Counter-cultural curating: the One-Night-Exhibitions – "Behind the green door" of Kunstverein

“Behind the green door” of Kunstverein: This academic/ slash curatorial event focused on the "countercultural", initiated by the curator of the institution Saim Demircan, makes an intra-institutional critical intervention into the established workloads the art students receive within the Art Academy, while the artists/ guest lecturers are invited to present their work at the Kunstverein, for a broader public.

The temporary demystification of the Kunstverein as an impeccable institution with these one-night-exhibitions in the corridor between the office, main hall and toilets, has its very own sex appeal. Dan Mitchell’s “Is my art professor a terrorist?” was comparable to the body without organs (BwO)* of Tiquun’s ‘young-girl’, a collaged body that resembles anger, fear and consumerism at its best, with the cynical touch needed and intended to emancipate the media consumer of the hierarchical chain of power.

“I would describe myself as a insurgent, using art as a vehicle of insurgency”. Mitchell's works deal with the superposition of generic paintings of Pollock, Twombly Matisse or Picasso with images of violence or pornographic stuff, shattered and framed in bold impact words of the internet – SUPERFICIAL – TERROR – CONSUMPTION – ANESTESIA – PARANOIA.

The title of the show triggers the question: Do you want your art professor to be a terrorist? Basically, Mitchell proposes the students to question what the power of their art professoris:

“Students want their art professor to be powerful, especially in Germany. So what is the most radical critic to modern life than the terrorist himself? Because the question is also, do you really want to do art that means something or just to be part of the monkey casual relationship with the art world? (…) On the other hand, who is this art professor asshole?”,

says Mitchell, referring with irony to the outsider position of the artists that teaches and produces at the same time, which requires him to work 24/7.

Stephan Dillemuth also took part in the series on countercultural curating, bringing the counter cultural manifestations of the early 90ties in Germany. Together with Josef Strau and Merlin Carpenter, Dillemuth cofounded Friesenwall 120; an exhibition space as a social space. The principles of this kind of fake gallery are similar to the Situationists and the Produzenten-Galerien intended to provoke.

What a Produzenten Galerie once was, today an artist run space, was colored with the political ideas that one would carry with (Beuys, Germany’s recent past, die Clichés from Fluxus and Happenings), Dillemuth recalls it as an option - back then - to the establishment. There were new spaces to be explored (most of all, after the wall), deconstructing the cosmos of the artist, analyzing the process and the changes in activism within exhibitions. What’s interesting about Friesenwall 120 was that documentation turned into a multiple source, where also collaboration between artists would be reflected. The transitions of these critical positions against the social and art system could be appreciated in a historical manner within the countercultural curating project between the Art Academy and the Kunstverein München. Dillemuth, Mitchell and HEAD Gallery were invited not only to talk on their strategies, but also to present / perform them at the corridor.

To make something new with the old; that is what Head Gallery have taken it to another level, as if it would be a never ending game. The performance “behind the green door” was basically the reading of one of Head Gallery’s own press releases of the show at the sculpture center in New York - #scripturenow - which they / Demircan literally copy/pasted and turned into a one-night-show at the Kunstverein, called #judgementnow. What is so thrilling about Head Gallery’s hashtags is the way they manage to introduce their discourse of resistance within the pastiche of the digital and the jargon of the new generation, even when they complain about feeling old now. They raise some of the most important issues today and some of the most serious errors against them at the same time: Tiqqun’s critique over turn the notion of the artist and the author, whereas Mitchell and Head Gallery go back to modernism to reaffirm these roles.

This contradictory affirmation of power succeeds also at the art academy, forcing people like me to ask for an urgent reform to stop the dilution of the point we really care about: to find the critical tools to understand art in its current manifestation and is role in a new global context, and not the looping mimicry of already past movements. (But maybe that is exactly the course of this kind of manifestos? Who knows..)

Head Gallery’s press releases are however more cutting edge than many of the Pdf-documents that fluctuates through the gallery websites and their satellite social media. The endless waterfall of Gifs-files that describes the Gallery says it all about the ways of communicating about the present state of affairs, speculating on the future of how art is being anchored in the world.

It is a great initiative to build up a historical awareness of aesthetics and methods of critical experimentation, as well as building self-confidence in art students to communicate their own work differently, thereby avoiding reluctant rhetorics by finding themselves a new position to fulfill. The artist as a terrorist / outsider is a (counter) productive figure in the digital age and there is enough to be discussed around it.

This discussion has reduced itself to an academic rehearsal (Demircan’s countercultural curating is not an exception), although “behind the green door” there was enough stuff for a public critical deconstruction.

“This should not be a punch in the face, but in the mind” , Mitchell said.

For further mind blows, we would like to relate these countercultural materials (Friesenwall 120 / Hard Mag / Head Gallery) to other exhibitions in Munich that step into the questions around the figure of the artist and her/his representation, her/his responsibility towards a public debates and the spectator’s expectations:

-The annual exhibition (Jahresausstellung) at the AdBK Art Academy will present among others the boxing ring of Anne Imhof, who has been boxing and producing works with her students later on around: “I’m so mean I make medicine sick” introduces to the training sessions and studio visits until July 26.
“Was tun?” (“What to do?”) ; The class of Julian Rosefeldt presents the space itself of the art academy as the exhibition program. Meanwhile Klaus von Bruch’s class broaches the issue of an already clichéd image around the relations between art students, art professors and the annual visitors (curators, gallerists and relatives): It’s going to be all about sea horses (WTF).

-Facts & Fiction at Lenbachhaus, a series of video art screenings and talks curated by Elisabeth Giers, presents, beyond an obvious palette of current political and environmental issues, a bigger question: On distribution of artworks in the institutional context. What is the task that museums have to develop for the present? How to raise awareness to a broader audience on this kind of discussions? The series illustrates what the world understands today as apocalyptic, the figure of artists vis-à-vis to the political representation of local / global matters and the utility of the artwork. The challenging aspect about Facts & Fictions is that this format should be understood as an exhibition as such, for these issues can not longer (only) hang on the walls. The discussions raised here convert the museum into an open (critical) space for aesthetical questions.

This agenda of local institutions can deepen into the waters they are adressing to; even more if the reaction of the audience could be more open (Yes we can, Munich!). Thus converting a museum into a critical space can be possible without avoiding the duties to take care of, that is, projecting objectively what has happened until now in the (art) world.

Further links to the recent events, somehow related to this:

Florida Magazin #2

Olia Lialina at the Espace Louis Vuitton