Fehler

Exhibition Views

Exhibition Views

Annette Weisser, Kanon, 2006

Annette Weisser, Kanon, 2006

Olav Westphalen, Popular Ceramics, 2004

Olav Westphalen, Popular Ceramics, 2004

Michaela Melian, Tomboy, 1987-2007

Michaela Melian, Tomboy, 1987-2007

Lucy Powell, Memory of Sheep, 2007

Lucy Powell, Memory of Sheep, 2007

Martin Walde, Crazy Jane, 2007

Martin Walde, Crazy Jane, 2007

Same same, but different

Fehler #6

 

Michaela Melian

Lucy Powell

Martin Walde

Annette Weisser

Olav Westphalen

 

Curated by Lena Ziese

 

Opening: September 29, 19-21h

29.09. – 10.11.2007

 

 

 

Our society has developed a differentiated set of rules for what we feel to be “right” and “wrong”. We are often unaware as we distinguish between normality and divergence as because normative structures are a self-evident part of our everyday life.

I am interested in the ways normality and divergence are revealed in social, often subtle moments of our lives. The exhibition same same, but different therefore brings together artistic positions that examine normative structures in everyday contexts as a way of allowing new insights into what we commonly define as “normal”. The focus is not on explicitly politically controlled norms; instead Michaela Melián, Lucy Powell, Martin Walde, Annette Weisser and Olav Westphalen examine the moments of our lives when there is no specific instance responsible for our normative structures because they have grown culturally over a long period of time. In their works, they highlight the social in places where it is apparently masked by the everyday.

In Thailand, same same, but different is used colloquially to describe the minimal difference between a fake product and the original. In the context of social behaviour, same same, but different denotes minimal deviations from the status quo.

 

Kanon by Annette Weisser is based on a well-known austrian children’s song whose words Annette Weisser has replaced by the line We know what we are by what we are not, which she found in a magazine article on the so-called “clash of cultures”. The artist sings and whistles all the different voices in the canon while the camera shows details of the recording studio in Vienna. The imposing hall dates from a time when cultural programmes were recorded here for Austrian state television. The frescos from 1939 show “typically Austrian” scenes such as picnics, bathing, harvesting and hiking. The camera makes no distinction between the deliberately naive frescos, the randomly positioned objects in the studio, and the functional modern furniture. The hall itself offers one possible answer to the question of what constitutes cultural identity and is also the place where this “canon” is produced and distributed.

 

A site of canon formation is also the point of departure for the Popular Ceramics series by Olav Westphalen. While lecturing at the Tyler School of Art, Westphalen found sculptures by foundation course students of ceramics in a storage cupboard, works that seemed to imitate almost the entire formal vocabulary of the avant-garde movements of Modernism. Having photographed the sculptures, Westphalen began to draw the objects, using these drawings as models for new sculptures. In this way, the ceramic works were transformed from student fumblings for artistic expression into viable art world products. This raises the question as to what sets works made in this way apart from the students’ formal experimentation, thus also questioning the criteria for attributing artistic value to works.

 

A completely different way of dealing with categories is seen in the tomboy drawings by Michaela Melián. These drawings, made over a period of twenty years and never shown in Berlin before, play with identity stereotypes. Melián examines the conditions of “female” and “male” attributes, sending them on a journey to a place where there is no longer any clear ordering system. The notion of the tomboy as a boyish girl represents independence and an absence of boundaries. At the same time, however, this absence of boundaries implies a system of differences, as girls are described as tomboys among others when “their interest in dominance is enough to measure up to boys their own age” but not enough “not to be excluded from the boys’ group.”

 

Martin Walde based his piece entitled crazy jane on something he observed in London: a woman sits on some stairs, separates tissues into their individual layers, twists their corners together so that they make a volume, then sets fire to them and throws the paper objects over her shoulder. She carries out this obsessive production always sitting in the same place, without entering into contact with her surroundings. With her odd routine, Jane moves outside the behavioural code of urban life, worrying and baffling passers-by. At the same time, her non-conformist behaviour opens up gaps in the structures governing public space and creates scope for poetic, non-functional acts.

 

Like humans, sheep recognize each other by their faces. The physiognomy of the face also decides which member of a flock a particular sheep will feel attracted to. A sheep can remember fifty different sheep faces over a period of two years. All the other animals in the flock are experienced as outsiders and can thus be exchanged at any time. This scientific discovery prompted Lucy Powell to collect fifty portraits of sheep in a slide carousel. Taken together, the photographs form a striking document of a group that excludes every newly arriving member as a stranger. Though the rules governing exclusion mechanisms in group formation among humans are certainly more complex, it is astonishing how human this work by Lucy Powell appears.