• Worst of All / Not to Die in Summer

    18. March 2007 to 29. April 2007

    Donna Conlon / Tessa Farmer / Ham Jin /Johanna Karlsson / Thom Kubli / Walter Martin & Paloma Munoz / Jennifer & Kevin McCoy / Tom Molloy / Piero Steinle / Kathleen Vance / Anne Wilson / Ryan Wolfe

    Opening: March 17, 2007, 5 to 8 pm

    curated by Elke Gruhn and Katharina Klara Jung

  • “Worst of all: not to die in summer, when everything is bright and the earth is easy on the spade.” With this laconic consideration, Gottfried Benn ends his poem “What’s bad” in 1953 and expresses that hardly palpable sensation that hovers somewhere between serene irony and cynical resignation; the same queasy feeling that persists when maybe one guiltily suppresses a giggle over a funny thought in a burial’s very quietest moment, the strange emptiness in which the alarm at one’s own attitude towards some strange situation echoes. It is precisely this notion on the thin line between laughing and crying that fascinates the artists in the exhibition in very different ways.

    Donna Conlon made a crew of leaf cutter ants carry cut piece symbols and fragments of the flags of the then 191 member states (now 192) of the United Nations. Her video “Coexistencia” (2003), however, does not show all of those flags: behind the nibbled piece sign a piece of the Croatian flag is being carried, Turkmenistan, Oman, East Timor – together with the piece sign, the symbols of those countries whose recent history has been affected by military conflict are being dragged off into the ant hill.

    Insects are also fundamental elements of Tessa Farmer’s fragile sculptures. Her minuscule “Hell’s Angels” demand such immediate proximity of the viewer that their components’ identification as organic material – roots and insect parts – reduces the delight at their meticulous elaborateness to shudders.

    In a no less tiny scale, Korean artist Ham Jin has his clay sculptures bouncing around the floor, hide in niches and peer out of the most unlikely places into their very own world that soon enough turns into a nightmare.

    A similarly childlike impression comes undone in Jennifer and Kevin McCoy’s multi media installation “Special Things” (2006): sixteen stereotypical idylls of gambolling lambkins and flower entwined children hang, filmed by security cameras, from the ceiling. A monitor in the background arranges the words embedded in the scene sets to form sentences such as “You Can Smell Flowers” or “The Children Feel Special Today” whose happily naïve content is driven to the brink of a menace by the hysterical candy colouredness in the presentation’s staccato.

    In Anne Wilson’s video installation “Errant Behaviors” (2004), strange shapes arise from needle and thread; the projection ropes the viewer in a world of distorted sound and noise in which structures seem to form themselves haphazardly, arousing an associative game in whose microcosm the bizarre replaces the wont.

    Johanna Karlsson reverts to the arguably most famous engraving “Les Pendus” (The Hang-Men) by Jacques Callot whose series in 18 parts of 1633 does not, for the first time in art history, glorify the Thirty Years’ War as a heroic battle painting but unveils its horrors by depicting both culprits and victims. Johanna Karlsson, however, re-isolates the tree on which the hanged dangle “like hapless fruit”, as it says on the etching, from their offenders, thereby conveying the subject matter into a three-dimensional, tangible and yet in its timelessness inconceivable form.

    On a very different basis stand Thom Kubli’s “Virilio Cubes” (2003): The media theorist Paul Virilio sees man as an “endogenous machinery” in an environment of permanent acceleration whose only resort is the retreat into nature. Based on this theory, five speaker coils set into cubes made of skin extracted gelatine sound the noises of skateboards in urban space. The installation’s almost hectic dynamics amplified still by transmitting the audio signals onto organic material, arouses questions about the necessity of the retreat to slowness that Virilio suggested.

    A similar thought is conveyed in Tom Molloy’s works: a crumpled up world map (“Globe”, 2004) swings before the five continents’ outlines cut from a dollar note (“Map”, 2007): A subtle, captious comment on the pro and contra of seemingly shrinking world in which money only perchance can buy everything.

    Kathleen Vance’s Canyon Trunk, however, seems to offer a way out of this world. The old chest’s lid only barely left ajar, one can glimpse a bit of what real travel might just have revealed for real: A panorama of a landscape with lush green trees, a river flowing through between them, bathed in golden light – the ideal of peaceful seclusion and a symbol of the longing for something out of reach.

    A rather more pragmatic approach to the search of paradise offers Ryan Wolfe’s “Sketch of a Field of Grass”: Single motor run blades of grass attached to the wall simulate the wind that could run through the meadow if only it was real. In the synthesising of this natural phenomenon so rarely perceived consciously and yet so familiar lays even in its oddness a poetry of its own; the mechanical movement of the blades on the white wall is strangely soothing - though whether this lays in the installation itself or is conveyed only through the association with the real meadow it for each viewer themselves to decide.

    The snow globes by Paloma Muñoz and Walter Martin tempt the viewer into scenes quite different from those expected from the globes’ happy-tawdry image. Oddly out of place, a sole man in a suit carrying his suitcases trudges over the ice floes; a figure sits alone in a tree house that no ladder leads to; near the saving rocks an abandoned boat drifts away from the figure laying face-down in the water. Like an archive, the over 100 “Travellers” are lined up, each containing a souvenir – a memory – of a different shade of human fear.

    What Piero Steinle calls “Paradise Birds” (2003) and has walking once through baroque heaps of fruit, once merely over the white background, is really poultry, bred featherless for economic reasons. While nakedness is natural to men, here it results from highly technological breeding, and while the naked man was banned from paradise, Piero Steile put the animals deprived of their naturalness into an environment of arranged, artificial garden Eden – and maybe here it really is worst of all not to die in summer…

    Programme /
    Sunday, April 1, 2007, 3 pm / Curators' Talk
    Saturday, April 14, 2007, 11 am / Children's tour
    Saturday, April 21, 11 am - 1 pm / NKV Kids inSIDE
    Every sunday, 3pm, and upon request / Guided Tours
    for all / free of charge

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