Sue de Beer
Harry Dodge & Stanya Kahn
Luis Gispert & Jeffrey Reed
Erik van Lieshout
Stephen G. Rhodes
Ryan Trecartin & Lizzie Fitch
What’s in a life, an identity? Do the objects one owns say anything about who somebody is? When Florian Slotawa reassembled his entire apartment as a piece for his graduate student show, recreating it using all of his real possessions, he seemed to be exhibiting his private life. A similar showcasing of the “private” occurred in the 1960s when artists thematized their own bodies by making them accessible, putting them on display, and, at times, even allowing the audience to touch them. The same concept was subsequently revisited in the 1980s through the appearance of the injured, sick, or altered body in art. However, in such cases, little was revealed about the artists themselves, while a great deal more was said about the society in which they lived. The same is true of Slotawa’s art, which shows nothing essentially private—well, then again, it does.
The exhibition of one’s own possessions, a practice which Slotawa concluded in 2002 when a collector bought the work in its entirety, raises the exact question posed at the beginning of this text. Or, more pointedly, it asks what subjectivity is today. If the body, and with it sexuality, has long ceased to be private, is it our individual property that distinguishes us from one another? In a society in which the individual is expected to reinvent him or herself frequently and in which the social norm of individuality is generally defined by what one owns or wears, relinquishing one’s possessions can be seen as a sign of surrender. The force of this action lies in recognizing, first of all, that it is in fact the alleged “subjective” that is general; and secondly, that the exposure of that which protects us and shows us our place in society could also indicate a return to the beginning. Evidently, we can also expect the action to be a very real and painful process, because the essential value of one’s own possessions may lie more in the meanings and memories we ascribe to them than in their representative functions.
Thus, Slotawa has been particularly interested in how these meanings can be made visible again in objects and in how they might be reconstituted in other contexts. His piece Land gewinnen (Winning Land, 2005) is exemplary for his strategy of integrating the places to which he is invited to work into his sculptures. When asked in 2005 to present a solo exhibition at the Haus am Waldsee in Berlin, the first solo exhibition under the museum’s new curatorship, he exhibited the story of the establishment itself. For this, he retrieved the dilapidated, 800-seat, open-air theater, sculptures by various artist colleagues, as well as the entire garden set-up— including everything from park benches to defunct row boats—and rearranged it all inside the building.
The story of that piece was supposed to end there. Slotawa had planned to dispose of the materials after the exhibition. However, a collector was so fascinated with Land gewinnen that he bought the entire installation. Thus, what was initially seen as a liberating but fleeting action for the Haus am Waldsee designed to mark a new beginning became permanent art through its sale to a collector. The story of objects and, thereby, of the museum, coincided with the biography of the collector. A new layer of references and meanings was thus laid over the historical and geographical markers still borne by the materials.
For the ZKM, Slotawa wants to continue to investigate the process he began in Berlin and its unforeseeable afterlife. If that same material is now transported to the ZKM, the two institutions and the collector will converge and contribute a further layer to the “story.” The first museum was a makeshift solution for post-war Germany. However, while initially a forum for much of Berlin’s cultural life, the museum later lost its prominent status due to the waning vibrancy of the 1980s art scene. Today it struggles with a lack of funds, its remote location within Berlin, and the resulting loss of visitors. The ZKM, in contrast, began as a weapons factory and was then restructured into a museum in the style of 1980s. Apparently it functions well, though it, too, is remote and has a somewhat cold ambiance. Slotawa has said: “I like the thought of countering the atmosphere of the ZKM, which strikes me as very technically and virtual, with something that isn’t virtual at all: real material, matter that has a story and a weight (approx. twenty-eight tons).” The gist of his piece lies in the rededication of objects. The perception of the work as something that a collector has put in storage, that is, as something that may become “junk” because it is “just lying around,” is shifted through its exhibition in a museum. The gaze no longer focuses on surface and form, but rather on the history and content transmitted by the objects.
Lives and works in Berlin
|2006||Modern Art, London|
|2005||Land gewinnen, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin|
|2004||Bonn ordnen, Kunstverein Bonn, Germany|
|2001||Schätze aus zwei Jahrtausenden, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany|
|2000||Sies + Höke Galerie, Dusseldorf, Germany|
|2007||Touchdown, Galerie Friedrich, Basil, Switzerland|
|2006||Von Mäusen und Menschen, 4. berlin biennale für zeitgenössische kunst, Berlin |
Punching through the clouds, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
|2004||No Money, Kunsthalle Kiel, Germany|
|2003||Actionbutton, Hamburger Bahnhof—Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin|
Andreas Schlaegel, “Neue Berliner Funky,” in: Flash Art, no. 73 (March/April 2006).
Florian Slotawa, exh. cat. VRIZA (Amsterdam, 2005).
Florian Slotawa – Bonn ordnen, exh. cat. Kunstverein Bonn (Bonn, 2004).
Renate Puvogel, “Florian Slotawa,” in: Kunstforum International, no. 170 (May/June 2004).
Florian Slotawa, ed. Thomas Köllhofer et al., exh. cat. Kunsthalle Mannheim (Mannheim, 2002).