The documentation of completed art works is usually a closed affair. In the case of Breathing Kevlar, Perforated Skin, the documentation was the content of the exhibition, which led to a series of bewildering encounters and borderline perverse scenarios.
V4ULT is a project space run out of a studio on Adalbertstrasse, one of the hippest hubs near Kreuzberg’s Kottbusser Tor. Billed as a “performative group show”, the exhibition’s description was otherwise opaque. The blurb read as an ad for Screen Ops Tactical Gloves –hand wear that allows you to use touch-activated electronics while working in “tactical environments”. The relation between the gloves and the show was never explicitly illuminated but the almost poetic perversity of the their description might provide the missing link.
Photographer Mikko Gaestel documented the artworks, for the two-hour exhibition. Several people –friends or benevolent assistants of the artists –lined up in a dark, bare room with the works in hand, ready to be photographed by Gaestel. In the far corner of the room, a one person-wide, brightly-lit closet served as the backdrop for the shoot. The objects were photographed in the hand of their guardian, while visitors could peer into from over Gaestel’s shoulder. The whole thing proved a curiously voyeuristic experience.
The objects to be displayed, though largely unassuming, took on a fetishistic character in the context of their documentation. Martin Kohout’s ‘Sticks: Class A’ (2011) looked like a cross between a wind instrument, a weapon and a ritualistic divining rod. The ‘Based on Memory’ (2012) Euro coins by Anne de Vries were exhibited enticingly in the palm of their bearer’s cupped hands, like a semi-religious offering. All the while, Hanne Lippard’s familiar voice filled the room, as her audio narrative ‘Dings (Horrorscope 2014)’ (2013) –a series of prophetic reflections on suffocating office atmospheres mixed with astrological truisms –emanated reassuringly from a laptop on a table. It was played on V4ULT’s website (where it can still be seen), the background pattern of Naja Ankarfeldt’s accompanying video, ‘Things’ (2013), meshing seamlessly with the wallpaper itself, giving rise to the V4ULT tag line that “the URL continues IRL”. The site becoming personified –in lieu of the artists themselves –as participant among the performers in the room.
Conceptually, the exhibition was excellent, which made it almost unbearable to experience in real life (conceptual art often only being recognizably good when reflected upon in its wake). There was no indication of how to behave in this strange domestic space, no division between visitors and performers, and seemingly no one ‘in charge’. Witnessing the documentation of an event –before or in the absence of the event itself –produces a sense of fruitless anticipation. This unrequited feeling lingered beyond the one night show, a sure sign of seductive success. **
Header image: Anne de Vries (Based On Memory, 2012). All images courtesy V4ULT.