by Alice Connolly O’Brien // May 17, 2022
This article is part of our feature topic ’FAKE.’
Until May 29th, Weserhalle is presenting ‘read that twice,’ a show designed by conceptual artist and Berlin native, Andy Kassier. Sharp, small, but sweet, ‘read that twice’ is a layered and ironic assessment of the modern-day value system. Though limited in size, it possesses the potential to leave each visitor with an individualised takeaway. This ability to house multiple truths is a favoured tool of Kassier, and one that has powered most of his career, public image, and artistic endeavours. From creating art through his name-sake alter ego to running a prominent faux Instagram account under the same name, Kassier continuously warps the truth in an attempt to highlight the absurdity of contemporary social phenomena. However, though his dedication to a tongue-in-cheek style is impressive, in utilising it so seamlessly Kassier risks selling himself short. For some,‘read that twice’ will fleetingly exist as a simple afterthought, however, to those who are in on the joke, it has the potential to act as a catalyst for analysis, or at least tickle a knowing laugh out of its audience.
Though rooted in inauthenticity, the exhibition is said to have been inspired by a spiritual journey to Mexico and South Africa that his artistic persona embarked upon to avoid the monotonous Berlin winter. This specific backstory is a not-so-subtle nod to the travel tendencies of Berlin’s many jetsetters, who tend to abandon the city during the darker, colder months. The inclusion of this detail hints that Kassier finds these journeys, and presumably the intentions of their indulgers, phoney. Generally, spiritual journeys are tied to notions of authenticity, but in reality, Kassier implies, they are pseudo routes of self-exploration reserved for individuals who have sufficient privilege to indulge in them. While partaking individuals may feel free, they are only experiencing a kind of freedom that can be bought, a faux consciousness that has a price tag inaccessible to most.
Upon first glance, the contents of ‘read that twice’ appear simplistic. The objects and imagery are familiar and the new-age-sounding proverbs woven into the various works have been long since recycled to shreds in the mainstream media. However, upon closer inspection and in light of Kassier’s earlier work, there is more to the show than first meets the eye. One focal point of the exhibition is a set of paintings that hang on the wall evoking associations of pastel-coloured clouds. Each canvas contains imagery that at first appears innocent but in actuality has been tampered with. For example, one painting depicts a palm tree alight in flames while another is labelled with ‘don’t be happy worry’ instead of the commonplace ‘don’t worry be happy.’ By interfering with these clichés, Kassier is whispering to his audiences to examine their realities more closely.
Kassier describes ‘read that twice’ as “a space for reflection.” Fittingly, the second focal point of the show is a set of three floor-length mirrors. The face of the mirrors has been illuminated by the text of three pseudo-wellness-inspired mantras: “It’s all just a dream,” “Close your eyes and see” and “You are more than this.” The mirror’s text is lit in the same tropical palette as the paintings and provides the perfect backdrop for a social media post or selfie, no doubt an ironic intention of Kassier. Despite the mirrors being veiled in satiric rhetoric, it feels easy to peer into them through a lens of earnestness. The mantras imprinted on them not only label our reflections but also brand the lens through which we see other visitors and the artwork in the show. This demonstrates the self-propagating feedback loop of social media and faux self-fulfilment. If the lens through which we view the world has been implacably tampered with, then how can we distinguish what is real from what is fake?
In addition to the mirrors and paintings, the exhibition includes a variety of sculptural objects including a set of books and a bat. The bible-like books have been crafted from white marble and engraved with golden titles: ‘nothing really matters, ‘it’s just a story,’ and the exhibition’s title, ‘ready that twice.’ In this way Kassier lightly quips about the weight of traditional, taken-for-granted wisdom. The small white bat is also labelled but not in gold. It has been vandalised with the phrase, “unwanted emotions.” The words have been written in black and appear as a pained scribble. Exhibited in the same room as the three full-length mirrors and marble books, this materialisation of emotional refuse feels like an invitation, both literal and metaphorical. Just as one could lay waste to the art work of Kassier’s eponymous alter ego, so could one shatter the very school of thought that inspired it—modern wellness culture and mainstream wisdom.
Kassier uses art as a secret language to comment on the zeitgeist of the moment, but the critique and the object thereof can become blurred, especially since Andy Kassier, the alter ego, and Andy Kassier, the artist, are not only the same person, but share the same name. Kassier conceptualised this reincarnated version of himself in 2013 and ever since he has been entirely funnelling his creativity through his namesake character. His dedication to this fake front is absolutely real and is particularly active on his Instagram, which contains a host of staged photos that embody the trope of the wellness-influencer aesthetic. Over 16k individuals follow Kassier as he posts pictures of himself posing nude in the ocean, painting shirtless at an easel in a flowery field, and flexing in front of a mirror. However, his account, much like the contents of his exhibition, doesn’t advertise Kassier as a pseudo-influencer and so it can be challenging to decipher whether one sees orchestrated content from Kassier the alter ego or authenticity from Kassier the individual–perhaps even for Kassier himself. This uncertainty, while emphasising the seduction and impact of media and self-representation–namely that we lose the distinction between the self and its image–makes it difficult to see Kassier’s intentions through the murky waters of his front and ‘read that twice,’ in all its wit and fun, is a prime example of this.