P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center is pleased to present the U.S. premiere of Big Business and Otjesd/Leaving by German artist Clemens von Wedemeyer. Known for installations that exist in a realm between cinema and the fine arts, von Wedemeyer’s moving-image works, shot on 35mm film or video, are usually accompanied by research material, video documentaries, or still photographs to illuminate the conception and production processes. Through their witty references, which allude to cinema classics as well as socio-critical topics and historical events, von Wedemeyer’s works are meditations on a complex world. This exhibition is on view from February 26 through June 5, 2006.
Big Business (2002) is von Wedemeyer’s eponymous remake of the 1929 Laurel and Hardy slapstick classic. Two sales representatives get into a fight with a customer over the sale of a Christmas tree in the middle of August. Over the course of their wacky and revengeful fight, mayhem ensues, a home is trashed, and a car is shredded with bare hands.
It is not until The Making of Big Business (2002) that von Wedemeyer reveals the context of the former’s production: the Waldheim detention center, an institution where the prisoners occupy their time by first building and then destroying model houses. In fact, the actors in Big Business are these very prisoners. The video, which complements Big Business, explores aspects of prison life and elucidates how constructing and subsequently demolishing model houses function as occupational therapy for the prisoners.
In Otjesd/Leaving (2005), von Wedemeyer investigates the immigration of Russians to Germany, which increased after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In a single fifteen minute shot, which recalls the camera work of the great Russian masters such as Andrei Tarkovsy or Aleksandr Sokurov, the film captures an imaginary scene of people waiting for visas in front of the German consulate in Moscow. The camera slowly follows a young woman trying to fight her way into the building. The different dialogues in Russian are not dubbed or subtitled, creating for the viewer an atmosphere of confusion and disorientation. This is further enhanced by the incessantly moving camera, and the fact that the scene was shot neither at a consulate nor in Moscow, but in a forest near Berlin.
Clemens von Wedemeyer (b. 1974; Göttingen, Germany) received a M.F.A. in 2005 from the Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig, Germany. He currently resides in Berlin and Leipzig. Since 1998 he has exhibited mostly in Germany and France and has received several awards.
Clemens von Wedemeyer is curated by Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1 Chief Curator and Curator, Department of Film and Media at The Museum of Modern Art, with the valuable assistance of Jenny Schlenzka.