Opening Sunday, December 9, Loop is a multi-media exhibition including film, video, sculpture, photography, and performance by Francis Alÿs, Heike Baranowsky, Ceal Floyer, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, Carsten Höller, Christoph Keller, Aernout Mik, Paul Pfeiffer, Susan Philipsz, John Pilson, Santiago Sierra, Nedko Solakov, Yutaka Sone, and Marijke van Warmerdam.
Today, mankind is faced with a new and manifold concept of time: of linear progress or historical circles, of lifespan, time spent at work, leisure time. On the one hand we have decoded human DNA, bringing within reach the possibility to prolong life indefinitely; on the other hand we have seen the transformation of industrial countries into leisure societies and the simultaneous exploitation of the Third World as a depot of cheap labor and manpower, where time is still a negotiable commodity. With seemingly infinite freedom of choice, a recurring action becomes a stabilizing factor for the people of the First World. Time appears to be tangible and serviceable, a phenomenon capable of being influenced, lengthened, or repeated. This theme is reflected not only in the fine arts, but also in the world of media: in pop culture, in techno music, in endlessly repeated video clips, and in advertising.
Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1 Chief Curator and founding director of KW and the Berlin Biennale, has assembled contemporary works that illustrate various aspects of the phenomenon of the loop, which will fill the third floor galleries from December 9 to January 27. Two video works by artists from a previous generation, Bruce Nauman and Marina Abramovic, point to the tradition in which the works of the younger artists are set. Using the potential of the most modern media technology, these artists give visual form to philosophical questions, which involves dividing time up into small sections and holding it up as if in a loop, by continual repetition of the same process. Continuous return keeps everything in an agitated stillness, which leads nowhere and which raises the question of life's purpose. Here time appears as the antithesis of the traditional notion of vanitas (the linear image of the candle that burns out). It no longer leads inevitably to an end, to death; rather, it seems to have been disempowered due to the fact that it is recyclable, as in the myth of Sysiphus.
An exemplary illustration of this is A Life (Black and White) (2001), a performance by Nedko Solakov, seen this year at the Venice Biennale. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, two workers paint the walls of a room, one with white paint, the other with black. One continually follows the other, without ever achieving his purpose. Not without a certain irony, the artist demonstrates the tragedy of eternal return. The topic is treated in a similar way by Heike Baranowsky. Her video shows a woman swimming the crawl down a seemingly endless pool. Her breathing has been cut out of the take, so the movement progresses in an endless loop without a pause. In his work, Paul Pfeiffer subtly alters video clips from well-known entertainment films or sport events. In parallel with the work of biologists, who want to dissect DNA sequences into their smallest component parts and reassemble them in different combinations to create artificial life forms, Pfeiffer creates artificial film loops by dissecting film material into its smallest units and reconstructing it. Using topics such as sports, religion, racism, and power, his endless loops illustrate basic facets of the human character. In his video Fragment of a Crucifixion (After Francis Bacon) (1999), he turns a scream of happiness from the basketball star Larry Johnson into a recurrent vivid moment. Carsten Höller transferred an original carousel from a fairground in Leipzig, which moves so slowly that the viewer must stop moving in order to perceive the object's motion.