Don't Come In, Be Merciful
25 Oct - 29 Nov 2008
Mircea Cantor, Geoffrey Farmer, Andrew Grassie, Jordan Kantor, Tim Lee, Roman Ondak, Wilhelm Sasnal
Opening: Saturday, 25.10.2008, 15-18
Tuesday to Friday, 10-13, 14-18
The starting point of the exhibition is an anecdote about Rumanian philosopher Cioran. He was almost as popular as Satre in post-war Paris. But Cioran hated surprise visits from journalists, admirers, politicians and colleagues, and so he played with the idea of seven door signs that were intended to keep intrusive visitors out of his attic room. One of these, “DON’T COME IN, BE MERCIFUL”, is the title of the exhibition. This exhibition should not be understood as homage; it provides stimulus to read Cioran’s texts and to reflect on his person and his work. In other words, it represents more of an intellectual game with a philosopher whose radical negation of life has become alien to us in today’s world. The following artists are participating in the exhibition: GEOFFREY FARMER, ANDREW GRASSIE, JORDAN KANTOR, TIM LEE, ROMAN ONDAK and WILHELM SASNAL. Their works of art are arranged in displays together with tables, chairs and books by Cioran, inviting visitors to stay for a while and read.
TIM LEE describes his work in the following way: “It is a collected set of 4 photographs, each 6x9 inches and framed separately in 30x30 inches wood frames, painted in red. In short, the background of the work is that I purchased a working Leica I camera from 1928 (the first 35mm camera, the same model that Alexander Rodchenko used) and set up an elaborate double mirror apparatus, allowing the camera to take a series of photographs of itself from 4 impossible angles – each contributing to a 360 degree view of the camera, thereby reflecting on its own history.
Each of the photos is to be shown in a 2x2 grid square. As well, during the course of the exhibition, each photograph is to be rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise, ultimately taking on the form of a counter-revolutionary clock going backwards in time.”
ROMAN ONDAK takes the title as a direct reference to his own life, which is characterised by constant travelling and the resulting separation from his family and friends. But his descriptions of these journeys enable his family and friends to participate in his absence. They have produce drawings based on the descriptions so that proximity and absence, work and family, reality and imagination culminate in a complex social and cultural constellation.
GEOFFREY FARMER compares his work to a “manifestation” or a “ghost”. This work can be altered by the gallery workers every day so that it is less like a completed object and more like a fluid state of existence or a mysterious message to chance observers. It is thus possible to compare the work to a philosophical statement that is constantly reinterpreted and altered over time; a message that everyone reads in a different way.
WILHELM SASNAL has made five “video clips” to different types of music for the exhibition, ranging from Heavy Metal to filigree electronic sounds. All the films were generated by impressions, memories and feelings and so they create a point of reference to the very emotional roots of Cioran’s writing. Childhood memories of the Second World War monuments to the dead beside the Polish coast, a funeral observed quite by chance after what was perhaps a quite unspectacular death, underlain by a song from “Bonnie and Clyde” with its spectacular end.
As the starting point for his paintings, JORDAN KANTOR takes found material and passes it through several filters before lending it its final form as a painting. Every selected photograph is charged in a cultural, social, art historical and formally ambivalent manner. This is painting as a discourse and intellectual investigation; the images are decontextualised and opened to new interpretations by means of omission, citation, shifts and third levels, whereby the history and significance of a wide spectrum of painterly techniques and styles are incorporated.
ANDREW GRASSIE deceives the viewer in multiple ways. His pictures are neither photographs nor documentation; they are tempera paintings of photographic precision, showing fictive exhibitions in which he brings together a tremendous spectrum of artistic positions. Taken to the extreme, his documentary neutrality seems like a kind of relief from the diversity of individual expressive forms and positions. His contribution to the exhibition shows his studio by night and thus belongs to his series concerning the production, documentation, storage, sale and installation of artworks. The “Studio at Night” can be read as an allusion to Cioran’s famous insomnia. The modesty of the studio also creates references to the dingy attic in which Cioran lived all of his life.
MIRCEA CANTOR's contribution to the Cioran group exhibition is as succinct as it is poetic and is thereby the most direct translation of the exhibition title, summing up the works of all the other artists. In front of the gallery next to the entrance a short, round wooden pole leans against the wall. In Romania, the homeland of the artist, a rural practice of leaning a stick against the door of a house means that the residents are not at home: I AM NEVER AT HOME – another one of Cioran’s door signs.
CIORAN: “If you don’t take medication, writing is the only treatment. Then you simply have to write. Even the act of writing alone signifies a recovery. Let me give you some advice: If you hate someone and you are unable to take revenge, write down his name a hundred times and: I want to kill him, I want to kill him. After half an hour you will feel liberated. That is a very simple way of overcoming things. Formulating is healing - even if you write nonsense, even if you have no talent. Every inmate of a lunatic asylum ought to be given paper. Expression as medication. About suicide: People have often marked me down as an apologist of suicide, but I am not really.
I have to quote myself here: Without the idea of suicide, I would have killed myself long ago. What I wanted to say is that as an idea, this is an incredible help. Because you can say to yourself I can kill myself if I want to, life becomes tolerable. That kind of hope helps you to bear almost anything.” (Conversation with Gerd Bergfleth, 1984)