Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fremdwirt (published in von100, October 2013)


The doctor told her she was a Fremdwirt.

Apparently, she was host to some parasites who had gone fremd, gone astray, found the wrong hole. It happens. If you swim in a lake, you might become an unwitting vessel of duck-favoring parasites with blinders on.

“Polite Parasites” is the title of the essay penned by art historian Isabel Moffat, and it couldn’t be more appropriate to describe the concept underlying “Parasites” curated by David Edward Allen and Maureen Jeram, two artists whose works also feature in the show. (This is where the duck-part ends. Maybe.)

Subtle and weirdly “so Berlin,” so intelligent it doesn’t hurt, “Parasites” takes place in a former garage called Ozean (in the nothing-is-hip-here bit of Kreuzberg that is so hip because it’s not), on an areal that looks like it was something in the past which we can no longer pinpoint. A school for mechanics? In any case, the garage is more of a makeshift shelter, and even the newly built walls are “walls” in name alone, wooden slabs placed on top of one another, the gaps in-between offering us a glimpse into the room from which access is barred. Of course, there’s no bait like jailbait, so it only made us more curious being not allowed to see the things, to squint, to wonder, very un-parasite like, at a distance. What’s that enlarged photo-booth strip by Viktoria Binschtok? The Sisyphean (or is it successful?) attempt to document the presence of absence behind an iPad? And the formalist triangular stack by Øystein Aasan? A sculptural attempt at changing gears, don’t look here but there. Life is here, hear it, and even if it is wearing orange and even if it might be difficult, the diary entries might become a bestseller.

But even bars couldn’t banish the weather. The show was flooded over the summer twice. So here is the irony: Maureen Jeram’s floor fresco makes an odd nod towards Sir John Everett Millais’s pre-Raphaelite Ophelia, the moment just before she drowns. Further, the segment of concrete Jeram had cut out to create a sublevel framing of the fresco, or rather circular-sawed out, formed the basis for the eerie sound piece informing the entire show, a lot like a sitar on slow-boil, a recording of what the artist Aubrey Heichemer called a “psychosomatic injury in a space.”

David Edward Allen’s ephemeral work is so hard to see, you’d miss it unless someone kicked a ball over it. Minimal romanticism of the best sort, it’s a wire drawn between the former garage and a tall tree nearby hosting a parasitic bushel of mistletoe. Others took a more direct stab towards institutional critique: Alex Schweder’s “Spit on This Until It Becomes a Painting” was scribbled in chalk on the aforementioned wooden slats, and “Step on This Line Until It Becomes a Drawing” formed the border between our feet and the gate barring entry. Otherwise, parasitic abuse of the space reigned supreme. What appeared to be a harmless geometric sculpture, a square pipe bisecting the space à la Donald Judd, was actually Florian Neufeldt’s clever way of giving us a view into the trees beyond (the) Ozean; Antonia Low cut out a hole in that very same wall to create a peephole into a miniature Minimalist sculpture show in a box; and Max Frisinger cut a rough skylight into the tin rooftop so that we could see the trees above or rather, what catches the eye is the nice shadow play on the floor below: like life through a kaleidoscope – all fuzzy, the morning after.

But it was Jeram’s painterly incision that was the most visible manifestation of the non-thought that eventually takes hold of us, the emotions that prey on us, the parasitic. According to Shakespeare, Ophelia was “incapable of her own distress.” In Jeram’s version of Ophelia, in place of the lovelorn lady is a man with a “tail,” my two-year-old tells me, dangling noticeably amongst the stringy algae. It’s not a tail, I tell her, as she keeps repeating the word over and over again. But I have no substitute pedagogical vocabulary to offer up. Nachhinein, I know how I’d impress her with my second tongue: this is a Fremdwirt, I’d tell her. The guy who is not a duck.