The artist presents his mossy Lichtung in a group show that does away with the typical distractions of the gallery space, urging visitors to get up close and personal, even confrontational, with the works of art on display. The question at the heart of the show is "What happens when a single viewer is left alone with a work for an indeterminate period?"
Patial view of the "Lichtung" installation by Robert Kuśmiroiwski, photo: Uwe Walter (cropped), courtesy of the artist
The artist presents his mossy Lichtung in a group show that does away with the typical distractions of the gallery space, urging visitors to get up close and personal, even confrontational, with the works of art on display
KW Institute for Contemporary Art hosts an unusual show that breaks with the traditional exhibition formula, where visitors often find themselves standing on their tip-toes or maneuvering within the crowd in order to catch a glimpse of a particular work of art. Each of the 20 works of art on show - ranging from video, painting, installation and performance - is displayed in a closed room, which can only be entered by one person at a time. Upon entry, each visitor places a sign - not unlike the classic hotel "do not disturb" sign - and is free to experience the piece without any interference from other visitors or other distractions - even the flashiest sort of video art will not make one's eye stray from the topic at hand.
The curatorial premise, as defined by Charlotte Klonk in one of the texts featured in the exhibition catalogue, behind this concept is drawn from Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own and from Charlotte Brontë’s Villette heroine Lucy Snow, who insist on a "sheltered interior" in which one can be "happy, not always in admiring, but in examining, questioning, and forming conclusions". Such seclusion allowed for a gallery visitor like Snow to "distance herself from pre-defined modes of perception and admiration and instead to think about her own self-image" in the context of various works of art - in particular, a painting of a half-naked woman. In today's world of throngs of tourists crowding the galleries of the world, such silent contemplation is no longer possible. The KW exhibition is an attempt to recreate this "sheltered interior", asking the question, "What happens when a single viewer is left alone with a work for an indeterminate period?" What impressions with that viewer gather for him- or herself and what will he or she share with others?
Klonk also calls attention to the fact that our private retreats are no longer private, invaded by the chaos of a media and virtual communications overload, we are hardly ever alone. In addition, the art world is moving swiftly in the direction of collective experience, with engaged and participatory art forms, while this initiative heads in he entirely opposite direction.
The miniature gallery spaces are filled with works by established artists like Yoko Ono, Blinky Palermo and Hans-Peter Feldmann, as well representatives of the young generation - Nina Beier, Alicja Kwade and Jeremy Shaw. Works include Annika Kahrs' For Two to Play on One (2012), a performance piece in which two pianists cease playing upon the visitor's entry, leading to an uncomfortable silence that isn't broken until the visitor leaves and the playing can resume. Hans Peter Feldmann's take on One on One (2012) tempts us with a box full of chocolates - which is, nonetheless, decorated with a sign explicity stating "NEIN". It is up to the visitor to decide whose authority he will follow - that of the artist or his own belly? Yoko Ono's is the only work not locked up in a room; rather it is a plain telephone located in the midst of the space. Once a day for every day of the exhibition, Yoko Ono calls the telephone at a random time, giving a lucky gallery visitor the chance to speak to the artist herself.
Polish artist Robert Kuśmirowski's take on the topic takes the form of an installation that mimics a mossy landscape. Yet, Lichtung (2012) is not quite as simple as it appears. The 2dmblogazine blog reveals, "Being all alone in the silent hall feels pretty peaceful, until the moment you walk around the hill to discover the mess of disturbingly realistic decomposing corpses in a ditch". At that very instant, the rare pleasure of solitude in the natural landscape is transformed into a lonely horror.
According to curator Susanne Pfeffer, the exhibition aims to bring a level of intimacy back to art appreciation, while offering a critique of contemporary museum culture, whereupon galleries are beginning to resemble shopping centres and the art market more like a bazaar.
Full list of artists in the exhibition: Massimo Bartolini, Nina Beier, Joe Coleman, Trisha Donnelly, Geoffrey Farmer, Hans-Peter Feldmann, FORT, Günter K., Annika Kahrs, Robert Kuśmirowski, Alicja Kwade, Renata Lucas, Yoko Ono, Blinky Palermo, Anri Sala, Jeremy Shaw, Tobias Zielony.
One on One is on at the KunstWerke Berlin Institute for Contemporary Art between the18th of November 2012 - 20th of January 2013. For more information, see: www.kw-berlin.de
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart, based on the original text by Mikołaj Gliński additional press materials