Christoph Draeger at “Death Drive”, Y Gallery, New York
April 5th-May 2nd, 2017
Wednesday, April 5th, 2017, 6pm-9pm
Y Gallery is pleased to present Death Drive, a group show curated by Carlos Garcia-Montero.
Are we living in a world dominated by Tanathic forces, or are Tanathic forces only a way to balance the uncomfortable reality of our global society?
Freud suggested that humans have a life instinct and a death instinct (Sex & Aggression). The drive for aggression is an external representation of the death drive that seeks destruction, a way for human life to return to an inorganic state.
Intriguing as it may be, this death principle appears in the moments where we are the happiest, expanding as living beings thriving in life or pleasure. It offers a quick and easy feeling of resolution, a feeling of control and independence. Destructive behavior in history functions like a ritual conducted to give a likeness of order to chaos.
During times of war, suicide rates drop. When homicide rates are low, suicide rates rise, and in reverse. These events point us towards an innate drive that impels balance in destructive forces. At the end death reinforces that we are alive and makes hidden desires flourish in our own seeking of pleasure.
Through different strategies these group of artists reflect on contemporary culture. In Death Drive, war and death, and, pleasure and desire, are explored and exhausted as a personal artistic medium. Architecture is reconceptualized to favor new ways of thinking, social structure and aesthetics; personal memories are reconstructed, and social and moral precepts are reinvented under new fantasies.
Luis Alonzo-Barkigia’s works in the show, Untitled (Ficciones), exemplifies the artist’s studio practice that is based primarily in collage and goes through a process of mark making and deconstruction. In Untitled (Ficciones) the artist was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges book of short stories and the author’s ability to present fiction is such a convincingly factual manner. The single image in the diptych is a reproduction from a book of unfinished architectural proposals that the author photographed. The image is cropped, doubled and transferred into two colors blurring the content into deep levels of fiction. The subsequent pieces, reiterate yet abstract the photograph through their repetition of form and contrasting colors.
Visitors to Death Drive will also discover an unfamiliar sound resonating throughout the exhibition. The audio work, by Shay Arick, is titled Intruder Alert and features the sound of ants. According to the artist’s research, some types of ants produce alarm signals in response to predator threat. This signaling can increase the effectiveness of predator protection by the ants. Arick recorded this sound piece while approaching an ant colony. He was the intruder that set the alarm.
Also by Arick is a work from the series titled Me-Him, made up of photo reenactments of personal photographs of Palestinians killed by Israeli armed forces, whose names alone appear in the Israeli press. The piece in Death Drive, titled MAMDOUH-AL-SHAWWAF, depicts Mamdouh Ibrahim al Shawwaf, a 25-year-old man who was killed on Friday, July 25, 2014 in Khan Younis. In the attack, an Israeli aircraft launched a missile in Abassan village, east of Khan Younis.
Alberto Borea, another artist featured in Death Drive, grew up in Lima during Peru’s internal war of the 80’s, which influenced his conceptual relationship working with objects and their symbolism. The relationship between different cultures, the exotic, the western idea of the primitive, the center and the so-called peripheries, the ruins and the promise of modernity are some of the conceptual interests in his practice. In Death Drive, Borea presents a painting that is representative of these recurring themes in his work: a constant dialogue with objects, images and urban waste, as well as the continuous displacement and use of diverse media and materials. Borea uses objects and his body to create unique metaphors that talks about social-political-existential concerns.
Also inspired by politics is artist Ryan Brown, exhibiting his sculptural wall piece, Untitled (Russian Logo), in the form of a folded beach chair covered with images of a logo. The logo is inspired by propaganda written by anonymous French anarchists used during the Russian Revolution. This original text depicted an image of a worker cutting wood with his rifle nearby, and stated, “keep working, but with your rifle nearby.” The logo that Brown has recreated in a more decorative fashion on the beach chair is based on this sentiment, but is slightly more pessimistic, showing the worker as actually cutting his leg instead of wood. The literature addresses the plight of the contemporary worker as not having the means to labor, therefore left only sawing his leg, pushing further the disparity between the leisure class and the working people.
The artist duo Ori Carino and Benjamin Armas present a sculpture, Glass House II, which deals with the fragility of the spaces we inhabit as a metaphor, similar to the way that Brown’s work deals with the precarious nature that can describe our labor, and our livelihood. Carino and Armas believe that from the moment people are born, they begin to crumble, and that this is reflected in the buildings we inhabit and the world around us. Still, Glass House II deals with the idea that we can use our crumbling body and world to act out the great ideals of humanity, we can fill the places we inhabit with love and creativity, and we can create and experience divinity in everything we do. This dichotomy, like the death drive idea, highlights the tension between our awareness of our own imminent death and the desire towards life simultaneously. Carino and Armas’s materials symbolize permanence and strength, but are used with an opposite goal to demonstrate something weak and fragile.
In Christoph Draeger’s work, the mechanics of the construction and reception of media are often exposed from a perspective of detached irony and satire. Morbid events such as catastrophes are, of course, intrinsically of the media: faithful to the journalistic motto that only bad news is good news, and that natural catastrophes as well as human ones generate much higher ratings and greater coverage than any other issues.
In Catastrophe #3, the work on display in Death Drive, Draeger constructed a disaster area as a part of his series Catastrophe #1-3 that spanned 20 years and included 3 works. For Catastrophe#3 (Composite), Draeger experimented with a new form of output: the work is composed from sixteen single shots, similar to the way that satellite images or Google street view constructs reality from fragments. Does mass culture’s encyclopedic indexing of catastrophe construct our sense of a present or immanent apocalyptic reality? Or do we use cognitive dissonance (a kind of not looking) as a method of coping? These and related discomforting questions underlie Draeger’s seemingly flippant use of painful material.
Next in Death Drive is an intriguing image from Christopher Van Ginhoven’s photographic series titled Locus amoenus. Locus amoenus comprises a series of photographs taken in the deserts and forests surrounding Los Angeles. The series chronicles the artist’s attempts to return to the places that served as locations for various photographs featured in his collection of gay pornographic magazines from the time of the AIDS crisis. Van Ginhoven was most interested in chronicling the way in which his memories of the photographs would animate the landscape through which he moved. At different points in this journey, Van Ginhoven would rip a page from a magazine and let it settle on the ground before photographing it. Locus amoenus memorializes the release of libidinal energies into the archetypal “place of enjoyment” alluded to in the title of the series.
Also imbued with intense sexual energy is Katya Kan’s painting in Death Drive, Crash. Based on the 1996 film by Canadian director, David Cronenberg, this work explores the phenomenon of the fetishization of violence, explored in this film, albeit in a contemporary context. Cronenberg is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the visceral horror genre in cinema. Crash is a 1996 psychological thriller in which the protagonists take sexual pleasure from car crashes via paraphilia. Commenting on the global terrorist attacks including the bombing of innocent passengers’ cars in 2016, Kan’s painting transposes the film into the contemporary context. Amongst other artistic purposes, this painting commemorates the victims of these car attacks in a controversial and defiant manner. Rather than conveying any negative critique on Islam, this painting rather advocates the emancipation of female power through symbolism, such as the woman in the hijab holding the key.
Hernan Rivera Luque’s Black Painting Series consists of work made from the simple action of dropping a bucket of paint into a frame and allowing it to dry. The work challenges the concept of what defines a painter and the artist’s hand. There is no control, no design. The imperfections on the surface give the painting an organic feeling directly in contrast with the synthetic latex material. The works can be observed as a silent reflection, an encryption of the environment and passage of time that molded the resulting forms. In Death Drive, Rivera Luque’s Untitled (Jet Black) from the series reminds viewers of stark contrast and at the same time an austere void that confronts us with the ideas of the death drive principle.
Additionally, artist Anuar Maauad draws inspiration from the realms of installation, sculpture, and interactive art. Maauad’s work acts as an examination of embodiment, perceptual experience, and the concepts of body and self. In Death Drive, Maauad exhibits a large-scale sculptural work, a bronze bust that reveals a link between contemporary art consumption and the increasing role of historical figures. The work presented is titled Terror I, referring to the historical rise of international authoritarian regimes and the concomitant censorship of the arts – a story that repeats itself in the political history of Mexico. The work seeks to evoke a “cemetery of inquiry” of the hidden ideological heirarchies that shape the role of contemporary sculpture making.
Adding to the diversity of media present in Death Drive are two video works by globally renowned artist Bjørn Melhus. His first piece featured in the exhibit is an experimental short film, FREEDOM & INDEPENDENCE, questions the current global ideological paradigm shifts towards new forms of religious capitalism. It creates a confrontation between the ideas and quotes of the self-proclaimed objectivist philosopher and novelist, Ayn Rand, and the evangelical contents of US-American mainstream movies. This contemporary fairy tale, in which Melhus performs all characters himself, was partly shot in a Berlin morgue as well as in new urban environments in Istanbul.
Melhus’s second film in Death Drive is titled Bigger Than Life, and is shown on an iPhone 4.
The film is a condensed version of the film SPEED, in which a bus can’t stop and drives colliding in many cars through LA and finally ends in crashing into an airplane. For Bigger Than Life, the film SPEED is reduced from 111 minutes to 111 seconds, and only shows the bus crashing into objects and cars until the final inferno. Then it starts from the beginning. Melhus notes that the short film is his imagining of a mirror reflecting what is happening in our society today.
An additional artist in Death Drive who works with notions of abstraction related to urban life is G.T. Pellizzi. His light piece on display, Conduits in red yellow and blue (figure 68), is part of his acclaimed body of work that engages in a critical approach towards modernist artistic concepts. With this work, Pellizzi relates art historical elements to current social concerns recognizing the metropolitan landscape as a source of abstraction, and points out both the artistic and urban elements that constantly reappear in an ever-changing metropolis. His painted light bulbs and fixtures allude to the loft spaces in industrial buildings where artists initially work before the gentrification process takes over, calling viewers to think about the life and death of art in specific urban areas.
Finally, Death Drive presents performance pieces by Oliver Bulas and Zebadiah Kenneally. Oliver Bulas’s performance “And So If Again I Would Play the Boré; What Source From Steep Rock Is Springing, That Goes Seething, Quivering and Whining, Which the Rage is Erasing, All This Is Not, As They Trickle Down, To the Sounds of the Boré“ is a situation created through the administration of time and space by the means of disciplining, but also its opposite, by dislimitation. His material is initially not acting but the conditions on the spot: the social fabric, physical elements, atmospheres and actions. The performance is location- specific and can negotiate a given situation through the combination of set materials. Any given action can entangle certain contradictions that are inherent in the situation and thus initiate a process, sometimes a transformation. Bulas researched the way people cross boundaries to work around existing rules and conventions. Through cunning, lying and charming, social actors are able to install their own sets of rules within the rules of the public and therefore gain agency within these power relations. His performance engages in language, imitation and seduction in which Death Drive explores.
In For Love Zebadiah Keneally fights a headless torso suspended by chains, which the artist refers to as The Gladiator. A figure of extraordinary physical prowess whose strength is contradicted by the fact of his slavery, the Gladiator is fated to live and die for the entertainment of the emperor. Inspired by punk rock concerts and physical comedy, Keneally questions the nature of his masculinity in an energetic, physical, dark-humored performance accompanied by the musician Spencer Bloor, posing as a mountain.
Ori Carino and Benjamin Armas
Christopher Van Ginhoven
Hernan Rivera Luque
New York, NY 10002
firstname.lastname@example.org / 1 (212) 228 3897
319 Grand Street at Orchard St.
Christoph Draeger, Catastrophe#3 (Composite), 2016
16 Lambda prints, ca 150x180cm