective of her individual life experience. Bauer’s deeply personal involvement is key to the creative process of forging and mapping out her own originative path as she concretely manipulates materials, forms and composition. She develops her own unique heraldic crest – one which reaches beyond any rationality or functionality, defies clear-cut interpretation and remains visionary.
Die Spiegel (Die Segel)
Der Geologe (1860)
Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news
Looking back is often a bitter experience. The past weighs even more heavily on us because of the promise unfulfilled in the present. Anguish becomes a mirror. At first, the image of what might have been is clear; yet it grows blurrier and blurrier as years after years of exposure to the elements seem to wear off the back coating of that mirror. Why does Spitzweg’s geologist keep digging when he knows there was a hole before in this very place? When he may even have been the one who excavated this hole in the past and then resealed it? Greg Broussard called himself Egyptian Lover, and in his first hit single, “Egypt, Egypt,” he called for a “freaky kinky nation with a total female population” to form beneath “shiny pyramids.” The year was 1984, and Germany first heard Broussard’s music as the deafening background soundtrack in the roller discos of Hanau. The blueprint for his “sound” had been developed six years earlier by a band from Düsseldorf called Kraftwerk. Their track “Trans-Europa-Express” and the sequel “Metall auf Metall” laid out the basic structure of what would become the soundtrack for breakers and poppers.
Culture moves in mysterious ways, and so it’s no wonder that there should be a connection between the American West Coast, the Kling-Klang Studios outside Düsseldorf, the desert near Cairo with its historic monuments, and the infrastructure set up specifically for the entertainment of American occupying troops in the late Federal Republic of Germany. Nor is it any wonder that the German tank a picture that ran in the newsmagazine Der Spiegel in the late 1990s shows crushing arms seized from the Kosovar UÇK bears the name Sancho. Sancho Panza, the squire who called his donkey “donkey,” the only one who could bear his master’s insanity, making the Don Quixote character possible in the first place. But what use are these observations? Is the soldier who wielded brush and white paint to give his tank a name of first-class literary pedigree aware of the associative consequences of this decision? Did he want to set an ironic example? Against a Germany at war?
The same with Greg Broussard: wasn’t the brand “Ancient Egypt” simply so appealing that he used it to glaze everything? Because “On the Nile,” he probably figured, there are plenty of opportunities to prove one’s virility. In all its forms. And why are all these things synthesized in one installation? Superfuzz Big Muff? Hans-Dietrich Genscher? Fritz Perls’s gestalt therapy? Anarcho-syndicalism? The exhibition was supposed be titled “1989.” Now its name is the sum of the titles of its components. Strictly speaking, this is about nothing. Yet not about the “nothing” that sometimes mutely stares at us from abstract art. This is about an involuntary “nothing,” for we next to the steamroller of official written history, that is what we cannot but call the individual histories which remain unwritten.
The “final girl” is a classic, central female figure within the of horror film genre - the weak, unimposing figure that develops from victim to last survivor and that, in the end, following several nerve-wracking attempts, finally hunts down the murderous unknown. Here, Cordula Ditz uses horror films as basic raw material in creating an artistic representation of this classic figure, cutting much away to reveal just a small fragment. This small cutout is repeated, with the unyielding intersections of its ceaseless looping making distance recognizable as a compositional procedure. The sequence, loosened from its narrative and spatial context and repeated endlessly, goes through a process of alienation that is heightened by means of the tone. As the horror narrative is dismantled, the shock value recedes, directing the observer’s attention to the architecture of the work.
Ditz molds various closed systems of reference and symbolism into a basic component of the artistic process. A complex web of interrelationships between these systems of reference and symbolism is revealed within her installation exhibitions. The contextually interwoven interrelationships she consciously builds with the video projections in her exhibitions, too, shapes art into a process of appropriation. Ditz’ formal allusions to minimal art and geometrical abstraction are based on the firmly laid artistic concepts of the conditions of perception and the context of representation, with the humor of the commentary insinuatingly expressing in a single gesture the declaration of individual work as a contemporary pirated copy. The various media presented in the exhibition accentuate the significance of the individual artistic perspective: Found footage is no longer a break with the traditional categories of authorship and originality; appropriation itself is now a central theme.
Sven Neygenfind’s works are connected in a chronological sort of way, with ideas for new works originating from previous attempts to come to terms with a painting. For Neygenfind, his works are a consistently renewed reflection of his means of approach. One of the basic artistic strategies he explores during his work on a painting is avoidance, such as when he wants to keep the aesthetic of randomness from appearing all too planned. He describes the act of realizing a work as a constantly repeating process of disentanglement from resistances that have originated and been caused over time. “The painting is what it is; that is, it consists of the leftovers that remain after circling around an idea that you are emancipated from, in a way, during the process of its realization.” The examination of the strategies involved in realizing a work finds its context within the history of self-referential painting, which uses itself as its own theme and which released itself from narrative content and metaphors more than a hundred years ago in order to concern itself, as it still does today, with formal processes and internal references. Neygenfind’s artistic work refers beyond that context to the current cultural-theoretical discourse as well, where the interlacing of various textual and chronological levels and the disappearance of beginning and end from art, literature and film is discussed as a contemporary structure of knowledge and communication. In Neygenfind’s pictures, time is enlisted into the material as a pictorial means, with the levels of his works weaving in and around each other and with single elements masked, painted over, washed out and exposed.
His openness is what reveals itself in searching for a thematic description of the photo works of Philipp Gaisser – openness as he interacts with the basic aspects and representational requirements of his chosen medium. His working methods might be described as a kind of questioning approach to the visual composition and character of the perceptible world. Behind these working methods is his examination of the complex, systematic symbols and communication of cultural and social models. Gaisser’s work cannot be pinned down to a particular genre. The sensual pictures closely connected to nature that his photo works speak to formulate a means of entering into the aesthetic concept of the perception of nature as a construction. Fragments of a tunnel support, for example, both stand on their own, as sculpture within the landscape, while at the same time referring to pictures associated with the concept of “Autobahn” and, ultimately, to the pictorial as a perceptual process.
With the use of classic and clear compositional techniques, the artist invokes a symbolism in which he adopts the pictorial techniques of fetish, iconified overglorification and ritualization. A burning hay bale in front of the tableau of a landscape makes for a mysterious spectacle, but it is not any stranger than the balanced composition where an arrangement with a white horse is posed in an obvious play on classic iconography. The supposed peace and the symmetry of the image layout mix to create a repressed tension centered on the guise of the animal. The complex combination of individual photo works fits together; the connections the pictures have to each other are clear, if not able to be clearly defined. Documentary references and formal analogies develop a reciprocal framework of reference.
The installations, sculptures and object pictures of Nadja Frank convey a sense that space is a sensual experience of the perceptual conditions formed by art. The starting point of this approach is a preoccupation with minimal art, informalities and aspects of abstract painting, with an emphasis on the display of colors as they affect perceptions of form, surface and space. Enduro Drivin' is a stereogram made of linen, epoxy resin and lacquer. A canvas, covered with epoxy resin, was cured and covered with monochrome. The color was evenly applied, without any visible gestural or artistic expressiveness, a smoothness that is broken by one immense deformation, making the plasticity of the working process visible as volume and movement. The color is simultaneously displayed on the canvas as the canvas displays itself. The oneness of the picture and the vehicle of the picture is grounded in the fact that the canvas is actually the object, which leads to questions about the form of its presentation. The space, after all, is itself a part of the constellation. It determines the position, shape and proportions of the abstract picture-object. Because of the pictorial reduction of the monochrome surface, individual color surfaces and their relationships to each other, the light and the space become perceptible.
With her video works and collages artist Cordula Ditz brings forth a formal deconstruction of the uncanny. She dissects the narrative structures of artificial worlds, such as fantasy, horror and trash films, revealing both the systematic methods used to depict visual space as well as various kinds of over-the-top self-dramatization. Her video works are experimental, produced using found footage or material she herself has created. The world of demons and monsters is based on simple principles, Ditz takes out scraps from it. This process of abnormal aestheticization is driven on by a humorous skepticism in the face of representation. In her paintings, striking expressions and sentence fragments lend an odd meaning to the abstract works on canvas. For the works, she favors enormously large formats, piecing together abstract elements on them created from individual fragments in a style similar to collage technique. The canvases seem like a paper ripped directly from a sketchbook and enlarged to gigantic proportions.