Thanks to the recession, most of us are now pretty accustomed to anxiety, terror, confusion and desperate re-evaluation of our actual relationship with reality. Which is why the gallows' humour-laced surreality typified by David Lynch seems such a sensible form of fantasy to indulge in. Though Berliners' already gritty sensibilities means that the economy presages less jarring life-style changes for the locals, the 'poor but sexy' city is now the location for a series of exhibitions purveying lavish doses of surrealism. Chief among them is "Lynchmob." "Not everyone is so intrinsically drawn to perversion and angst,"curator Emilie Trice tells me while hanging Torsten Solin's massive distorted photograph of a naked girl with a mummified cat around her neck. "But Berliners tend to have a high level of affinity, or at the very least tolerance, for both of those psychological states. That's why we figured Berliners could really connect to David Lynch."
Dis-connect is the hallmark of Lynch but Trice and her co-curator Christopher David were proven right by the work of thirty international artists they assembled in the intriguingly dilapidated corporate corridors of HBC, Berlin's 1,800 square meter former Hungarian cultural centre turned exhibition space.
Most of the works connect to Lynch because they share his sinister brand of extravagant, surreal, decadence. Tiphaine Shipman's video of disjointed shots of herself running through woods at night, naked except for white socks, intermittently lit by blinding flashes of white light, is one of the show's literal responses to the ambiance of a Lynch film. And Sandro Porcu's interactive sculpture consisting of a jar with a cow's heart, which appears to beat when viewers sing into a microphone, would have been a fitting addition to the décor for the lounge that repeatedly featured in poor Agent Cooper's tormented dreams.
Offering a more subtle creepiness is English artist John Isaac's black patinated bronze and steel orb on a stick extended from a base decorated with straggly black human hair. Though Isaac's orb sits motionless while facing Hannes Bend's glistening hard-candy hunter's trophy and the TV monitor screening 'Hit Me,' Oliver Pietsch's montage of cinema clips showing women being slapped, his sculpture could well be the menacing force causing Shipman to race toward her unknowable end.
Taken as a whole, 'Lynchmob's' array of meticulously executed ambiguities summons up Lynch's temperament for the inhabitants of the city which often seems to relish personifying it."
Along with these pieces punctuating recessionary realism with Lynchian touches are photographs by Maxime Ballesteros (who also took the portraits of Lynchmob participants featured here.) In Ballesteros's series of photos feral fuckable friends are seen wallowing in the high-gloss, but low-cost romantic chaos of 'Wild at Heart.' In a similarly DIY spirit are Sergio Roger's homemade hunters' trophies from fabric scraps. Olivier Pietsch's "The Shape of Things," also pushes pre-existing material to new levels with his captivating pastiche of oneiric scenes and nightmarish assaults appropriated from recognizable or obscure movies, which was filmed on a screen in a room covered with street-artist Anton Unai's shamanistic scrawls.
But most evocative of the bitter divide between base reality and dizzying glamour is David Nicholson's massive "Melancholia (Suellen)" oil painting. The ominous opulence of Nicholson's luscious, larger than life-sized portrait of his dog Hank and his then-wife modelling as if she were Marie Antoinette styled by David LaChapelle is anchored into reality by a pile of the couple's bills stacked under a gaudy night-table and grounded by a big rock. "I felt like I was under that rock when I painted it," the Canadian-born and Berlin-based artist explains. "So, when the bills kept coming and there was nothing I could do with them, I figured I would just put them in the painting. And I was most careful to render the logos of creditors I hated the most," he says. Revenge on reality or a personal painterly stimulus package?
Katrin, Contre le Mur, Maxime Ballesteros 2009
Maxime Ballesteros, Thiphaine Shipman, 2009 color photograph
Titty Wall @ Lynchmob, Berlin. Curated by Emilie Trice and Christopher David
Installation view, Christoph Steffner's Fuckmachine courtesy Lynchmob, Berlin
Curator Emilie Trice dancing at the vernissage in a dress made from the Lynchmob curtains by model/ top stylist/ linguist Jordan Paul
Photo by Maxime Ballesteros 2009
David Nicholson, Melancholia (Suellen) 2006-2007 Oil on canvas 207 x 137 cm 81.5 x 53.9 inches Courtesy of the The Sander Collection and Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussels Belgium
Installation view, Lynchmob, Berlin Germany
Installation view, Lynchmob, Berlin Germany
Ana Finel Honigman is a Berlin-based critic. She writes about contemporary art and fashion for magazines including Artforum.com, Art in America, V, TANK, Art Journal, Whitewall, Dazed & Confused, Saatchi Online, Style.com, Dazeddigital.com, British Vogue, Interview and the New York Times's Style section. A Sarah Lawrence graduate, Ana has completed a Masters degree and is currently reading for a D.Phil in the History of Art at Oxford University. She also teaches a contemporary art course for NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development students. You can read her series Ana Finel Honigman Presents
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