Artist: Joachim Koester
Venue: Bergen Kunsthall
Exhibition Title: Bringing Something Back
Date: January 26 – March 18, 2018
Joachim Koester, in situ documentation of Maybe this act, this work, this thing, 2016, HD video installation, 20 minutes; Courtesy of Jan Mot, Brussels and Mexico City, and Greene Naftali, New York
Full gallery of images, videos, press release and link available after the jump.
Joachim Koester, in situ documentation of HOWE, 2013, 16mm film installation, 4 minutes 23 seconds; Courtesy of Jan Mot, Brussels and Mexico City, Greene Naftali, New York, and Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen
Joachim Koester, in situ documentation of Praying Mantis, 2016, 16 mm film installation, 3 minutes 44 seconds; Courtesy of Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen
Joachim Koester, in situ documentation of Tarantism, 2007, 16mm black and white film installation, 6 minutes 31 seconds; Courtesy of the artist
Joachim Koester, in situ documentation of The Hashish Club, 2009, 16mm black and white film loop, 6 minutes 6 seconds ; Courtesy of Jan Mot, Brussels and Mexico City, Greene Naftali, New York, and Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen
Images courtesy of Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen. Photos by Thor Brødreskift.
For the exhibition Bringing Something Back at Bergen Kunsthall, Joachim Koester has connected all the galleries in an immersive installation comprising 16mm film projection, digital video, photography and audio works. Set in a staged exhibition “topography”, the works are presented within architectural constructions that combine partly transparent dividing walls, horizontal platforms, vitrines and hovering projection screens. The exhibition charts a physical journey between individual works and their distinctive narratives, each one offering a gateway into unfamiliar territories, situated by culture and history.
Koester’s work is characterized by a distinctive kind of storytelling in which ideas, chains of association and narrative segments are expressed through various works positioned in the exhibition space such that particular physical and conceptual pathways are laid out for the viewer. One goal for Koester is that we should be able to experience the exhibition physically, and sense what it is about, simply by making our way through its topography. Koester himself calls this “inhaling the exhibition”.
The exhibition includes seven film- and video works, spanning Koester’s choreographed films, where he employs actors and dancers, as well as his formally concise experimental films, partly based on the language of early Structuralist filmmakers. In Maybe this act, this work, this thing (2016), two Vaudeville actors are working on a new act. Spurred by the development of the cinematic apparatus, they attempt to transform themselves into a film machine, by “becoming” cogs, wheels, moving belts, and quivering electricity. Like several of Koester’s recent works, the film is anchored in the idea that traces of history and events can be found within our nervous and muscular systems as forgotten memories which can be awakened through movement and gesture. Following this train of thought, Maybe this act, this work, this thing is a kinaesthetic echo of the birth of the film medium and the cultural shifts it induced.
The historical and cultural implications of technological inventions are also touched upon in works such as Of Spirits and Empty Spaces (2012) and Howe (2013). In these films the technological revolution of the sewing machine is told through the figures of Elias Howe (1819-67) and John Murray Spear (1804-87). Spear was a spiritualist, socialist and activist who in 1861 initiated a series of séances, attempting to invent a new kind of sewing machine through a trance dance. At the time, Elias Howe had already developed, and patented, a successful and widely distributed sewing machine. Trying to bypass Howe’s patents Spear’s quest was informed by an almost desperate desire to find an alternative to corporate industrial production. A machine that would revolutionize the relations between the sexes by giving women an opportunity to make enough money to take control of their lives.
Throughout the exhibition, Koester turns with equal interest to the spiritual and consciousness-expanding as to the technological and the historically rooted, focusing on the limits of perception and the hidden sides of apparent reality. The Hashish Club (2009) draws from the cultural history of hashish (cannabis). The 16 mm film of an abstract animation of hashish plants, connects to Koester’s interest in ‘Le Club des Hashishin’, a Parisian group of the late 1840s that was centered around a fascination with drug-induced experiences. Its members included key figures of the French intelligentsia, such as Charles Baudelaire and Eugène Delacroix. Hashish was supplied to the club by Dr Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a psychologist who compared the effects of the drug to the symptoms of mental illness. In Tarantism (2007) another kind of ‘altered state’ is evoked through a condition resulting from the bite of the wolf spider, originally known as the tarantulla. The film is based on a popular belief and condition from southern Italy, where it was thought that the bite of the tarantula caused — and was cured by — a frenzied dance.
Throughout the exhibition visitors are invited to lie down and listen to a series of hypnagogic soundworks made in collaboration with the artist Stefan A. Pedersen. In these works a non-retinal psychogeography is invoked through the use of incantatory words and sounds that summon up physical sites entirely within the imagination. Another collaborative project takes the form of a series of ”exhibitions within the exhibition”, assembled by curator and writer Yann Chateigné Tytelman, and presented in custom-built vitrines. Like contained ecosystems or aquariums, each of these boxes contains books, objects and natural elements; drifting, speculating and expanding on ideas drawn from Koester’s works.
As an introduction to the exhibition, a new group of photographs continues Koester’s ongoing documentation of the praying mantis. An insect that is said to be able to connect with the spirit of the person who watches it, the mantis connects many of the thematic threads within the exhibition. With its ‘performative’ mimetic faculties, its ability to blend in with the environment and its ‘alien’ physical features and movements, the mantis echoes the motion of both the machines and the human figures that otherwise occupy the exhibition.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication launched in autumn 2018, co-published with Camden Arts Centre.