by Johanna Hardt // Sept. 24, 2021
‘Ende Neu’ starts where it ends: In the elevator. There are no words uttered. No awkward silence, either. Accompanying your quick way up into the exhibition space is Soshi Matsunobe’s ‘Best of Humming’ (2013), a compilation of 60 one-minute recordings of the Japanese artist singing with his lips closed. There might be no words, yet the message is clear. The show is supposed to stick, welcome you in and follow you on your way out.
Yet, there is another tune setting the tone: “Goodbye Hallo Wir kennen uns schon lange Der Phönix und ich.” The Phoenix and I. The show borrows its title from Einstürzende Neubauten’s seventh studio album from 1996. Its sounds might sound conciliatory for the postpunk, proto-industrial band that made their name known for anything but easily digestible music well beyond (West-)Berlin. Yet, they maintain that to create is to destroy.
Curated by Magdalena Mai and Manuel Kirsch, the exhibition ‘Ende Neu’ revolves around destruction as a potential for production. It is at its best when the moment of collapse is anticipated, dislocated, hasn’t happened yet, but could happen any second. It comprises works by Katja Aufleger, Angela de la Cruz, Caterina Gobbi, Bastian Hoffmann, Soshi Matsunobe, Renaud Regnery, Michael Sailstorfer, and Nicola Samorì.
Among the first works are small, decorative bottles on the floor, a piece by Katja Aufleger. The flacons carry different coloured liquids and read things like “Eternity” and in small letters below “for men,” “Because it’s You” and “Alive.” Each one of them has its own fuse. Close by: two lighters. Connecting the dots and the perfume bottles that seemed harmless and familiar a minute ago turn into dangerous Molotov cocktails.
‘Newton’s Cradle’ (2013/2020), in the next room, is bound to test your nerves on a whole different level. The cradle is at rest: Three transparent glass balls hang in a straight line from the ceiling. They hold glycerin, nitric acid and sulfuric acid—ingredients to make a bomb. Suddenly, the work seems precarious, not at rest, not at all stable. This tension gets intensified through the abrupt sound of shattering glass. Luckily, this is just Aufleger’s video ‘Love Affair’ (2017), not far off. Yet, it suffices to make your heart stop for a second.
The painting in Angela de la Cruz’s ‘Self’ (1997) also seems broken (down). Squeezed into a chair, the rust-coloured monochrome looks straight ahead at a copy of itself. Or is it the original, hanging rightfully on the wall, where it ought to be? It makes for a strange scene that seems to both attack the tradition of painting and suggest an emotional physicality connecting to the viewer’s own body and vulnerability. Across, pieces of a wooden wardrobe are placed upon each other. What holds them up remains a mystery. They look on the verge of falling into pieces.
Caterina Gobbi’s sounding sculptures ‘Monuments to a melting voice or the story of a lover that turned into a flower’ (2020/21) await in the last room. The pair consists of aluminium tubes held upright by a steel frame and granite stone. The tubes have different lengths evocative of organ pipes tuned to specific notes. What is audible is generated by exciters using the material to resonate. The track is composed of recordings of melting ice on Mont Blanc. As a testament to the impact of climate change on the Miage and Gigante glaciers, the installation acts as a reminder that we can no longer presume reversibility. Here, destruction is no longer a theoretical possibility. Yet, it is still dislocated, moved to an elsewhere that evades daily life.