What Is Steady Anyway? & Artichoke Underground at Sammlung Philara
(This post also appears in slightly different form at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)
Sammlung Philara is a private collection of contemporary art by Gil Bronner, located inside a former glass production site. Many of the site’s spaces and objects were preserved, ready to turn into frames for works of art or become part of them, and the same is true for the remains and traces from past exhibitions.
The current exhibition What Is Steady Anyway?: 250 years of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf | Class of Sabrina Fritsch & Class of Franka Hörnschemeyer pushes the envelope and makes terrific use of both the environment and its objets trouvés. Individually and collectively, these works constantly provoke thoughts and conversations on art, art history, art theory, and art as a social system—plus, among my favorites, the nature of “frames.”
Then, Artichoke Underground (2013) by Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, a permanent thirteen-room “underground” installation over multiple floors with, e.g., a print shop complete with Artichoke Underground publications, a calcified computer room, or a South Asian canteen/corner shop, with every single item within this vast installation created and crafted by the artists. Most elements are reminiscent of the 1980s in general and punk and cyberpunk in particular; some rooms and items have an unmistakable 1970s flair; and at least the computer room belongs in the 1990s. The installation as a whole and this juxtaposition of period elements evoke a sense of not one, but two catastrophic circumstances or events: the people who lived there for such a long time (the fictitious “Artichoke Underground Collective”) must have had a reason to go underground on the one hand, and they also must have had a reason to leave on the other, seemingly abruptly but not in a chaotic fashion. This doppelung projects both human resilience and transience, both curiosity and calamity (an incubator room for the study of plant consciousness vs. the calcified computer room); both culture and survival (the Artichoke Underground magazines and books vs. a waiting room for sperm donors).
This installation demands more than one visit, like good art does. I’ll be there again soon.
If you have something valuable to add or some interesting point to discuss, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you at Mastodon!