The urge for self-improvement, the ideal of the flexible ego and the omnipresence of the media: Stefan Panhans’ works deal with contemporary society’s key themes. FELDBUSCHWIESNER gallery is pleased to present Stefan Panhans’ new photographs and two video works in their first solo exhibition with the artist.
In his most recent photographic series Items for Possible Video Sets (2009-2013), the world of commodities is condensed into a series of detailed, carefully constructed still lifes, which instrumentalize the aesthetic of commercial advertising photography and radically break free of its limitations. Even stranger than Lautrémont’s description of the “coincidental encounter between a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table”, here burnt baguettes can be found next to bicycle locks and organic muesli on top of porn magazines: As if they had floated together from the driftwood of the consumer world into ambivalent spaces. The materiality and colouring of the objects create a virtuous interplay. The title of the photographs suggests a reference to the working sketches for new video works, however by generating confusion, it also questions the term of representation and the familiar meanings attributed to it.
In his video works, Stefan Panhans creates extremely stylized characters in alienating settings, which are governed by phenomena such as casting shows, Mediamarkt, Ayurveda wellness and fusion food. Works such as Sieben bis Zehn Millionen (2005), Who´s Afraid of 40 Zimmermädchen (2007) and If A Store Clerk Gave Me too Much Change (2009), have been filmed using one single shot. The entire activity stems from the protagonist’s monologue. This does not produce cinema but a temporal image.
The video Sorry (2010) stands out from the minimalist sets of the earlier works: In the interior of a high-speed train, an exaggerated panorama of the contemporary media world and its protagonists unfolds. Amy Winehouse, Karl Lagerfeld and Lady Gaga find themselves in an open-plan carriage together with Michael Jackson and the sleeping artist-messiah Jonathan Meese. The completely exhausted look-a-likes of modern VIPs sit listlessly on the seats or carry XXL coffee-to-go cups through the claustrophobically narrow train compartment. They push past hipster couples, demonic athletes and heavily armed police officers. Outfits turn out to be costumes and the mechanism of self-staging is exposed, as is the set itself – a cleverly staged tableau vivant, in which reality and fiction merge.
Not smooth, beautiful, alert and present, as is required in countless casting shows, from Germany's Next Topmodel to Dschungel-Camp, but reworked, emotionless, mechanical and devoid of meaning: this is how the protagonists appear in the video loop. The soundtrack, which was commissioned especially for the video, adds to the peculiar appeal of the work. The ritual-like actions of the protagonists are in this way interwoven with our contemporary reality.
The presentation is punctuated by the “commercial break” of the three-minute video Homestory (Il Cielo in Una Stanza) (2012). A young woman is seated in front of a bed, a serious and concentrated expression on her face. Noise music is playing in the background. As if at a dress rehearsal for an extreme sports exhibition, she carries a huge, neon-coloured traveller’s rucksack on her back. Every inch of her body seems tense, and with almost hysterical deliberation, she reads the menu of a hip restaurant out loud. The highly-strung energy and physical tension of her recital triggers a sense of nervousness in the viewer, and finally aggressiveness. We do not relax, even when at the end of her monologue she virtuously performs two yoga exercises – the immense pressure is still tangible and the desired wellness effect does not kick in.
Stefan Panhans (*1967, Hattingen) lives in Berlin and Hamburg. He has already been awarded numerous scholarships and prizes, including a Kunstfonds scholarship and the Förderpreis Bildende Kunst der Arthur-Boskamp Stiftung. His works have been presented in a series of important solo exhibitions, including Untitled & Items for Possible Videosets – Concrete Run. Art is Concrete. And so is Truth?, Camera Austria / Steirischer Herbst, Graz (2012), I´m cold … did I actually do the bank transfer or what kind is it? Or is it tea?, W139, Amsterdam (2012), Wann kommt eigentlich der Mond raus?, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen (2011) and Who´s Afraid of 40 Zimmermädchen, Kunsthaus Hamburg (2008). His works were recently presented in the group exhibition Former West in Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2013). An upcoming show is being planned for 2014 in Haus am Waldsee, Berlin.