Joel Mu

Nicolas Humbert @ M.I/mi1glissé reviewed

18 April 2016

The intimacies of the work in Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 talk of environment and experience. Nicolas Humbert’s final instalment of a trilogy work of exhibitions and performances, running at Berlin’s M.I/mi1glissé from April 6 to 8, feels like a sincere decision to soften the positions of audience/viewer and artist/performer across his varying fields of production.

An hour or so before the scheduled concert —opening a two-day exhibition to follow —a few people are sat on benches outside. The building’s facade maintains a resilience amid the commercial galleries and cafe-restaurants in the city’s Mitte district. It houses a large artist community throughout the floors above and a re-purposed theatre in the back.

Humbert is in the space setting up. In the window looking out over the doorway is a drawing of the Egyptian God, Set. On close inspection its surface is covered in burn marks and residue from a soldering iron. On the other side of the room is a white bar or counter, pushed up against a wall, a group of Humbert’s works collectively titled ‘Endfile’ convene around it. An LCD monitor sits on top along with two collages in A4 plastic wallets, on the wall a further arrangement hangs in plastic packaging alongside three drawings.

Nicholas Humbert, Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 (2016). Video still. Courtesy M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin.
Nicholas Humbert, Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 (2016). Performance view. Courtesy the artist and M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin.

The monitor shows a static, semi-transparent digital composition in front of a YouTube clip of a man filming himself eating a sausage in his home: An instructional, tongue-in-cheek demonstration on how to eat a traditional Weisswurst. At this stage the work feels like a Start Menu for a game and on the floor there is a PlayStation 3 playing the file, tucked beside the counter, which adds to this narrative.

A still of the man’s face burns at me through the pixels. My eyes trace a line drawing of a wolf across the screen and it floats amongst other symbols and logos that I can’t decipher. In the middle of the screen there is a cropped image of ‘90s video game avatar Sonic the Hedgehog with a text that reads “OW THE EDGE”. The text pokes fun at the clip’s content, trolling its simplicity and its lack of edginess. Sonic is shown here in black and red, a revamped character from a more recent version of the game in an attempt to give the hedgehog a new life for a new generation of players.

There is no information to accompany Sadness of Microtonality 3.3, and this coupled with the amount of material in the videos and collages accelerates their rawness. One of the drawings has a note on the counter beside it with a name written in pencil. I ask Humbert what this means. The drawing was made by the artist’s friend as they sat in a cafe together waiting for a filming job to start. Another drawing records observations of a train journey. The lack of information in the space encourages me to talk with Humbert and curator Joel Mu. Access to the work feels deregulated in this way like much of the M.I/mi1glissé programming and does so with its community in mind. Several works contain lines of written code scrawled in pen and pencil. Ancient and futuristic, the specific framework of the coding language is redirected through its new materials into mark-making and symbolism.

Nicholas Humbert, Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 (2016). Exhibition view. Courtesy M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin.
Nicholas Humbert, Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 (2016). Exhibition view. Courtesy the artist and M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin.

In the center of the room two mattresses have been brought down from the living space upstairs to prepare a stage for the 9pm event. Billed as a concert online and not a performance, this wording feels like a subtle interrogation of its context. Sat at the edge of the mattress island, a Nintendo 3DS in a papier-mâché crown displays a video that documents one of Humbert’s websites. Filmed using a 3D camera, the video scans the surface of a screen, attempting to focus on and move between elements trying to find three-dimensional depth. What we see being played back is a messy register of the website and its architecture. This video feels really important to the way Humbert presents us with his practice. It effects a technological disuse and our access is directed through the console and its consumer-3D aspirations. The viewer gets entangled between a process of capturing the material and experiencing it.

The concert, a work entitled Denmark Siren begins its drone through a pair of computer speakers. Projected on the wall behind, Humbert’s laptop screen shows the program Supercollider, its lines of code have been altered into a familiar/generic gothic font. I close my eyes and focus my ears. Some coins fall to the floor and a small dog wanders around. The volume is subtle and the room’s sounds fold into the composition. Twenty minutes in, Humbert abruptly halts the program and freestyles a pack of irregular clicks and whimpers using only his vocal chords. After a minute or so he returns to the laptop and re-engages the planned material, and after some time, a human voice emerges in the mix. It is a fuzzy repetitive shouting, someone in the audience acknowledges the sample, a possible field recording they collaborated on, or perhaps it is their voice?

Nicholas Humbert's Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 (2016). Video still. Courtesy M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin.
Nicholas Humbert, Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 (2016). Video still. Courtesy that artist and M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin

After the concert I ask Humbert about the vocal break. He said that the dog in the audience influenced him, and that he is able to replicate subtle animal sounds. He also tells me that the font is the same generic typeface used by notorious black metal band Burzum for their albums. Already codified and specific in its language, the algorithmic composition gets pushed behind a further layer of signification here, unleashing a darker reading to those who may be able to access it. The standard gothic typeface was used by Burzum as a non-aesthetic decision to not have a logo or a constructed brand identity but these things aggregate historically and get referred to specifically within sub-cultures. It feels like a humorous take on a traditional form of branding, like writing in marker pen a band’s name on your backpack, and the sadness in what is co-opted and what is lost in these gestures.

Sat before the humble stage-set, I begin to think about sadness. Is Humbert trying to produce a different space for us to experience it? It’s immersive possibilities are pared down through a quasi-domestic arrangement that feels pragmatic, but what is to become of the concert artefacts that remain as an exhibition? They become sad sculptures, scraps of experience that have been used already. What is the realm of my experience as someone non-native to his codes and symbols? What do I experience if I didn’t make it to the concert? Humbert’s position is open and both his work and the context challenge his subcultures their specificity and what it is we can experience depending on what our access is.**

Nicholas Humbert’s Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 was Berlin’s M.I/mi1glissé, running April 6 to 8, 2016.

Header image: Nicholas Humbert’s Sadness of Microtonality 3.3 (2016). Performance view. Courtesy the artist and M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin.

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Two one-night events @ M.I., March 9 + 10

7 March 2016

Berlin’s M.I, run by Joel Mu, will host two one-night events in the Mitte space on March 9 and 10.

The first event, Closest Thing to Wearing Nothing is a group show featuring the work of Racheal CrowtherBenjamin Edwin SlingerNina Kettiger, who showed in the pop up Ying Colosseum event at Blacklands early last month that aqnb went to and reviewed, and Esben Weile Kjær. There will be a performance by Weile Kjær & fashion designer, Anne Sofie Madsen.

The second, There’s No Place Like Homes, is a screening of video by Magdalena Mitterhofer and Damian Machaj (pandamian), and a related performance “featuring a boy, shoes and hot wax”. The one night exhibition is by Saliva/Lukas Hofmann and the associated Ikea Made Fashion.

M.I rarely gives more information with their events than the bare minimum, leaving everything to be encountered in the space and on the occasion.

See the two M.I facebook events, here / here for (limited) details.**



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«25.06–4.07.15/Exhibition-Information/MI-groundfloor-attic… reviewed

6 July 2015

M.I, a temporary gallery space initiated by curator and art history researcher Joel Mu, opened to the public with solo show, «25.06–4.07.15/Exhibition-Information/MI-groundfloor-attic/Auguststr-10-Berlin/opening-Wed-24-June-6pm», by Christophe de Rohan Chabot on June 24. The gallery, which will be open two weeks at the end of each month, has residence on the ground floor shopfront of collective house and theatre project Kunsthaus KuLe, with a satellite space in the building’s attic.

From one end of the building to the other the space absorbs the physical interruption of a stairwell, a passageway marked with the lives of its tenants, past and present. In addition to this spatial split, the gallery must also reckon with inconstant temporality, due to a timeshare arrangement with the house’s various other projects. Its online presence, limited to a Facebook page is intentionally scant. All the information available on the event page is deferred to its title, a notably wordy string of text that is formatted like a backend directory listing, as if it were meant to be read by a computer. It is evocative of ethereal processes, the hundreds of invisible automated communications made in the background of our online manoeuvrings, or the nanoscopic transformations inside each energetic shift. Inside the space, the objects of this exhibition are a series of documentations, scattered hefts of printed A4 pages, Its affect / effect is experiential. An apparent collaboration between artist and curator, M.I’s inaugural show offers an intelligent and elegant take on reconfiguring space and establishing a presence on what is one of the most institutionally entrenched and commercially established gallery strips in Berlin.

Christophe de Rohan Chabot, 'scan (A4 digital print, street-level view)' 2015. Courtesy the artist.
Christophe de Rohan Chabot, ‘scan (A4 digital print, street-level view)’ 2015. Courtesy the artist and M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin.

Entering through the back door, the exhibition room is unassuming, the installation minimal. Chairs are lined up along two opposing walls, white printouts collect on seats; stapled bundles, loose piles, single pages. Visitors flip through fastened sheets, or sit balancing a wad of loose pages on their laps. In the fattest pile, a few words printed on the bottom right corner of every other page, ‘entrance’, ‘chair’, ‘door’, ‘couch’, ‘advertisement’. On alternate pages there are small images, an ornate foyer, a front door, a poster on a toilet door. The words and pictures are both generic and increasingly familiar. Another heft depicts a floor plan, walls, windows, doors, a couch, marking dimensions, obstacles, entrances and exits. Yet another is a chat between artist and curator. A back and forth about the show, the title, design of a poster for the door, who should host the FB event.

A meta gesture, the pages – materialised in the space – depict the physicalities of the building like a reverse hypostatisation, situating, somewhere between the documentation of the space and its physical presence, a proxy. Like a trompe l’oeil, it writes the space into the imagination of those viewing the work.

The challenge of opening any space has to do with how it gets filled, as important as the art objects being shown are the energies, old and new, that take up residence. Cleared and freshly painted, a room becomes a gallery, is elevated to a spiritual plain. Even when emptied and white, a pristine space can be haunted by its past. A few forgotten tiles point to where a kitchen sink had been, an intentional reference in the name, or a disparity between patrons and local residents made apparent on opening nights. They hang about as traces, as ghosts, as indicators of the space’s positioning within structural paradigms.

Christophe de Rohan Chabot, 'scan (A4 digital print, Facebook event)' (2015). Courtesy the artist.
Christophe de Rohan Chabot, ‘scan (A4 digital print, Facebook event)’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin. 

Chabot’s installation is a kind of incantation. It works as a spell, perhaps an exorcism, as if Chabot were not so much showing his work but providing a service. In post event digital times, art shows can happen on an informational level without having to take physical space. From virtual exhibition platforms to the fact that most art is circulated as installation documentation. Chabot offers up this informational aspect as a proxy, as a kind of voodoo doll. By allowing this proxy to become precarious, the space is reconfigured.

As people handle the works, pages get separated, some drop to the floor or are scattered across surfaces. It is not clear where they belong, if they are in order, if there is an order. As they start to show the marks of wear and use – as this informational portrait falls apart – their original precarity becomes true. Like a shedding plant, Chabot’s virtual representation collapses but is still supported by the space that it was meant to represent. The leaves drop but they are kept, collected by the room.

On another level, the exhibition also addresses anxieties connected to data regimes. There is a kind of mythology or fear connected to digital information, that while our bodies will rot and buildings will fall, data because of its immaterial state will last forever. By exposing the show’s informational portrait as precarious, it also serves as a relief, as a kind of spell against this fear.

Between the poetics of default settings of printing technologies and the corruption or interruption of its depiction, the room is freed of its virtual representation and hence is divorced from its former uses, the remaining questions of which being tied to this representation. This moment is a generous one in which the room, the exhibition space, M.I.,  is allowed to become itself. **

Christophe de Rohan Chabot’s «25.06–4.07.15/Exhibition-Information/MI-groundfloor-attic/Auguststr-10-Berlin/opening-Wed-24-June-6pm» exhibition ran at Kunsthaus KuLe from June 25 to July 6, 2015.

Header image: Christophe de Rohan Chabot, ‘scan (A4 digital print, poster)’ 2015. Courtesy the artist and M.I/mi1glissé, Berlin.

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