The design refers back to their infamous Body Holes project—commissioned for the DIS-curated 9th Berlin Biennale in 2016—where contributors were invited to exhibit their work in a chosen human orifice. The show featured an exhaustive line-up of artists and openings, including Ed Fornieles, Rachel De Joode, Sean Raspet, Jesse Darling and more, along with Hornig’s own ‘Green Ear’ piece, featured here on the New Scenario x AQNB t-shirt.
“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.
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.
**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.
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.
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.
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 ;)**
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.
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.
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.”**
The AFFECT 1: WHILE WE WORK: A Temporary State of Affairs group exhibition is on at Berlin’s Agora project space on May 27.
Hosted by the artist run collective and curated by Judith Lavagna, the show is conceived as a time-based structure for one night. WHILE WE WORK operates as a storyteller and as a score that oscillates between the liveness and the memory of Agora’s work in relation to their building —a space in constant mutation, where working phases and changes of plans are part of its daily construction, as well as the multiple informations, stories and rumours that have been circulating.
Affect is Agora’s central programme running for the majority of 2016, acting as co-host to the events that take place at Rollberg, kicking off with this show, collecting and archiving the work within Agora’s work as a whole.
At the top of a stairwell, beside the doorway, a toy butterfly skewered on a curved wire rod circles around the opening of a large crisp packet from a hidden motor inside. Crumbs beside the packet release oil into the concrete dust. It is a work by Paul Barsch. I am lightheaded and seeing stars because the exhibition is at the top of a long spiral staircase that scales the corner of the mostly abandoned building. The sculpture has a smoother mechanism but remains positively lo-fi in its technics, like a hand drawn animation superimposed over 35mm film. In its cyclical dance, a comic gesture, perfected in this automaton, indicates the threshold of the show; the bouncer.
Past the doorway, a skinny tubular structure, one of several of Erik Larsson’s ‘Beach Bums’ works emerges from a mound of sand. Jammed into each other with shims of banknotes; currencies I can’t make out amongst other domestic debris. These notes serve a function to wedge and physically support. Behind this work, a punk and his dog sits in a little scene with their backs against a large modernist object by Lin May Saeed. A haggard host welcoming us to the venue, its crude white plaster legs bleed rust from their internal armature. Alongside it are the words “WR 6603 ART BRUT” written in paint on the ground. The paint is older, inflicting my reading of the sculpture in such proximity; the punk in a moment of disdain contemplating ‘Art Brut’ in huge letters at its feet.
These words and numbers, along with other wall drawings and graffiti in the attic were made in the early 2000s. I piece together a narrative through my conversation with the organisers of an artist who went by the name of Dada Reiner. Two manifesto-like texts by Reiner were found in a stairwell dated from 2001, they included his views on the art-industrial-complex and his methods of practice. The texts have been brought into the space of the show and left on a beam to be read. It is confusing perhaps for the art viewer in search of an exhibition text, but this derailment and the possible co-option of Reiner’s politics is part of the routine at the club.
In the second room Tilman Hornig’s rear painted window frames feel nostalgic and inward in this scenario, their materiality put under scrutiny by that of the attic space. In the adjacent eaves the room is part sectioned-off by a wire mesh, a white rectangle of fabric creates a quick-fix wall divide, and inside this is a salon of small paintings by Real Positive. Unknown schematics, wires gridding the surface of a canvas. In another work I make out wind turbines, or stars collaged from pills and silver foil, a gritty future.
Against a landscape painting by exhibition organiser Fellner, two crude cars made from tin food cans travel in static motion alongside an improvised wall. They’re part children’s toys, part anachronistic prototype, forgotten and resigned to the loft. The metal, cut and torn into vehicles, feels like a dark critique of our modern aspirations and tragedies. A video with clips from Disney-Pixar’s computer-animated comedy adventure film Cars and a text describing the tin can’s journey make up parts of this installation by Fellner & Beschow. Like with Saeed’s art brut punk, there is a contemplation of the future through the tendencies of how we interpret and fetishize the past and its production values, at times with fairytale simplicity.
Comedy Club is short and sweet but its jokes are long-winded and bitter. It feels timeless, in that it occupies a crusty building and shows emerging art. Timed with Berlin Gallery Weekend, the character of many of the works and the precarious rooms they inhabit turn in on the official market-driven programme with a critical gaze. Sub-cultural systems of practice as affect, historical assimilation, spun out. As one of the organisers jokes, it’s an ‘underground’ show but it’s above us in an attic.**
Dresden’s S T O R E gallery is presenting No Need to Hunt – We Just Wait for the Roadkill group exhibition, opening September 26 and running to October 10.
Staying true to its title, the press event announcement comes accompanied by a poem (see below) that alludes to a kind of vulture —an animal that scavenges in an urban environment for meat fallen prey to traffic and become a “fresh delivery” for those who wait.
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.
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. **
The show’s press release comes in the form of an all-caps rambling description of an unknown narrator’s first trip on Jimson weed seeds that begins at a party and ends in a mental coffin somewhere on his/her friend’s couch the next day.
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.
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.
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. **