New Scenario

Watching in horror: New Scenario talk chaos, collapse & COVID-19 in this time after post-internet to launch their t-shirt collaboration with AQNB

9 July 2020

“The art world has never felt more boring,” write Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig matter-of-factly via email about the “uninspired, conservative, clumsy and market-driven” way many of the major galleries and institutions responded to the far-reaching ramifications of pandemic. “The only real exciting and inspiring intervention was Travis Scott’s appearance on Fortnite.” As the clever minds behind the online exhibition space New Scenario, the two German artists know what they’re talking about. Launched in 2015 with a group show called C R A S H—installed in a Hummer limousine and viewable only via its documentation—the project was one of the first to take seriously the idea of the internet as a viable (and interesting) alternative to the white cube.

Anne Fellner in C R A S H (2015). Installation view. Photo by Stefan Haehnel. Courtesy New Scenario.

It isn’t without irony then that New Scenario announced they were shutting down their URL archive in mid-April—along with the countless IRL art spaces around the world—in response to lockdown measures, announcing, “Due to the current Corona crisis this website is closed until further notice.” But then the work of the duo has never been anything if not unexpected. Approaching each project like a sort of film production—where a given scene would be the set, with contributing artists its actors—projects included paintings displayed in a dinosaur park, a series of texts written in response to a video, and a hyper-staged depiction of a university zombie apocalypse viewable through a virtual tour.

Their most memorable work, however, is surely Body Holes, notorious for having the miniature work of 46 artists and collectives inserted into one of seven human orifices, photographed and then displayed online. Commissioned as part of the DIS-curated 9th Berlin Biennale in 2016, the show was part of what’s regarded as a watershed moment of the post-internet art scene, with Body Holes’ heady lineup of recognisable names from that generation mirroring that of the BB9 programming. It’s from that project that New Scenario offers their generous contribution to AQNB’s current Patreon subscription drive, with our first artist edition merchandise collaboration, ‘New Scenario x AQNB—Bodyholes Green Ear Limited Edition‘ available for preorder until July 31.

Taken from the original collection of images by artists like Pakui Hardware, Sean Raspet, Michele Gabriele, and Jesse Darling, among others, Hornig’s ‘Green Ear’ is one of the less confronting placements of works otherwise exhibited in anonymous, mouths, anuses, vaginas. The project—viewable by going to the BB9 website and clicking on ‘FINGER ME’—evokes a sense of both beauty and disgust, with a light touch of nihilist irony and absurdism that has come to define New Scenario.

Tilman Hornig, ‘Green Eat’ (2015). Photo by the artist & Paul Barsch. Courtesy New Scenario.

**This sort of ‘horrified fascination’ surfaces in a number of your projects, which makes me think about the notion of taboo and a sort of emotional ambivalence. Is this approach perhaps reflective of a more general ambivalence to the way the art world operates?

New Scenario: Hard question. Our projects are in a way also a reflection on the art world and how stiff, structured, exclusionary, unimaginative and mostly boring it is. With Body Holes, we followed the question of whether the human orifices, and thus something very intimate and relatable, can function as practical art spaces. That’s not so much as talking about the body (of course, it does also) but more of making the viewer themself the host for the exhibition—shifting and scaling the exhibition space from external to internal—and more generally asking: could every imaginable ‘space’ be a space for art?’

Our intention really was not to break or explore some taboo. Of course, showing human orifices is a difficult topic depending on where you look but we tried to keep a neutral analytical approach and block out the usual concerns and cultural implications, because it was not about showing the orifice but about showing artworks in that space.

**I ask because of this ‘anti-not-anti’ attitude to the white cube of the New Scenario project. Now that the online has become the norm—however, clumsily—amongst art institutions in response to social distancing, you’ve shut down the site. Is this simply a contrarian, or reactionary impulse, or is there more to it?

NS: After witnessing Koenig’s first moving attempts to livestream on Instagram, and other big institutions to open clumsy online viewing rooms, we thought, ‘this is it, we are closing the website’. If all these people move online now, we have to be a step ahead. It was obvious how little thought was ever given to what happens, or had happened in the online part of the (art) world. The crisis really showed how uninspired, desperate, pressured and fragile the art system is. You could see how desperate even the blue chips were by ‘helping’ with exposure for their mid-tier harvesters, probably fearing for their base to disappear under the financial impact of the COVID crisis.

HOPE, Lecture Hall (2017). Detail. Courtesy New Scenario.

The closing of the website was also an attempt to take the situation seriously, and also apply the concept of the lockdown to the digital space; to deprive IRL viewers of the possibility to access the online platform; to show that these spaces are connected and one should not take anything for granted. It makes (no) sense to do this, but this is a reflection of what happened elsewhere. The art world simply replicated their IRL models in the digital realm. Art Basel viewing rooms, really? It felt like some kind of mindless, abrupt ‘gentrification’ was happening, and we wanted to shield our precious platform from being a cheap template for a business model.

Of course, the internet is not a playground and ‘no-rules’ place anymore. A lot of the IRL structures and real-world problems and power plays have taken over, as it has never been independent and decoupled from the analogue world. If you don’t pay your hosting, your domain doors get closed. But still, the virtual realm allows for far more possibilities in shaping it as a space for art than what the big players of the art world presented in response to this situation. To see this, was in a way very sad and eye-opening. It’s as if the many collective achievements and long history of online art projects had never existed.  

 **Another reason it occurred to me that you’d be taking this moment to go offline, is New Scenario was arguably one of the first to exhibit and document exclusively online. Katja Novitskova recently said on AQNB’s Artist Statement podcast that the aesthetics of post-internet were taken and made into a gimmick. Do you think this approach to documenting and exhibiting online has also become a gimmick?

NS: Back then, when artists started to document their exhibitions to be viewed and shared online, a lot of people thought this was just a nice but unimportant gimmick. But it was a conscious and serious move, and likewise the development of the documentation. That’s why emerging online projects (and post-internet) had such an impact.

Jesse Darling, ‘3rd Eye Deepsea Buttplug’ (2016). Photo by Tilman Hornig & Paul Barsch. Courtesy New Scenario. Jesse Darling

Today, a lot of shows are produced IRL for the main reason to present them online. It has become a natural thing, and there are a lot of really nice approaches, projects and concepts out there. A lot has happened since. People realize that you don’t really need a gallery or an institution to display your art. You can bypass the system in some way, and also reach wider audiences online, if you put some thought into your projects and their presentation. We don’t know if this praxis of showing online even bears the potential of gimmicky-ness. It’s a common praxis that nobody even questions anymore. There is potential of changing the ways we view, and share, and distribute art, opening up possibilities of access and participation for groups of people that were otherwise excluded before.

**It’s interesting then, that you chose an image from 2016’s Body Holes from DIS’ 9th Berlin Biennale, which refers back to what many regard as the peak (and ultimate end) of post-internet. Perhaps, it parallels this idea of online and distributed art production and engagement having finally been exhausted and losing some kind of relevance?

NS: We think it was more like everybody wanted it to be the peak, and took the opportunity of the biennale’s exposure to declare it the end. We felt like post-internet had challenged established definitions of what art was back then (and how art should work, and look, and be looked at). A lot of artists and people in the art world had trouble wrapping their heads around this and integrating it into their concepts of art that they had struggled for years to digest, absorb, and be able to navigate.

The label post-internet quickly developed an Eigenleben [life of its own] and people got hooked or offended by its surface aesthetics to the extend that most people denied it any content, substance and agency. What is left today, and what you see in newer works that are inspired by early post-internet art, are exactly these hollow formalistic gestures. The essence of post-internet was never in the surface, and all the artists from that time still do amazing work, just not under this label.

Pakui Hardware, ‘Eurecstasy’ (2016). Photo by Tilman Hornig & Paul Barsch. Courtesy New Scenario.

Early post-internet challenged this stupid conception that political or critical art has to look ‘rusty’, ‘beaten up’, or handmade, stuff like that. It was not about ‘the internet’, or the transformation of art from real to virtual, or vice versa. It was about using the internet as a tool for production, research, distribution, interaction in real life and online at the same time, as we understood it. For the younger generation this seems self-evident nowadays. 

 **In a 2017 interview with AQNB, you referred to “this strange hopelessness and helplessness that seems to be omnipresent, that in extreme ways manifests in a death wish hope that only total chaos and collapse can bring change and a better life”. Is this moment of rupture—being pandemic, protest, political upheaval—making you rethink your approach? Are you optimistic? 

NS: This was said in reference to the project HOPE and its general reference to apocalyptic narratives, fake news, preppers, conspiracy theories that made the subject of the ‘zombie’ interesting and relevant. The current global situation shows clearily our fragile and unstable systems and the whole spectrum of stupidity and absurdity of the human existence. And, yes, we are optimistic, for the art world to collapse ;)**

The New Scenario x AQNB—Bodyholes Green Ear Limited Edition t-shirt collaboration is available for pre-order online until July 31, 2020.

Paul Barsch + Tilman Hornig, Episode 4: Bathroom (2015) documentation

1 June 2016

Episode 4: Bathroom, curated by Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, brought together artists Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig at Münchenstein’s OSLO1O in Switzerland, which ran from November 25, 2015, to January 25, 2016. Under the topic of ‘Bathroom’, devised by “post-gender avatar” and curator Agatha Valkyrie Ice, the project was the fourth of 10 in Ai’s curatorial concept following MTV Cribs.

The collaborative installation is loosely associated with Chapter 7: ANUS of their online project Body Holes, produced by digital exhibition platform New Scenario and launching on June 3 as part of the Berlin 9th Berlin Biennale. The project features Michele Gabriele, Jesse Darling, Mikkel Carl, and Sandra Vaka Olsen.

Moving through the different rooms of Ai house, beginning at the entrance, through the corridors and into further rooms, the 10 episodes host a [sci-fi IRL] story constructed over two years.

Paul Barsch + Tilman Hornig, Episode 4: Bathroom (2015). Exhibition view. Courtesy the artists + OSLO1O, Münchenstein.
Paul Barsch + Tilman Hornig, Episode 4: Bathroom (2015). Exhibition view. Courtesy the artists + OSLO1O, Münchenstein.

Four toilets are placed haphazardly around the space. Each titled ‘Toilet Piece’ (2015), the artists describe the medium as “Sanitary Ceramics” and each have been cleanly painted with pigment made to look like graffiti. Hanging above are the three ‘Garlic Piece’ series (2015), made of allium sativum (see: garlic) and bast fiber (also a part of the plant), hung on steel. In the adjacent room, ‘Wall piece’ (2015) takes up the majority of the space and is made using nitro-combination lacquer. The graffiti presents opposite the isolated and minimal ‘Soap/Sink Piece’ (2015).

Accompanying the sculptural assemblage is a written script that expands on the concept through words:

“Hanako-san, Ai realise the first organ to suffer privatization, removal from the social field, was the anus. Ai hole is a positive particle before Ai is the absence of a negatively charged electron, and the movement of electrons toward the positive terminal is also a flow of holes streaming back the other way. Immerse Aiself in a field of anuses, and a collection of small holes and tiny ulcerations: Ai heterogeneous elements compose the multiplicity of symbiosis and becoming. Holes are charged particles running in reverse. Holes are not the absence of particles but particles traveling faster than the speed of light. Ai realise that the anus is that center of production of pleasure. Ai is closely related to the mouth and hand, which are also organs strongly controlled by the sexopolitical campaign against masturbation and homosexuality in the nineteenth century. The anus has no gender.”**

Exhibition photos, top right.

Paul Barsch + Tilman Hornig’s Episode 4: Bathroom was on at Münchenstein’s OSLO10, running November 24 to January 25, 2015-2016.

Header image: Paul Barsch + Tilman Hornig, ‘Toilet Piece’ (2015). Detail. Courtesy the artists + OSLO1O.

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New Scenario @ Temporary Gallery, Feb 22

22 February 2016

Berlin-based artists Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig will present a talk on their digital platform, New Scenario at Cologne’s Temporary Gallery on February 22.

The event text captures a snippet of an interview between New Scenario and Temporary Gallery and discussing dealing better with ways of presenting exhibitions online. They point out that many online spaces, or shows presented outside of the white cube often fail to address their specific conditions and formats: “They end up as (often poorly done) online documentations”.

According to the text, for the talk on the 22nd New Scenario will discuss the shift from documentation to image production and “how important it is to overcome one’s own taste”.

See Temporary Gallery’s webpage for more details**

 

Tilman Hornig @ C R A S H (2015). Install view. Photo by Stefan Haehnel. Courtesy New Scenario.
Tilman Hornig @ C R A S H (2015). Install view. Courtesy New Scenario.

 

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Episode 4: Bathroom @ Oslo10, Nov 24

24 November 2015

Dynamic and performative time-based exhibition platform New Scenario and “post-gender avatar” Agatha Valkyrie Ice are presenting the Episode 4: Bathroom installation at Münchenstein, Switzerland’s Oslo10 on November 24.

The event features artists Mikkel Carl, Jesse Darling, Michele Gabriele and Sandra Vaka Olsen, and appears as part of the Body Holes project Chapter 7: ANUS, along with a screening by Daniel Iinatti.

Episode 4: Bathroom comes with little additional information aside from a text with its focus on the digestive tract, including an excerpt that goes as follows:

“…Ai is closely related to the mouth and hand, which are also organs strongly controlled by the sexopolitical campaign against masturbation and homosexuality in the nineteenth century. The anus has no gender.”

See the Oslo10 website for details.**

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JURASSIC PAINT (2015) exhibition photos

18 September 2015

If you wait for something long enough it’ll come back in style, and dinosaurs are coming back with a vengeance of all things though extinct. Jurassic Paint, the second online show by New Scenario, went live on their website in early June. The group exhibition, shot in the forest of Saurierpark Kleinwelka, a dinosaur park filled with life-size dinosaur models, combines “two prehistoric yet resilient species” for a collection of canvas works from eleven visual artists. 

New Scenario, founded by artists Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig in late 2014, is a dynamic platform for conceptual, time-based and performative exhibition formats “that happen outside the real of the white cube”. With Jurassic Paint, Barsch and Hornig invite the participants to combine painting as a “creative act of the imagination” with the construction of the dinosaurs, whose likeness “emerges from fanciful and narrative processes of the human and scientific mind”. The canvas works and the dinosaurs share, as the exhibition’s press release identifies, the same ‘Lebensraum’ or living space, creating a new scenario.

Iain Ball, '(res) terbium series 3' (2015) Install view.
Iain Ball, ‘(res) terbium series 3’ (2015) Install view.

The eleven visual artists have all been asked to create a dinosaur likeness, with Zoe Barcza creating a Plateosaurus titled ‘Shred IV’, Ann Hirsch offering an Anatosaurus titled ‘My Starving Public 1998’, and Tom Davis creating a Campsognathus titled ‘Ovid-Acteaon’. The remaining artists include Scott Gelber with a Diplodocus hallorum titled ‘RothkoNetflix1’, Sayre Gomez with a Antrodemus titled ‘Thief Painting in Violet’, Martin Mannig with a Heterodontosaurus tucki titled ‘Psycho’ and Jaakko Pallasvuo with a Ornitholestes hermanni titled ‘Amusement Park’. There’s also Anselm Ruderisch‘s  Polacanthus titled ‘Voyager1’, Joshua Abelow with a Triceratops prorsus titled ‘Untitled (Witch)’, and Iain Ball with a Triceratops horridus titled ‘(res) terbium series 3’. Hornig and Barsch also contributed pieces to the exhibition with, respectively, a Ceratosaurus nasicornis titled ‘Stop Aids redux’ and a Tyrannosaurus rex titled ‘O. K.’s Time Travels (Back to the Future)’, accompanied by written contributions from Johannes Thumfart and Hendrik Niefeld. **

Exhibition photos, top right.

Jurassic Paint group exhibition went live at newscenario.net on June 11, 2015.

Header image: Zoe Barcza, ‘Shred IV’ (2014). Install view. Courtesy the artist.

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C R A S H (2015) @ New Scenario exhibition photos

6 February 2015

Installed in a Hummer limo but exhibited on the internet, the C R A S H group exhibition is the image of rupture. Or make that several images, as the show – curated by artists and New Scenario founders Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig, along with Burkhard Beschow – presents a body horror of cybernetic objects and synthetic organisms sharing a place in fragments at a point of temporal rift.

Launched on January 17 and featuring the work of 11 artists, each image comes from the one luxury car interior but its object is viewed only in isolation at any given time. The empty space becomes animated as you select an artist’s name, like a point-and-click adventure game of grotesque hidden artefacts, from Hornig’s nylon-limbs stretched out across a leather couch to Barsch’s disembodied hairpiece, dreadlocked and dangling from the sunroof.

Tilman Hornig @ C R A S H (2015). Install view. Photo by Stefan Haehnel. Courtesy New Scenario.
Tilman Hornig @ C R A S H (2015). Install view. Photo by Stefan Haehnel. Courtesy New Scenario.

Inspired by David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and Chris Cunningham’s ‘Windowlicker‘ video for Aphex Twin there’s something chilling about Adam Cruces‘ baguette arm that wears three watches in the speaker compartment and Thomas Payne’s plastic pack of oversized synthetic slaters. It’s place in the driver’s cupholder implying it’s there to be eaten.

This is a backdrop of obscene wealth and mediated overstimulation, where the Hummer limousine comes already loaded with a contextual meaning that a white cube – whether online or off – consciously, but possibly even more artificially attempts to avoid. Thus these actors and their stage in the total cinematic experience of C R A S H, where the drama of  Zack Davis‘ motionless glass barnacle stuck to the screen of a simulated fireplace plays out in a different dimension of the same space as Anne Fellner‘s painting of a white swan lying limply on its side.

Adam Cruces @ C R A S H (2015). Photo by Stefan Haehnel. Courtesy New Scenario.
Adam Cruces @ C R A S H (2015). Install view. Photo by Stefan Haehnel. Courtesy New Scenario.

An accompanying text by Joseph Hernandez called ‘Observations From the Bucket‘ presents a first-person account of a “coming change” ignored by the family but offering ideas and concepts that are “constant and shattered and reveled within”. The anatomical imagery that mostly travels through the protagonist’s digestive tract is slightly less confronting than d3signbur3au‘s troublingly feminised personification of a capitalism that’s eating itself in ‘for a future IV: but what if we are not alive?‘:

“Blue shit burning in her ass like melting solder… the smell of blue fever fills the air, a rotten metal meat smell that steams off her as she shits a soldering blue phosphorescent excrement”.

A bulbous pink blob, ice cubes expanding into polygonal shapes, a napkin spattered with what looks like blood and a toilet brush encrusted with grime and cigarette butts. All of these individual pieces add up to a production that evokes that same sensuous feeling of ‘venereal horror’ that made Cronenberg famous, J. G. Ballard an icon and our collective view to the future one that’s equal parts frightening and fascinating. **

Exhibition photos, top right.

New Scenario is a dynamic platform for conceptual, time based and performative exhibition formats. The C R A S H group exhibition launched online on January 17, 2015.

Header image: C R A S H (2015). Exhibition view. Photo by Stefan Haehnel. Courtesy newscenario.net.

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