More than surfing
Galerie Wien Lukatsch in Berlin presents the second solo exhibition of New York-based artist Dave McKenzie. A dialogue that started in his 2013 show now unfolds through a more internet-media-art style. His usual blunt and honest questions come without artsy looking masquerades or fillers.
You wouldn’t stumble across this hospital-white apartment gallery, unless you were aiming to visit the show or see the vertically shelved extensive art bookshop the gallery also houses. Sitting silently on the 3rd floor of an old style building at the bank of the Landwehrkanal, across from the New National Gallery, Galerie Wien Lukatsch refrains from much personal style, leaving all communication to the artworks; often from conceptual contemporary artists like Mariana Castillo Deball and Dieter Roth.
The show includes three filmed and edited pieces projected in a darker room, a computer-generated video on an old-style TV, a picture and an object hanging on the wall. The installation offers an intimate and comfortable atmosphere for visitors to explore the artwork. Due to their low image quality and disconnectedness, at first glance the pieces seem like they could be content taken out of a two hour internet surfing session of when you come home after a tiring day. Here they are set right under a spotlight and offered for quiet and thorough observation.
McKenzie’s earlier works “Proposal” (2007), “We Shall Overcome” (2004) and “Open Letters” (2004) already addressed topics from popular culture in a visibly open and catchy way. One of the current pieces, “Camera” (2012), that resulted from an encounter with Henry Kissinger (the former Secretary of State of the United States) in the American Academy in Berlin, is accompanied by subtitles of his thoughts: “But since Kissinger is already an image to me I get to work, I reach for my camera the camera being the tool that allows distance and creates a wall of operator and subject, documentarian and document, me and you. I reach for a camera and a wall is created and I never have to answer the question, ‘Do you shake his hand or don’t you?’” Watching it we identify with him: these common social fears, doubts and political confrontations that are usually shared in internet forums like answers.yahoo.com, are not so often addressed in the white-art-gallery spaces, at least without a proper curtain of glamour.
In this video the artist refers to the distance that the camera allows him, a reason not to act, to avoid taking a stand on certain social situations. Already Susan Sontag wrote in “On Photography” (1979): “Photographing is essentially an act of non-intervention,” and whereas for Sontag the concept of photographing appears to be a violent way of defining the difference between the you and the me, for McKenzie it’s described as a simple tool for social interaction, or rather, for social non-interaction.
“The Beautiful One Has Come” (2012) and “Old Man/Sarcophagus” (2013) are observational short video essays that picture old sacred objects inside museums – and how those are protected and exhibited – as well as outside of museums – and how there they are abandoned and discarded instead.
“Black Cheesuz” (2015), “Toe Drips Into The Sun” (2015) and “When Smoke Butters Bread” (2015) all displayed in the second room appear as anecdotic experiential expressions of certain personal interests or questions. “Black Cheesuz” allows the viewer to configure its own interpretation through any combination of the keywords that the artwork throws into the space: The popular joke about ‘Cheesuz’, the idea of a Jesus Christ with dark skin, the black hands holding the object, the ambiguous character of the motive…
“When Smoke Butters Bread” (2015) is an edition of a newspaper containing only full page images. The images repeat symmetrically: the first image is also the last one. The images are loaded with cultural meaning: destroyed indoor spaces, a natural landscape in opposition to a cityscape… Following up on McKenzie’s earlier piece, “Yesterday’s Newspaper” (2007), this piece interacts with the concept of news, of what’s important for society today and how it is pictured. It’s a caricature of a daily newspaper where there is no text and images have become the only information: like taking the contents of an Instagram account, printing them on newspaper format and bringing them out to be observed under daylight. Instagram has become our daily information feed of the world, and it’s ethereal and vague, because its images don’t seem to need to be contextualized or understood, they only need to be felt, appear desirable or impacting. The desirable image becomes an infinite repetition of itself.
Dave McKenzie „Pants full of hope, pockets full of adventure, or … don’t call me Cheesuz“, Wien Lukatsch, Schöneberger Ufer 65, 10765 Berlin, 31.1.–9.4.2015
Dave McKenzie „Black Cheesuz“, 2015, Courtesy Wien Lukatsch