VILLA JELMINI The Complex of Respect

VILLA JELMINI The Complex of Respect

Kunsthalle Bern

January 20, 2006

The Complex of Respect
January 27th-March 26th 2006

Kunsthalle Bern
Helvetiaplatz 1
CH 3005 Bern
41 31 350 00 40
info [​at​]

With: Tonico Lemos Auad, Kristina Bræin, Balthasar Burkhard, Roberto Cuoghi, Art Farm/Wim Delvoye, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Armen Eloyan, Marius Engh, Jaime Gili, Henry VIII’s Wives, Ivan Grubanov, Franticek Klossner, Michael S. Riedel, Tommy Simoens, Boy Stappaerts, a.o. ,
Curated by Philippe Pirotte

Preliminary notes towards an (im)possible exhibition

From the city of Bern I have been asked to organize an exhibition which deals with Harald Szeemann‘s intellectual and spiritual legacy. Not wanting to make an homage (which is more the type of project for a museum and for sure is a more documentary move), in the same time, I didn’t want to delve into a past, celebrating Mr. Szeemann in a place – the Kunsthalle Bern – that he defined as an artistic laboratory of the present but where eventually he had such difficulties to defend his ideas that he finally decided to leave Still an exhibition could be made out of this weird mixture of ideas conjuring up with these demands for homage.

So I wanted to curate an exhibition which deals both with the complex and ambiguous notion of respect in the context of the ‘bigger than life’ story of Szeemanns curatorial legacy internationally, but also with the reflex of an establishment in a provincial town to celebrate a former rebel. On the other hand the show tackles some of Szeemans ‘obsessions’: the a-historical approach, the process of creating, the visionary, the individual mythology, the total work of art, the encyclopedia, and transfers them to this (im)possible place: Villa Jelmini.

The realm of the actual exhibition functions as yet another, or a next heterotopia in relation to both a group of received iconic images of 20th century art, and to Szeemann’s utopian museum of obsessions. Villa Jelmini takes his exhibitions in account as mnemonic traces, wherein even involuntary symptoms may yet contain re-activating elements. So the actual exhibition’s gravitational focus can be considered as a real space with the characteristics of a ‘deviation’ or a ‘crisis’ within a complex relay of anticipated futures and reconstructed pasts. What is left is the exhibition itself as an independent organizational structure.

An exhibition that analyses the (im)possibility to construct a space where different memories, traditions can meet. Is it possible to demonstrate an “other” to our system of thought and how can we then specify this otherness? The impossibility of a “common ground” within the widened understanding of art might be the most interesting outcome of Szeemanns curatorial practice. What is destroyed is the “site,” the “mute ground upon which it is possible for entities to be juxtaposed. The impossibility of the encyclopedia is the impossibility for a certain thought to think difference in itself, with no relation to identity: in Hegelian terms, diversity with no relation to opposition, contradiction and finally ground. Concentrating on this ‘disturbing of identity’ the show deals with the heteroclite and the heterotopia, and connects it to aphasia: loss of what is common to place and name.

Villa Jelmini: a place that is out of the ordinary, the peripheral – in its non-geopolitical sense – or the displaced. In contrast to utopia, with its symbolic meaning of an ideal place which exists physically nowhere but in its representations, Villa Jelmini becomes an actual place “somewhere”, which incommensurability makes it a site of instability and contravention.

This exhibition wants to create a space of vulnerability, where the ghosts of Szeemann’s ‘obsessions’ linger. Departing from the ‘negative’ of an exhibition, and connecting these metonymic fragments in memory, we may come familiar with an exhibition we have not actually seen. Clearly though, this ‘exhibition’ becomes a heterogeneous psychical object, constructed from artworks scattered in space and time.

The exhibition features a series of black and white photographs by Balthasar Burkhard documenting Harald Szeemanns fabrica, his legendary archive where documents were mostly stored in empty Villa Jelmini wine boxes. Armen Eloyan, Roberto Cuoghi and Ivan Grubanov venture in the ambiguous domain of the portrait as an homage. Next to a portrait of his death uncle, Cuoghi presents an interactive installation pushing us into a powerful art-world-players-galaxy, echoed by Eloyans drawings of a secret society of men wearing shiny sunglasses, while Grubanovs Study of my father is directly connected with the recent history of the war in Yugoslavia, a political and social tragedy, that determined the relationship between father and son. Tonico Lemos Auads site specific work, often changes through time, like his drawings on bananas. His recent project is inspired by love, family and friendship messages found on cheap jewellery, from necklaces saying ‘My heart says forever’ to bracelets reading ‘I love you more today than yesterday but less than tomorrow’. These challenge the value – whether monetary or sentimental – of something which is either or not, lost or found. Wim Delvoye has been tattooing pigs as an art statement for years, but most recently, he’s rented a traditional Chinese farm to take his statement even further; what he calls “harvesting” his art. Currently, there are 24 tattooed pigs on the farm, some with classic Americana flash designs, Russian prison tattoos, and even a pig covered in Louis Vuitton’s trademark logo. While the tattoos themselves do not contain specific messages, Delvoye says that, as pigs grow in size, the tattoos stretch and fade, a visual reminder of human illusions and wishes that have faded. Delvoyes controversial Art Farm in China is featured in the Kunsthalle via a webcam installation. Kristina Bræins improvised interventions with everyday materials challenge the governing logic of the room. Her works express potentials of another sort and formulate a way out of the suffocating sense of too much programmed, instrumentalized space within our built environment. Gardar Eide Einarsson works with the subversive contextual strategies of the subcultural operator but contaminates politics of style and the representation of social facts through artistic fiction, while Marius Engh records particular situations in which the random archiving forces of nature violate the artificial order of constructed environments. In Jaime Gilis paintings the graphic sign is applied to an excessive visuality of the explosion or crash resulting in hard edge poplike images with various insinuations about the consequences of speed and pace. Boy Stappaerts sculptures are marked by a near impossible degree of finishing, smoothness and mathematical perfection, analogous to the industrially produced design object. At the same time he surpasses such associations through both the technical complexity and the content-related implications of his sculptures. Functioning within more comprehensive installations they are a proposition for an alternative order. Pseudo-architectural and pseudo-decorative elements combine in a constellation whose immediate purpose remains rather latent. Michael S. Riedels conceptual simulacra operate on numerous levels as reinterpretations of existing works of art, restagings of events, and facsimiles of architectural structures. For the show at the Kunsthalle, he revisits Joseph Kosuths One and Three Chairs, 1965, enhancing the contemplative aspect of the original work by using the chairs as props in a performance. Tommy Simoens concentrates on elements of exhibition-design: panels, demarcations and announcement devices conjure up an artwork that might only be there in mind. The artists collective Henry VIIIs Wives promote the proposal to build Vladimir Tatlin’s Tower, originally conceived for the 3rd International and only exisiting in models, to the people of Bern, through parodying the propaganda machine, and through a high level of discussion and debate.

Villa Jelmini presents the following publications: -Visitor by Ivan Grubanov, co- published by the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrado and Kunsthalle Bern, with texts by Gerardo Mosquera, Philippe Pirotte, Martina Martic and Ivan Grubanov.

-A reprint of the catalogue of Harald Szeemanns seminal exhibition: Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form and a reprint of the first part of the historical survey of exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Bern: Von Hodler bis Antiform.

-A catalogue of Villa Jelmini The Complex of Respect will be produced during the exhibition.
Special events

Thursday January 26th, 7pm
Presentation of the publication Visitor and discussion with Philippe Pirotte, Ivan Grubanov and guests

Friday January 27th, 2.30 pm
Presentation of the reprints of the publications Discussion with Fred Zaugg, Roman Kurzmeyer, and Philippe Pirotte

Friday January 27th, 6 pm
Opening reception with Sit-In The Brain of the Panic Zone by Boy Stappaerts

Sunday March 19th, 4 pm
Machbarkeit: Debate with the artists collective Henry VIIIs Wives about their Tatlin Tower Project (

Friday March 24th 6 pm 2 am
Museums Night with Laser Projection by Henry VIIIs Wives

More events to be announced: check:

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Kunsthalle Bern
January 20, 2006

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