Door Slamming Festival
Are we material people, living in a material world? I guess so and there seems to be something comforting about it. You know what you get, you can hold it in your hand. It is tangible and this is what makes you feel alive, I suppose. What could be considered as a sort of narcissism of the object - I see what I own so I know I am alive - can be found in very different contexts. The show "door slamming festival" situated on Mehringdamm 72 is quite a good example of the fascination for objects. Located in a former apartment, its frame fits with the genre. The large rooms of this "project-suite" rather than project space are filled with things, relics and assemblages, remains of unclear activities. Sculptures using elements from the daily life have been displayed in the rooms, and even the works on the walls are quite often closer to a relief than to a "picture". Of course this is a parti-pris to look at things. There are some exceptions but the narrative presence of objects is unavoidable.
For an exhibition apparently anchored in the material, its title takes a step in another direction, sounding somehow irreverent and performative. Slamming the door... Would this show attempt to give us a vision of a new materialistic punk? Let's consider it is fetishist, which suits it better, and more significantly, fetishism relates the activity with the object. Many pieces in the show use the displacement strategy of fetishism, twisting the original context of the object by playing with memory associations. In a piece by Annette Ruenzler a bird is held in a metal hand placed on a glass, in another room a particular kind of cane has been modified and mounted by Gareth Moore as a replacement foot for a chair. There are many examples of this confusion of utilisation. Nairy Baghramian uses a block of concrete to almost frame a photograph of some interior. The exhibition seems to confront us with a questioning of the ambiguity of our direct surrounding. Gerry Bibby filled a corner with plastic bags transformed in garlands, newspapers, unidentified objects and few coins spread on the floor in a sort of happy celebration of waste and uselessness. His corner is colourful and messy, formally quite different from Henrik Olesens' intervention. The latter, taking off the moulding in a corner and leaving it leaning straight on the floor, reduces his piece to a slight and brutal intrusion. But when considering the action, both works are fairly close in their joyful destructive mood.
The interest for the found object, the combination of elements coming from different uses indirectly reminded me of surrealism. There is a playful way of distorting classifications but also a certain gravity in the stories that these assemblages are suggesting. Through an unsurprising coincidence, this problematic of the object as a trace of an activity is close to the current topics discussed within the surrealist movement. What is more surprising is that this movement still exists as an organised group with congresses and manifestos. Around 2001, its members started questioning the validity and subversive potential of the picture. They suggest that the picture, having been used so many times and in so many different ways by the medias has lost its revolutionary power and has become "banalised". The most adequate support that could carry their desire for subversion was "a making concrete of the poetic image which brings the imaginary and the real into a dialectical relationship [...][with] the poetics of everyday life, as realised through practical activities and experiment", thus the object would be more able to carry a signification because it is related to an activity. Does it insinuate that the remains of an action can be considered as the part carrying its signification, that the relics are where the meaning of the performance lies? One could wonder if the surrealist problematics are becoming pertinent again.
In both cases, within the exhibition and the surrealist circles, the perversities of the bourgeois commodification system and its rituals are addressed. A similar kind of deluded violence is perceptible in both. The pieces in the show celebrate the evocative power of the object and the possibilities contained within its transformation by art and its structures. But beside this wish for pointing out the paradoxes of the bourgeois codifications, the exhibition offers a certain sensuality, reminding us of the reassuring pleasure of the material.