July 27, 2011 - GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst Bremen - Christian Haake’s White Elephant
July 27, 2011

Christian Haake’s White Elephant

Christian Haake, “Passage”, 2011.
Photo by Tobias Hübel.

Christian Haake
White Elephant
21 May–18 September 2011

GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst
Teerhof 21
28199 Bremen
T +49 421 500 897
F +49 421 593 337
presse [​at​] gak-bremen.de
Tue to Sun 11–18h / Thu 11–21h

How do we construct reality? What role do individual and collective memories play in its formation? To what extent can reality and memory be rendered in imagery? These questions are central to Christian Haake’s artistic practice.

Christian Haake (born 1969 in Bremerhaven, lives in Bremen) constructs memories. Transforming his memories and mental images into precisely detailed objects and installations, Haake’s productions tap into our collective memory, shaping a new image of reality in the process. His concern lies not with the verisimilitude of his works, but with their divergence and the fracture, which separates reality, perception and mental image. The rich poetic potential of his works is directed not towards the affirmation of memory, but towards its subtle destabilization. Haake’s work foregrounds the power of memory to generate reality, suggesting that memory, in all its inexactitude, might communicate a “more truthful” image of reality than reality itself is capable of producing. Working without recourse to such aids as photographs or detailed sketches, Haake’s art-making is open to and indeed flirts with the effects of divergence and slippage, resulting in images which are new yet intrinsically coherent.

While these constructions are grounded in memory, Christian Haake’s works are simultaneously distanced from reality by their minute size and are quite obviously not intended as direct representations. For his White Elephant exhibition at the GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst Christian Haake has created a scale model of an abandoned 1960s-era storefront. The Passage (2011) engages in a dialogue with the exhibition space, transforming it into an extension of the work. Haake’s abandoned storefront is the site of a plethora of potentialities, which shimmer below the surface. Visitors to the gallery will be able to enter this near life-size model, emerging as protagonists in an ever-unfolding situation that marks both a threshold and a transformation. The minimal disparity in its scale is almost imperceptible, and testifies to Haake’s skilful employment of the model as a means to distil and compress reality. And yet, as a model his work is a sketch of reality, revealing, in the words of Michel de Certeau, the “otherness of everyday life.”

The abandoned store at the heart of his exhibition is complemented by a collection of works, which explore similar themes in a carefully choreographed web of allusions. On entering Haake’s Passage, visitors to the exhibition leave behind them the neutral lighting of the anterior exhibition space, to step into a space charged with atmospheric lighting effects. The film White Elephant is projected onto the rear wall of the GAK throughout the exhibition and is already visible through the display window of Haake’s store front installation. The film follows a tracking shot through an abandoned shopping mall, as the camera meanders past row of row of empty shops along a seemingly endless walkway. White Elephant is a looping labyrinthine vision of infinite urban abandonment that eschews narrative. And yet, as with Haake’s other works, White Elephant is reality imagined rather than its unmediated portrayal. Indeed, for White Elephant he created a precisely detailed model of the situation and used it as the set for his film work. Created from memory, White Elephant is an allegorical vision of failed dreams. White Elephant—the title of both the exhibition and the film—refers to an item of value which the owner cannot dispose of, has no use for, and which costs more to maintain than its actual value.

White Elephant is Christian Haake’s first institutional solo exhibition. It is curated by Janneke de Vries, director of GAK. A catalogue will be published in October.

Christian Haake's White Elephant
GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst Bremen
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