Sprüth Magers

John Bock "Knick-Falte in der Schädeldecke"

15 Mar - 12 Apr 2014

John Bock

Unzone Eierloch 2012

Video, 47:50 MIN

Foto: David Schultz
John Bock
Knick-Falte in der Schädeldecke
15/03 – 12/04/2014
The film Unzone Eierloch by John Bock begins with a scene which can be understood as a metaphor for his
entire oeuvre: The main protagonist, who could be considered to be a young version of the artist himself in
terms of height, appearance, and clothing style, stands in front of a generic oil painting depicting a seascape.
He secretely scrapes away some oil paint from the canvas, whereupon a flood of blue-green slime emerges
from the cut. The leak in the painted ocean cannot be plugged, the oozing slime cannot be stopped.
In his actions, lectures, installations, drawings, sculptures and films, John Bock likewise continues to bore and
prick until that symbolic primal slime becomes visible which billows beneath the ordered pathways of our
culture. With playful ease, he repeatedly reveals the anarchical, macabre, and often grotesque chaos which we
consistently suppress in order to maintain our linguistic conventions, art-historical verities, and social orders.
This perspective has given rise to an art of contemporary existential Dadaism which is truly unique.
Knick-Falte in der Schädeldecke is John Bock's first solo exhibition at Sprüth Magers in Berlin. It brings
together three groups of works from the years 2010 to 2014. For Pole Poppenspäler, Bock approaches his
comprehensive artistic project in terms of drawing. The title is an allusion to Theodor Storm's short story of the
same name concerning the irreconcilability of bourgeois and artistic lifestyle. In the middle of the installation
stands a sculpture which is composed from everyday materials such as plastic buckets and cardboard boxes
showing obvious signs of use. It serves as a place for storing several dozen drawings, a selection of which will
be hanging across the entire length of the wall behind the sculpture, and which all use a fictitious language
consisting of diagrams, notes, and segments of texts. The drawings refer to each other and constitute a closed
cosmos of diverse trains of thought which may be combined repeatedly into new patterns. They are to be
considered as filmic storyboards.
The work Der magische Krug shows how a film which was shot according to these sorts of storyboards could
look like. In an installation resembling a movie theatre, the viewers can sit down and watch the fifteen-minutelong,
black-and-white film. The painterly stage design, the gesturally exaggerated actions of the characters, as
well as the piano music accompanying the film are reminiscent of both the language of silent movies and the
gloomy scenarios of expressionistic film. The plot seems like an absurd dance alternating between comedy and
violence, based on an absurd logic. The climax frightens the viewer at the end of the film: The screen opens,
and the main protagonist literally steps through it in the form of a doll. In a horror scenario turned excruciatingly
real, the body of this doll splits apart as well and opens the view onto a homunculus figure which only vaguely
resembles a human being.
The central piece of Knick-Falte in der Schädeldecke is the new installation Unzone Eierloch, in the middle of
which the same-named, 48-minute-long film is projected onto a wall in a large format. At first, the work seems
to adhere to the “rules” of movies with which the viewer is familiar from cinema. But this logic is soon conducted
to utter absurdity through the constant blending of dream sequences with an apparently regular plot level.
Moreover, confusion is caused by various borrowings from all possible film genres. Unzone Eierloch is
simultaneously an experimental film, horror film, road movie, romantic comedy, gangster film, science-fiction
film, trash film, and criminal drama. It is both a narrated film and a free, associative play with words, objects,
and narrative fragments. What begins as a strange love story culminates in a slaughter violating all the limits of
good taste and perpetrated by a masked, disguised serial killer upon a artificial, human-animal body.
Shown on a substructure are items derived from the film which runs in a loop: the amorphous corpse, various
diagrams, and other objects which play an important role in the film. In addition, five monitors show the dream
sequences which are only hinted at in the film in their full length. John Bock calls this sort of total work of art a
“Summenmutation” (mutation of sums).
The term which Bock employs most often in relation to his works is that of “Kunstwohlfahrt” (art welfare). The
idea of artistic social services seems to stand in stark opposition to this work which violates all certitudes and
conventions. But Bock is serious in this matter: Quite aware that there exists no such thing as an ideal viewer,
he endeavors with his highly invasive works to attack each viewer individually, to shake him up privately, and
thereby to induce him to reconsider the terms and ideas upon which he has uncritically established the
foundations of his life.
Sprüth Magers Berlin is concurrently presenting the solo exhibitions Bad Director's Chair by John Waters and
Working Papers: Donald Judd Drawings, 1963 – 93, curated by Peter Ballantine.

Tags: John Bock, Donald Judd, John Waters