Until January 17th, you can admire the works of the four contestants for the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015, on view in Hamburger Bahnhof. Four different bodies of work from the outside, but intrinsically speaking sort of the same: they are all room filling installations in which a specific environment is created to convey a message, by using a multitude of mediums. This is typical of this time: art no longer fits in one specific category, which makes the different fields of study at an art academy rather funny.
On show are two soundworks by Florian Hecker (1975, Augsburg), an activating installation by Christian Falsnaes (1980, Copenhagen), a presentation by the artist collective Slavs and Tartars (founded in 2006) and a performance by Anne Imhof (1978, Gießen), with which she won the price.
Slavs and Tartars
Her winning performance is called For ever rage and, as is the thing with performances, it is not on view. What is there is the remainder of the performance, the stage if you will. In dimmed light (which made the host rather sleepy, he confessed), concrete basins stand in the space with boxing balls hanging over them. Bottles with energy drink were standing in corners, accompanied by cigarettes. On the wall there are drawings and etchings. In one of the basins lays a small screen on which you can see an earlier performance.
The performance is repeated on eight days during the four month exhibition period. To really grasp the “what” that has won the price, you have to visit one of these. The last ones are on Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th of January. The duration is two hours, but an opera normally takes longer, so do not let this hold you back. And be warned: there are performers, turtles and buttermilk involved.
Anne Imhof - Performance
Works by the other contestants are on view, of which the interactive installation Moving Images by Christian Falsnaes is highly entertaining. Upon entering, an employee approaches you, and explains how it works. You are invited to actively participate within the work, therefore you are becoming part of the performance. The room has screens on both ends. Different kinds of images are projected on them. Sometimes a group of people, sometimes only one. The voice -over gives instructions: to walk, to dance, to choose a screen to look at. At certain intervals, the voice-over stops and you are invited by the employee to approach the middle. There, a group discussion is started between the participants that are present. “How do you feel?”, is being asked.
The visitor is confronted with your wish for being in the spotlights or your lack there of. Will you dance? Will you participate? Do you care what the other visitors think? Do you oblige to the voice over? Do you want to share how you feel?
Through this part of the activating installation, you enter part two: a waiting room with chairs. A curtain splits the room. Behind it you can hear mumbling, talking, sometimes walking. Only one person is allowed in. Inside, a personal encounter is waiting for you with a difficult decision to make at the end. I decided “no” and am still not entirely sure why..
In my last blog entry, I talked about the gaze in relation to the work of Fiona Mackay. In her exhibition Close to at Klemm’s, paintings are staring and peeking at you. Here, the artist, although not physically present, takes this role on him.
He persuades you to do stuff. To take action. You have to make a decision. Are you going along with it or not?
Just in time, I saw Close to by Fiona Mackay at Klemm’s. At first glance, the work by this young (1984) Scottish artist looks rather naive. Big canvases painted in a watercolor technique. Some paintings have a line pattern. Others have a big round spot of paint in the middle, resembling an iris, or tie-dye. The line paintings, made out of shy but attractive colors are interchanged with these eyeball canvasses. Staring into one of the latter was rather mesmerizing. But no more than that.
On leaving the gallery, there it was…
A giant penis!
I had totally overlooked it. Suddenly, sexually charged images started to emerge from the line paintings. And their color was no longer shy, it was nude! A gentle curve became a vagina. A swelling could be a nipple. And right beside them, all those staring eyes.
Sebastian Klemm, obviously a leg-person, saw stockings in the line paintings. He told me that for Mackay the connection between the work and the exhibition space was imperative. And although she normally asked writer friends to write the gallery text, she had insisted that the gallery staff wrote it this time. The result is a snap shot conversation. Like the glances one throws at someone across a room.
The disc- (or eye) paintings tie all the works together. Like observers, they gaze at one another, male or female. Probing each others “bodies”. The question here, is who (or what) is the gazer and what is it that is being gazed at? The beholder seems to have walked into an intimate party, peeking at each other. It leaves the viewer with the sensation of being a voyeur.
Watcher, or being watched, the visitor is both. This is disturbing, because most paintings don’t look back. It makes the act of looking part of the exhibition. The gaze could be the wanted object here, the object of desire. Because who doesn’t want to be seen?