Proudly presented for KARST’s inaugural exhibition: the UK Debut Show of German-based collective KONSORTIUM. In this exhibition the three artists have designed a site-specific engagement within the unique architecture of the building. Originally the site of a chapel, 22 George Place was bombed during the war and consequently this industrial space was constructed. Newly adapted as a contemporary art venue, KARST’s decision to invite Spaceinvader to begin the proceedings is a playful gesture intended to reactivate the narrative of the building.
Spaceinvader is a metaphor for a travelling artist, who can intervene artistically in diverse situations, spaces and systems, and can ‘invade’ and occupy any location. Although practising independently as artists, as KONSORTIUM they work to produce enveloping environments in essence of the German term gesamtkunstwerk: ‘an entire work’.
An introduction to the show is a print depicting the iconic spaceship from Star Wars parked on the vast forecourt of Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. Demonstrating the principal techniques KONSORTIUM apply to their work, it combines unlikely elements from the past and ‘future’ to form new content. Now derelict, Tempelhof was the most important airport in wartime Germany; the hollow architecture functions only as a reminder to ruinous ideologies. Superimposed against this however, is the Star Destroyer which continues to inspire archetypal fantasies of the future. These two disparate entities collide to invent new dystopian narratives which toy with the potency of their individual legacies.
The artists have covered the walls of KARST’s cavernous space with large multifaceted pieces. Using a customised typeface, Lars Breuer’s wall painting quotes Beelzebub’s initial greeting to Satan, from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. “O how fall’n! how chang’d” is his utterance as the two fallen angels are reunited in hell. The engulfing words are intended to oscillate between both their monumental connotations and the rhythmic abstract qualities of their design.
Instead of words, Guido Münch exploits familiar logos and signs to discuss both their inherent meaning and formal aesthetics. In this case, two paintings, which appropriate the radiation warning and fallout shelter symbols, are hung over a monochrome grey wall, collectively forming an installation. As the artist points out however, initial associations are always refutable. For him, the former emblem is significant for its use on a Kraftwerk record sleeve, and the latter for its appearance in the film Resident Evil.
In contrast to the attention Münch focuses on the centre of the wall, and the continuous flow of Breuer’s design, Sebastian Freytag has multiplied images to form an expansive aesthetic structure. Covering two walls is a pattern of repeating posters, featuring a black and white photograph capturing the scene of the Deepwater Horizon disaster – the oil platform at the epicentre of the BP disaster. This potent image shows the rig sinking 36 hours after a deadly explosion triggered an inextinguishable firestorm. In this piece, the story of a colossal industrial failure, equal to many of the world’s worst natural disasters, is reinstated as a monotonously hypnotic wall adornment.
Located centrally amongst the pillars are three sculptures which look and function as architectural models. They playfully refer to André Malraux’s concept of the Musée Imaginaire, the mid-twentieth century theory that everybody carries an idea of their own ideal art museum collection. Malraux also believed however, that as well as individual differences in the content of an ‘imaginary museum‘, there tend to be large areas of agreement. Each of the artists has developed a replica of their fantasy exhibition, containing some of their own works curated amongst pieces by other artists they particularly admire. The sculptures can be therefore viewed as both models for a potential exhibition, and as independent miniature shows.
Within KARST’s industrial space, the integration of architectural models, photographs, signs and typography, all delivered with a graphic minimalist aesthetic, forms an encapsulating ‘neo-modernist’ environment. The key to this exhibition is heterogeneity; the clashing and forging of diverse contrasting elements. As a gesamtkunstwerk the potent individual narratives collapse; history and meaning is kaleidoscopically rearranged. Ultimately however, KONSORTIUM request “the hush of interpretation so that the whole can become greater than the sum of its parts”.