Fehler

Manuel Gorkiewicz, ohne Titel, 2007, installation, outside view

Manuel Gorkiewicz, ohne Titel, 2007, installation, outside view

Heike Bollig, Grid, screenprint, 2006 and installation, 2007

Heike Bollig, Grid, screenprint, 2006 and installation, 2007

Manuel Gorkiewicz, ohne Titel, 2007, installation, inside view. In the foreground: Heike Bollig, Blick auf den Alexanderplatz, Text, 2007

Manuel Gorkiewicz, ohne Titel, 2007, installation, inside view. In the foreground: Heike Bollig, Blick auf den Alexanderplatz, Text, 2007

Eva Meyer-Keller, Handmade, 2007, video still

Eva Meyer-Keller, Handmade, 2007, video still

Ulla von Brandenburg, Ein Zaubertrickfilm, 2001 and Eva Meyer-Keller, Handmade, 2007, exhibition view

Ulla von Brandenburg, Ein Zaubertrickfilm, 2001 and Eva Meyer-Keller, Handmade, 2007, exhibition view

Ulla von Brandenburg, Ein Zaubertrickfilm, 2001, exhibition view

Ulla von Brandenburg, Ein Zaubertrickfilm, 2001, exhibition view

Your Latest Trick

Fehler #1

 

Feb 15-March 10, 2007

Opening on February 10, 2007, 7-9 pm

 

Heike Bollig, Ulla von Brandenburg, Manuel Gorkiewicz, Eva Meyer-Keller

curated by Vera Tollmann

 

Like the English word “failure,” the German word “Fehler” (meaning failure/error/mistake) has its etymological root in the old French faillir, meaning to deceive, to “not be there.” This is precisely the experience offered by optical illusions—one sees something that is not there, or one does not see what is actually there. When conjurors appear on television in Japan, they begin by presenting their tricks and then explain them to the amazed audience. This very rationalistic way of dealing with illusion—a demystification of the world brought about by Japan’s advanced capitalism—is not present in “Your Latest Trick,” as the featured artworks use methods of illusion to reflect “real world” situations and magic as a narrative form.

 

Failures and mistakes, like magic and illusion, are old-fashioned. Failings are only talked about in private, if at all. In politics and business, the preferred terms are “optimization process” or “blackout.” But what distinguishes magic and illusion from failures and mistakes is their rigorous, rule-bound nature—the fact that for magic and illusion, any mistake is disastrous. Magic and illusion have to follow clearly defined rules, otherwise they immediately fall apart. Optical illusions could not be experienced without formal precision and recurring forms. Magic tricks consist of three stages: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. The trick has to work.

 

Why have movies about these arts recently hit the cinema screens? Out of nostalgia? Is it about the simplicity of these illusionistic deceptions? Web 2.0 online video platforms also contain numerous clips of small performances and tricks—where it is often unclear if the trick is “real” or digitally manipulated. What do these visual strategies tell us, what does their trickiness mean?

 

“Your Latest Trick” features works that use illusions to highlight things which habit has rendered invisible and to reject common expectations. Optical illusions and tricks seem to be ambivalent methods, capable of generating distraction and concentration, fun and criticism at the same time.

 

In the window at JET, Manuel Gorkiewicz has installed a screen covered on both sides with decorative foil. From outside, the object appears as part of an empty window display. As in a stage set, an optical facade is used to simulate a “different” situation. In this way, Gorkiewicz turns the exhibition space (back) into a vacant shop space and refers to the state of transition in the immediate surroundings. The reverse of the window display features a demonstration of simultaneous contrast, an optical phenomenon whereby the same color looks paler against a dark background and darker against a pale background. In his untypical choice of materials—expanded polystyrene cylinders glazed with chocolate—Manuel Gorkiewicz combines Pop and Op Art references in an unusual way.

 

Since 2004, Heike Bollig has been focusing in her work on production errors and mechanical failures. She used screen printing, a popular medium in Op Art, to reproduce the “Hermann Grid,” the classic pattern-based optical illusion (which is also an example of the above-mentioned simultaneous contrast). As early as 1870, the Berlin physiologist Ludimar Hermann discovered that we see dark spots at the intersections of a pale grid with black squares. Bollig’s concept involves exhibiting both successful and failed reproductions, partly to reflect her artistic experiments, and partly as a way of sidestepping the impossibility of always making the right artistic decision. In addition, Bollig ironically plays with the expectations of the art audience, exaggerating the cliché of what artistic work is meant to do—i.e., open up an endless succession of new modes of seeing—by showing these unoriginal images of a patterned optical illusion.

 

In “Ein Zaubertrickfilm” (A Magic Trick Film, 2001) by Ulla von Brandenburg, friends and fellow artists perform magic tricks and other party pieces. The unmoving camera reduces the room to a segment that the performers enter one after another like a stage. As an homage to the early films of Georges Méliès, Brandenburg uses his montage trick, when in the end of the film the rabbit is conjured out of a top hat. The film was originally made in black and white on Super-8 and then transferred to video. By choosing a now historical medium, von Brandenburg provokes a temporal shift. The tricks seem to have been summoned up from the past or from memory.

 

In “Handmade,” a video work made for the exhibition, Eva Meyer-Keller recreates three scenarios of natural disaster as models, an approach she refers to as “choreographed tinkering.” In 24 hours compressed into three minutes, day and night are imitated by corresponding lighting. The stage for the spectacle is an aquarium turning on a rotating disc. To render the states of emergency as comprehensible and aesthetic events, Meyer-Keller uses simple materials such as expanded polystyrene, salt, water, and household appliances. The glass of the aquarium reflects the camera and tripod, as well as Meyer-Keller’s hands, so that the image also includes the “making of”.