November 30, 2016

Pills for the Heart. Leftovers from a conversation with GuNa, resident at NON Berlin

These are thoughts that came up during my visit to GuNa’s exhibition My black brown at NON Berlin on Saturday November 26, from 3:30 till 6pm in the afternoon. 

Talking with Nayeon and GuNa. Photo: Courtesy NON Berlin

Leftovers are the rests of food that you decided not to eat and throw away. Arriving at her residency in Berlin, GuNa wanted to do good to her body, shaken by moving to a different place ("Moving to a different place is interesting but at the same time there is always fear by my side" so GuNa in the exhibition flyer), and she bought healthy, bright, colourful food like lemons and bananas. The dried leftovers of that intention are very carefully displayed at NON Berlin. GuNa seems to hold on to waste and abandonment, with an intensity that is unable to let fully go. 

There is some rest in everything one has decided to do, the choices one has made. What stays are the leftovers of those other options. That’s where the melancholy sets in.

Stupidity comes before wisdom, so a Korean saying goes. Not to know, and touching upon that. 

GuNa likes to paint plants that are half dead, that are not been taking care of, abandoned. Berlin lets its plants decay in wintertime, so she noticed during her residency. One doesn’t seem to put them inside, as people do in Korea, or cover them up outside so they can survive wintertime. In Korea the trees are nicely cut, she says. GuNa appreciates the negligence of Berliners, to let things go ugly, bent and twisted - to let death be in a season that’s welcoming it. 

Courtesy NON Berlin

In GuNa's paintings the depicted figures, once fully convinced of their strength (fist and arm stretched forward), are not (yet) dead, just like the plants, they are hovering somewhere in between. GuNa lets them die only halfway. 

If you look at GuNa’s portfolio, there is the same small painting of a bird that always pops up in displays, as if holding everything together. At the NON space, the bird is at the staircase that leads to the basement. In the harmonically balanced composition of the show, the location of the bird at the staircase seems to suggest a way out of it, not upwards, but inwards. 

The heart is weak in GuNa’s work. It’s weakened by a melancholy that comes from the past, being sick in childhood. A painting shows the pills, enlarged, that are taken to strengthen the heart. A chemical poison that kills as much as it makes alive.  

November 25, 2016

The Importance of Being Artist

Are you sometimes wondering during your museum visit if you've spotted an important artist? Somehow you can just feel you've seen one by the way they walk through the exhibition space. It's not so much what they wear, but it's the air of owning the space they walk in, in this case the contemporary art museum. Mostly it goes together with an aura of importance and also an incredibly serious look. I detected one yesterday. It was easy to do so because he (of course of the male gender) was talking to a (of course female) curator with a very serious look of importance on his face. I just caught a fragment of the conversation. "I have a mission", he said with his face getting even paler from carrying the weight. I backed off immediately to the safe zone of the bookstore because artists (especially the white male ones) with a mission are the worst. Fortunately, salesperson M. put me at ease by saying: "Wer eine Mission hat, hat ein wahres Leben." (Those who have a mission, have a true life.)

November 16, 2016

Warning: This Is Self-Promotion. The Shape in the Air. An Art Philosophy for the 21st Century

A week ago I presented my newest publication in collaboration with the electronic duo Ducks! at Bar Babette in Berlin. It's titled The Shape in the Air. An Art Philosophy for the 21st Century and published in the mimas atlas series of Hybriden-Verlag. "An art philosophy for the 21st century" is a big subtitle of course. It sounds kind of preposterous to do so in the early year 2016.  Also for a book based on a conversation between only two persons - that is me and the Artist, whose true name, for the sake of suspension, I won’t reveal to you yet. Also in the book you have to be careful not to skip it: It’s mentioned only once, and even then you’ll have to use your intellectual capacities to put the first name together with the last one.

Of course, the subtitle is a reference to my favourite Andy Warhol, who wrote The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. From A to B and Back Again, which is according to me something like the bible of contemporary art. it deals with all the essential topics of life. Art essentially deals with exactly those topics although their surface might change: love, beauty, fame, work, time, death, economics, atmosphere, success, art, titles, and underwear power.

When I finished my book, I had this silly pride of having written an art philosophy of the 21st century in only 28 pages, which is, I think, with our current attention span, a very 21st century thing to do. But then Hybriden Verlag made the fontsize bigger and turned it into about 45 pages, which makes it into a less spectacular endeavour, but still an achievement of some sort. 

The book is set up like a detective story. I just have always wanted to write a story in which I use the word  “swell”  like the great detective writer Dashiel Hammett did. You’ll have to buy the book to see if I truly did so. I mean, you can imagine how hard it is to bring the word “swell” together with art in one sentence. 

I’m pretty old-fashioned in my choice of detective series, unlike Patti Smith, who is, this I read in her last book M Train, a fan of the Swedish high-tech ones. You know, I like Columbo where the murder is commited right at the very beginning and you see who did it, and the rest is just watching how Columbo will find out what you already know. 

Just one more thing - this book is not about finding the Artist. The Artist is not missing nor is the Artist hard to find. I meet the Artist almost every day, and if not, then we call on the phone. 

I would like to thank the Artist, and also Will Furtado who guided me in the process of writing, Jennifer Danos who did the proofreading, Lani Bagley and Craig Schuftan of Ducks! for giving the text a rhythm, and Hartmut Andryczuk for publishing the result.

The Shape in the Air. An Art Philosophy for the 21st Century (mimas atlas #19, Hybriden-Verlag, Berlin), in collaboration with Ducks!  The book includes a CD and an original drawing. You can buy it here