DO YOU GUYS EVER THINK ABOUT DYING?
19.1. - 17.3.2024
Galerie Parterre, Berlin
Fotos: Marjorie Brunet Plaza
The exhibition DO YOU GUYS EVER THINK ABOUT DYING? shows works by Antonia Freisburger, Frank Jimin Hopp and Felix Kultau that deal with different facets of the uncomfortable-human.
The paintings and drawings by ANTONIA FREISBURGER revolve around the limits of being human in the face of the non-human. The artist creates challenging and at the same time stimulating imaginations of the leaky dividing line between the possible and the impossible. In his paintings and ceramics, FRANK JIMIN HOPP draws on pop-cultural motifs and figures from the 90s and 00s and confronts them with precarious structures and problems. Detached from their childlike cheerfulness, they look shocked into an uncertain present and future. In his sculptures and collages, FELIX KULTAU relies on cool, industrial everyday materials and objects, to which he lends a nostalgic dimension. The artist thematizes the relationship between man and object and plays with the awareness of the commodity fetish of our affluent society.
DO YOU GUYS EVER THINK ABOUT DYING? asks Greta Gerwig´s Barbie in a key scene of the film of the same name, thus expressing the ambivalent feelings with which processes of becoming conscious all too readily take us by surprise.
A portal in pastel red and blue tones emerges to the spectators of Antonia Freisburger’s painting Being able to feel nothing. It directs the gaze into a depth, whose extension remains hidden. Nevertheless, there is no absolute blackness lurking inside the portal, rather a greyish glow is rising out of it. Biomorphic forms surround its opening.i They are of an intense, luminating color and deny any explanatory approach. It is impossible to say, whether we should speak of life forms or objects, both at the same time or neither of them. What we see, seems to be corporeal and disembodied at the same time and does not correspond to any physical condition known to us.
Freisburger’s paintings are soaked of movement. Their forms are hovering, floating, dripping, they are squirming, withdrawing, and sprawling. The dimension of the topics Freisburger presents to us in her pictures remains unclear. The fictionality of her imagery enables a localization in infinite widths as well as in the smallest of all microcosms.ii The representation could be billions of years old or only a few seconds, located in the past, present or future. Time and space remain unknown variables. The scenes Freisburger created are an expression of unstoppable transformation, recognizing in it the ambivalence of human affections and behavioral patterns. Thus, curiosity and the aim to comprehend the seen are accompanied by the need to categorize and domesticize the unexplainable. Freisburger’s sceneries appear auspicious and threatening at the same time, their potential is in their uncontrollability.iii
It is this curiosity, in which almost always a certain fear creeps in, leading us to the limitations of human imagination, which connects Freisburger’s art to science fiction. The genre made its mark on the work of a multitude of artists for a long time and exerts a continuous impact on theoretical discourse on contemporary culture, as art theoretician Dan Byrne-Smith puts it.iv
I hope to challenge the idea that science fiction can only be thought of as genre. Instead science fiction can be forms of practice, complex networks, or a set of sensibilities. It can be thought of as a field, a space of metaphor or a methodology. It resonates with ideas of change and uncertainty, as well as with the seemingly endless saturation of life by technology. It can also pertain to social unrest or new and darkening regimes of power. It speaks to those threats, anxieties and demands, providing opportunities to imagine new configurations. The importance of simple acts of imagining things as other than they seem cannot be overstated.v
In the past decades science fiction developed an iconography of its own, which is significantly shaping our visual imagination about what might be. In the most astounding imaginations of parallel universes there are patterns and forms originating in our reality. Freisburger’s works are open to these associations and transfer them from fictive worlds to scientific theories and laws, whose visualizations overstrain our capability. Thus, we can flip through a physics or math textbook to check the definition of string theory or infinity. But the images emerging in our minds, while thinking about these notions, have nothing to do with those theoretical models and explanations. These are exactly the images Freisburger is interested in.
The paintings of Antonia Freisburger follow an inner coloration created by the artist that determines the layout of each picture.vi In the relationship and the dispersion of colors Freisburger identifies something almost mathematical, thus, it is fixed right at the work’s beginning in which direction the color gradient will develop. From this sensed principle of order results a color harmony. The colors red, blue, purple, and orange are dominating, their warmth is enhanced by grey and pastel tones. Both colors and forms seem to pulsate. In her text for the exhibition High Weirdness (Solaris Space, Berlin, 2022) the artist Gosia Lehmann attributes a viscosity to Freisburger’s works. Beholding Freisburger’s paintings, Lehmann continues, is comparable to the feeling of being stuck in quicksand and going down deeper and deeper with every movement.vii Not many people come in touch with quicksand during their lifetime. It is an idea deriving from reading adventure literature or watching fantasy movies which despite of its improbability loses nothing of its uncanniness. Also, for most people conceptions like infinity or nothingness remain exactly this: conceptions, whose reality we are conscious of, but whose extent remains finally abstract and incomprehensible. Antonia Freisburger’s paintings and drawings enter this gap, their objectivity reminds us to natural science but at the same time they own a dramatic mode that we perceive as emotionally charged and irrational.
Besides oil painting Antonia Freisburger is always working on small-sized crayon drawings. With respect to their topics and the artist’s biomorphic repertoire of forms the drawings resemble the paintings described above. The differences of the materials used become visible on the color level. Here, Freisburger is also following her own law but less strict than in her painting. Thus, there is no color gradient in the drawings being fixed with the choice of the first color. Instead the artist is mindful to use a color within the drawing only once. Due to this the color palette seem to be larger, more often than in the paintings green and yellow tones occur. Freisburger abstains from superimposing single colors and thus obtains even, technically perfect surfaces. Her application of color is orientated towards the surface not the line. In doing so she starts working on single forms in the foreground, instead as in case of oil paintings in the background. White, linear omissions separate single forms from one another, thus gaining more hardness. Moreover, in the last years she also worked on a series of small-sized black and white fine liner drawings as well as on long strips of paper, on which the artist draws with variously colored ink and paintbrush and stages them as installations. The fines lines stretch over the drawings like fishing nets. Thus, the two-dimensional drawings develop such a spatiality that makes us as spectators feeling drawn into a trap.
Through Antonia Freisburger’s pictorial worlds we enter surreal dimensions, in which we lack orientation and which like ghost images disturb our logic and rational sense. But there is something under their soft, smooth textures, which leads us out of the wilderness back to the inside, the subconscious. Emotions, dreams, and thoughts on identity were dismantled from their bodily shell by the artist and thus appear as external manifestations of themselves. No surprise at all, that while beholding her art we are confronted with the greatest of human primeval fears: The fear of our own mortality. Reverent and disenchanted at the same time we recognize in the imagination of the end our life also the futility to fully comprehend who we are and what surrounds us.viii Let us return once again to science fiction: Dan Byrne-Smith writes that it may serve to explore the limitations of being human in view of the non-human. Thus, Freisburger’s paintings are challenging and at the same time stimulating imaginationsix of the permeable, everchanging divide between the possible and the impossible.
i Cf. Tube Culture Hall, press release »Point of Entry«, 2021, URL: https://www.tubeculturehall.com/antonia-freisburger-point-of-entry-2/, checked on 11.06.2023.
ii Cf. Galerie Droste, exhibition text »Trust Issues«, 2023, URL: https://www.galeriedroste.com/exhibitions/68-trust-issues-antonia-freisburger/overview/, checked on 11.06.2023.
iv Cf. Dan Byrne-Smith, »Introduction//Sci-Fi«, in: Science Fiction. Documents of Contemporary Art, volume 47, edited by Dan Byrne-Smith for Whitechapel Gallery, London 2020, p. 12.
vi Cf. The Adress – Art Gallery, press release »Genesis«, 2023, URL: http://www.mutualart.com/ExternalArticle/Genesis-at-the-Address/018971118FF28963?source_page=Artist\Articles, checked on 11.06.2023.
vii Cf. Lehmann, exhibition text »High Weirdness« (as note 3).
viii Cf. Galerie Droste, exhibition text »Trust Issues« (as note. 2).
ix Cf. Byrne-Smith, »Introduction//Sci-Fi« (as note 4).