AC:/DC Projects at Ludwig Museum Cologne
Christoph Schlingensief and Dan Perjovschi
July 29 – September 25, 2005
article by Dana Fabini published in the review Idea artă + societate issue 22/ 2005, editor-in-chief Timotei Nădășan, ISSN 1583-8293
original in Romanian, English translation by Izabella Badiu
(...) For the connoisseur, the presentation Schlingensief / Perjovschi in July-September 2005 has subtly questioned not only the individual creative offer of the two artists but also an implicit comparison of their means of expression, highly personalized and owing to a different background in terms of politics and art, but equally rooted in social-political issues of extreme topicality. One can say without mistake that both artists have acquired in their respective countries an aura of enfant terrible as they were promoted positively in the media but also in negative terms in the specialized milieus. This is a no surprise situation if we take into account the clear-cut attitude of the artists who constantly ridicule, with fun and sharp criticism, explosive situations of the societies they live in but also of the global context.
AC: Christoph Schlingensief: Church of Fear
Church of Fear has been created by Schlingensief together with 8 other founders at the beginning of the Iraq war, on March 20, 2003, and was proclaimed a public alliance of fear. (...) Following the same basic pattern with slight variations in each location – a small wooden Caribbean style church where in muezzin music is played and propaganda leaflets or membership declarations can be found –, Church of Fear dwells on the southern terrace of the Ludwig Museum overlooking the Cologne Dome. It is presented (not by chance) in parallel with the actions initiated in the city for the 20th International Day of the Youth celebrated in Cologne under the patronage of Pope Benedict XVI. (The election of the new Pope, of Bavarian origin, made many Germans state with patriotic pride: Wir sind Papst – We are Pope, and for the public event in Cologne thousands of pins with this slogan have been hand out free of charge.)
Church of Fear, COF in short, under the protection of the democratic concepts pertaining to art institutions, propagates a kind of sacred-profane moral, preaching fear and right to fear under slogans such as: Fear is power! You have the right to be afraid! Fear is our explosive! We believe in nothing anymore! Faith has been taken away from us, but fear cannot be taken away! The battle against those concentrating fear in parliaments and media, on the market and in the circus arena has begun! No leader and no God will guide you! You are the action!
The underlying idea of these slogans is that all communities and faith systems (not necessarily the religious ones) in all times, maintain power putting to good use a sick frustration mood of the population, a mood capable of producing fear. COF proposes, like other of Schlingensief’s actions, a fundamental suspicion: instrumentalization of frustration, wekness and human pain with no scruple by pseudo-prophets and TV preachers who claim to be the carriers of absolute messianic truths for all mankind. Without making any redemption promises and without imposing to the followers any dogma, COF aims at molding this fear in a similar way to the therapy art, first and foremost by raising awareness about it. (...) It is of crucial importance in this process to identify the lobbies that speculate on this fear and that are diversely distributed in certain systems. TV shows, new economy directions presented as apocryphal writings or fixed hierarchies, they all have in common a kind of sect missionary role that, according to COF, is not specific only to religious systems outside the church but to any dominant system of public opinion and faith inducing. (...) Rationally analyzing the production of fear as power, COF demystifies the fear inducers in order to warn people about the manipulations engineered in politics, media, culture, economy, religion (...)
DC: Dan Perjovschi: Naked Drawings
Dan Perjovschi is perceived in the Romanian artistic milieus in the same contradictory manner as Schlingensief is in the German ones. Although his working method is obviously different from a stylistic viewpoint, in terms of concept it pertains to the same critical analysis of society meant to ridicule with fun and lucidity the socio-political mechanisms in the national or international context, which becomes of course provoking and unsettling for those who have too much community sect-like spirit.
The kind of satire drawing that Perjovschi practices is in the same time a diagnosis of the present society and a space of free opinion and non-inhibited communication that parodies the thinking clichés of the social body as well as the lack of responsibility of the individual (either public person or anonymous).(...) The image often becomes a kind of logo and is accompanied with text, also reduced to essence, unsophisticated and functional, in a language similar to the drawings. Perjovschi confesses that he intentionally developed this kind of drawing that anyone could do, he says, refusing deliberately an academic art education, excessively oriented toward formal esthetic speculation that is complacent with stylistic exercises hermetic to the wide public. In opposition and taking up a democratic vision, he offers an art for everybody’s understanding, cleaned of the suffocating pretensions of some esthetic clichés, an art which is close to the people, with topics from real life and wanting to communicate with as many layers of public as possible aiming at a dialog of ideas. (...) Naked Drawings, the work-in-progress at the Ludwig Museum is inscribed in the same referential system. (...) His topics are the news in the Balkans, USA, EU, Islam, terrorist attacks, consumption society, high-profile politicians and the artist condition in society. The specific and dated themes are usually connected to the immediate context (here the city of Cologne and its issues) or to press events whose meaning doesn’t trigger a generally constant interest. Ludwig Museum has allowed the freedom to tackle any subject, no taboos, including that of attacking any open space of the museum – a freedom that Perjovschi used widely acting like a pirate in the museum, inserting graffiti in the halls with contemporary collections, in staircases and hallways, in corners and on ceilings, in less visible or difficult access spots. (...)
The Prophet President and the Gun Who Dreamed to Be a Tank
It is pointless to make again overdone comparisons between the charms and stigmata of western and eastern democracy, with the difference in the concept of museum as institution, with the alternatives of the art scene, the media offers or the pure interpersonal communication over there and over here. This kind of opposition, them and us that we use in daily language has without a doubt a segregationist connotation presupposing a false representation on particular. An attitude of democratic respect names the individuality without reacting in a tribal way. (...) The alternative Schlingensief / Perjovschi at the Ludwig Museum, beyond the common adhesion to the dialog of concrete and topical ideas, has underlined the fact that these artists mirror implicitly the dilemmas of the society they live in. Through the form and idea of art they practice, they are examples of the capacity to criticism and action of these societies and of the national context in comparison with the global socio-politic context. (...) Schlingensief’s morals have structure, manifest, tradition, institution and references. Perjovschi’s morals are configured, make fun of everything indifferently, are spontaneous, dedicated and of conquering vitality. The play with the mechanism of power and the demystification of the false leaders pertains to both. Schlingensief denigrates the prophetic presidents and the corporations behind them through a church of fear where in everyone has the right to plan fictitious terrorist attacks in a clearly organized form. Perjovschi makes us laugh with the image of the gun who dreamed to be a tank, in an amalgam of cartoons ridiculing incisively and unveiling the false discourses. Both caricature the mechanisms of power with its own instruments: the institution with Schlingensief and the logo with Perjovschi. In a comparison in the field of art, both forms have the same communication power and abide by an esthetic of similar concepts.
And the amount of love or hate Schlingensief or Perjovschi stir in their origin milieus has no relevance whatsoever in regard to the interest they stir in the wide world.