Peter Kogler / Mike Bouchet
Since the early 1990s, US artist Mike Bouchet, a resident of Frankfurt since 2004, has been questioning social processes and structures in his work in a variety of forms including paintings, sculptures, installations, actions, performances, and videos. His artistic practice focuses on social and political issues such as ownership, consumerism, capitalism, and sex, yet also explores his own role as an artist. After Mike Bouchet’s participation in the 53rd Biennale di Venezia (2009), the Schirn is the first institution in Germany to present new works by the artist in a solo exhibition from July 1 to September 12, 2010. The show centers around the work "Sir Walter Scott," a group of 15 sculptures based on the "Watershed" project realized by Bouchet in the harbor basin of the Arsenale in Venice on the occasion of the Biennale. Also including a number of further sculptures, paintings, drawings, and prints, the Schirn’s exhibition "New Living" highlights the artist’s approach to questions of urbanity, the (ideal) home, and utopian forms of living together.
Born in Castro Valley, California in 1970, Mike Bouchet spent his youth in the United States and in post Franco-Spain, where he lived for five years. The artist experienced his return to the United States as formative: made sensitive through his sojourn abroad, he now regarded social and political circumstances in the United States with an outsider’s eye and thus became all the more aware of their ruptures. While still studying at the University of California in Los Angeles with Charles Ray, Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy, a.o. from 1990 to 1993, Bouchet, already beginning to devote himself to social and cultural subjects, explored the genesis of personal fantasies, the development of consumer trends, and the emergence of popular cultures.
The 53rd Biennale di Venezia (2009) saw Bouchet’s hitherto most spectacular installation, which, shedding light on the subject of the single-family home, may be regarded as a prolog to the exhibition "New Living" in the Schirn. Bouchet bought a construction kit for a wooden single-family house from Forest Homes in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, made it buoyant, and installed it in the harbor basin of the Arsenale in Venice. For Bouchet, the "Sir Walter Scott" home, which is typical in US suburbs, stands for the dream of independence and individuality, yet also represents a commercial illusion of sorts, a borderline film set where one lays out the realization of the imagined freedom and autonomy. Against the background of the old city, the architecture of the house was something out of place, but maintained its position as a model for a possible extension of Venice and of global life on the water, as it were. However, it was not long before the dream of "new living" was to find an end: the house sank on the very first day, with only the roof remaining above water. Bouchet had not planned this part, yet spoke of a signature the bit of bad luck had endowed his work with. After the Biennale, the house was deliberately cut up with chainsaws so as to be made transportable, its parts painstakingly composed on fifteen pallets. The destroyed and transformed house thus became a new group of sculptures titled "Sir Walter Scott." The cuboid stacks hardly reveal that it is a complete house we are looking at. Bouchet has set to work on it like a sculptor, adding and removing material, regrouping parts from one stack to another, and declared the sculptures – which allegorically relate back to their original meaning as parts of a house – finished at a certain point.
In the exhibition the components, which have been placed on selected rugs, suggest different concepts for new, visionary living situations. The rug, which Michel Foucault describes as "a sort of garden that can move across space" (Of Other Spaces, 1967), goes far back into mankind’s cultural history and has fulfilled a variety of socio-cultural functions. For Oriental nomads, rugs corresponded to their mobile homes and marked the entrance to their tents. Alexander the Great returned with Oriental rugs from his campaigns in Asia. Analogous to a garden, Persian or Oriental rugs represent a sacred microcosm with the center of the universe in its middle and its four corners symbolizing the four continents: Africa, America, Europe, and Asia. The rugs’ motifs, their manufacture, and the process of their selection, the decisions for and against a certain model, constitute an additional level of reflection. Another room in the exhibition, which resembles a realtor’s office, provides space for paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures that round off Bouchet’s associative, erratic and disruptive chart of new living spaces and forms. A further installation by the artist is presented in the Rotunda of the Schirn.
Mike Bouchet has continuously taken up social issues throughout his productive career. In "My Toothbrush is Your Toothbrush" (1995), the artist went back to the myth of hippie communes lived on the West Coast of the United States in the 1960s and to their idea of "free love" propagated in this context. Inviting arbitrary guests to sleep and live on a 17.5-meter-long futon sculpture in his studio for as long as they pleased and supplying them with identical white dressing gowns, food, and marihuana, Bouchet questioned the mechanisms of this utopian model of living together. After he had moved to New York in 2001, the artist again made his studio the venue of an art project. For "Warsaw Travel/Travel Warsaw" he turned the space into a fully functional travel office complete with computer terminals and specially designed travel posters and vacation flyers. Air passengers were able to book their flights there, but had to stop over in Warsaw where a photographer took a picture of them. The project was aimed at establishing a new air traffic hub far from the international routes and endowing Warsaw with a new meaning as a junction. Again and again Mike Bouchet relates to economic circulation processes, to phenomena, strategies, and ideas of consumption, marketing, and outsourcing. Whether he developed his own diet coke recipe for "My Cola Lite" (2004) and had the beverage bottled to be sent to China and given away there for free or designed his own label of jeans for "Carpe Denim" (2004), which he had manufactured in Colombia and dropped from a plane over the city where they had been made: his actions, installations, and sculptures always unfold concise pictures of complex economic and cultural contexts and the desires connected with them.
His projects are models of a reality which is both real and fictitious at the same time. "You cannot alter your place in the world without first altering your image of the world," the artist says, his interest focused on the effects of pictures and the social desires they produce. Minimal contextual shifts are often all he needs to achieve this goal.
Mike Bouchet’s solo exhibitions include presentations in the BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna (2010), in the context of Frieze Projects, Frieze Art Fair, London (2009), in the Kunstraum Innsbruck (2005), as well as in galleries in Frankfurt, Paris, London, New York, and Los Angeles. Solo presentations of individual works by the artist were shown in the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and the MoCA Los Angeles (2007). In 2009, the artist participated in the 53rd Biennale di Venezia with his installation "Watershed." Group exhibitions comprising works by the artist include shows in the Galeria de Fundación/Colección Jumex, Mexico City (2010), the Kunsthalle Bern (2009), the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux (2009), the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2008), the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2006), the Serpentine Gallery, London (2006) and the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2005).
CATALOG: Mike Bouchet. Neues Wohnen / New Living. Edited by Matthias Ulrich and Max Hollein. With a preface by Max Hollein and a text by Matthias Ulrich. German and English, 64 pages, ca. 50 illustrations, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-86560-760-7, 14,90 € (Schirn) / 16,80 € (trade edition).
The Austrian multimedia artist Peter Kogler is one of the pioneers of computer-generated art.
With his impressive 360-degree multi-projection on show at the Schirn from July 1 to September 12, 2010, the artist, whose work was included in two documenta programs, creates a space of illusion that completely captivates the observer. Lines of a uniform grid lose their fixed coordinates and stretch into a play of amorphous figures. All the projected elements undergo a continuous transformation of their specific structure and thus make the room vibrate visually. Sound elements by sonic artist Franz Pomassl contribute to this vibration. The sound produced by home-made devices and instruments from measurement technology and other research fields develops into a sculptural experience in Kogler’s installation. The observer feels the ground disappear from under his feet.
Born in Innsbruck in 1959 and living in Vienna, the multimedia artist Peter Kogler has fundamentally changed our perception of the exhibition space in the course of the past twenty years by making it an integral part of his work. His installations turn the three dimensions of space into a pictorial surface: silkscreen print wallpapers or projections of organic elements, pipes, or interlaced forms cover facades, overgrow walls, and take possession of the floor. Like nearly no other present-day artist, Kogler finds formative pictorial codes for a world increasingly determined by data flows and electronic paths and links this visualization with a physical experience of disorientation.
For his installation in the Schirn, the artist relies on 12 projectors to cover the four walls of a rectangular room with a synchronous merging animation whose initially strictly geometrical grids develop into amorphous structural patterns. The fixed coordinates of the room seem to vanish, and the observer feels the walls liquefying into organic movements. The Austrian sonic artist Franz Pomassl’s acoustic elements extend the visual perception of the space by offering a powerful sound experience. The observer comes to imagine himself amidst an audio-visual superstructure that apparently suspends the room he moves in.
Peter Kogler’s first videos and projections based on images changed and processed by means of a computer date from 1999. The act of transferring the two- into the three- dimensional was preceded by a continuous transformation of the artistic process of creation: in the late 1970s and early 1980s a group of young artists stood their ground against the overpowering presence of the Junge Wilde painters with their post-performative work. Kogler’s performance "5-minütige Ausstellung" (5-minute exhibition) in 1979, in which he, standing on his head and crossing his legs in the lotus position illuminated by a construction light, imitated the form and outline of an indoor palm without any clothes on, already emphasized the significance of his gestural-symbolic approach and marked the beginning of the young artist’s exhibition activities.
For his pictorial solutions Kogler has systematically relied on his well-known ant, pipe and brain motifs, which have been part of his works’ consistent vocabulary since the early 1980s. These motifs reflect the artist’s study of semiotics, a theoretical approach quite popular in the 1970s and 1980s. They offer a basis for conveying meanings and functions of information and information flows and provide Kogler with ideal metaphors for the correspondences manifesting themselves between the individual and the social collective. Ant, pipe, and brain are matchlessly polyglot. Each is a clear and universal sign in its way. After realizing the motifs in the form of drawings and cardboard objects, Kogler came to transfer them into space after his return from a stay in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. The motif of the ant, printed on wallpaper, saw its first translation into three dimensions when Jan Hoet invited Kogler to develop a work for the entrance situation of the documenta IX.
In 1995, Kogler developed an equally impressive environment for his exhibition in the Vienna Secession: also printed on wallpaper, black-and-white pipes in different forms spread across the walls of the exhibition room. The distribution of the pipes, which crossed and overlapped, swelled and diminished, made it almost impossible to visually grasp the space in its architectural boundaries. All coordinates seemed to merge and to have become adjustable. Simultaneously, the elements’ austerity and precision created a peculiarly matter-of-fact, yet highly aesthetic atmosphere. By radically repeating a single pictorial sign, Kogler succeeded in visually overcoming the architectural boundaries of the space and unfolding a system of signs that could be understood by everybody.
In the following years, Kogler also used this system outside. He varied his motifs to form ever new structures for façade works, such as the one realized on a multi-level parking lot of Vienna’s airport in 2005, as well as large-format projections and animations on buildings as part of the Paris "Nuit Blanche" program in 2004 or on the Schauspiel Frankfurt in 2002. Similar to his indoor projects, the architectural constructive boundaries literally merge in the all-over of his façade works and projections, producing a new visual experience. The projection "Untitled" presented in the Schirn was originally developed for the Kogler retrospective shown in the MUMOK in Vienna in 2008.
Peter Kogler has exhibited his work both nationally and internationally since 1979; his recent presentations include his shows in the MUMOK, Vienna (2008), at the 50th Biennale di Venezia (2006), in the MoMA, New York (2006), at the Shanghai Biennale (2006), and in the Kunsthaus Bregenz (2000). Kogler developed installations for the documenta in Kassel in 1992 and in 1997 and presented his work in the Austrian Pavilion at the 46th Biennale di Venezia (1995). He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna from 1993 to 2006. Since 2008, he holds a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he is head of the graphic art class.
The Austrian sonic artist Franz Pomassl studied with Arnulf Rainer at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and with Peter Kogler at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, a.o. The artist’s sound experiments fathom the limits of the human sense of hearing and acoustic perception and aim at extending the range of our auditory experience. Pomassl’s works comprise electronic and digital experiments in the form of architectural sonic spaces, performances, and radio pieces. Defamiliarizing the spaces he constructs in his installations with specific systems, he envelops the visitor with sound in a manner subverting the latter’s ability to ascertain his position. Franz Pomassl’s sound installations have been presented in a number of exhibitions including "Frequencies [Hz]. Audio-visual Spaces" at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (2002) and shows in the Vienna Secession (2001), the Kunsthaus Bregenz (2000), and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2000).
The exhibition is sponsored by Nomura Bank (Deutschland) GmbH.
Image: Peter Kogler, Untitled, 2010
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Press preview: Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 11:00 a.m.
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