Train B, 2012
Video 6'02 min
Courtesy of Galerie Jette Rudolph, Berlin
23 June - 4 August, 2012
In Burger’s semi-fictional works, allusions to biographical facts about the artist and references to historical events combine to create fictitious, narrative, documentary accounts. Using costumes and props, the narrative techniques make reference to historical film models from early Hollywood cinema. In his films, Burger uses eye-catching stylistic devices: an emphasis on physical gestures and facial movements; exaggerated, dramatic staging techniques as well as dense dramaturgy. This makes viewers recall the silent film genre.
The exhibition “Einzelhaft” shows a selection of (fictive) construction projects and self-portrayals of Burger, who, given his role as author, director and protagonist, repeatedly confronts himself with the artificiality and failure of his narratives.
With the film medium, Felix Burger makes use of the narrative genre par excellence. He then supplements his narrations with documentary presentations and media, including relics that are on exhibit in display cases as well as photographs. In the various artistic mediums, Burger’s work is always based on an intentionally staged approach that merges different reference systems. So Burger weaves a network of citations of past styles, familiar aesthetics and motifs that sum things up, to create the world according to his ideas – all proven and demonstrated by photos and documents, songs and relics. It is very clear that Burger connects each of his works to his person and to his personal surroundings, thereby raising the question of a person’s relationship to reality: On the border between reality and aesthetic forms, the (self-) critical narratives signal to the viewer that – through the masks and voices that are employed – the artist’s utterances might be distorted, artificial or even fictional. References to the expressive quality of early American cinema and Burger’s imitations of these styles in his works thereby look as if they were borrowed from the propaganda aesthetics specific to the Third Reich and from Wagner’s dramatic stage pathos. In his works, in the union between theater and art, the artist posits himself as a reference to reality, which ultimately often comes across as intentionally amateurish and, in fact, like a despairing attempt to create something very impressive, but which renounces the perfect illusion in favor of intentional role play, masquerade and playful mental projections.
The exhibition “Einzelhaft” shows various works by Felix Burger in which the self-referential loop that runs through his fictional narrations repeatedly fails. He takes the viewer with him on his mental trips between seduction and alienation, reality and fiction, creates historical events and biographies, which then lastly in the fleeting game of shadows and masquerades remain as ungraspable as phantoms.
In the exhibition’s main cabinet, Burger stages the documentation of the “Schliersee” (“Lake Schlier”) project, a construction project for an underground amusement park that is to be built in his homeland, the foothills of the Alps, and presents it as a setting suitable for the masses, where they can enjoy light entertainment. In the installation – a dark room that can be entered, lit by a single light-bulb and separate from the rest of the exhibition space – Burger devises a fictional report on the project using (faked) daguerreotypes, building plans, letters and other documentary relics, alternating between fictive narration, reminders of actual historical urban planning measures and emotional scenes.
The romanticizing aesthetics of the video work, “The Mill on Black Water,” also make an absolute and emphatic impression. A documentary film that is just four minutes long, it describes the demolition of Munich’s inner city based on urban changes that were once really planned by Baron Haussmann or based on plans by Albert Speers, but does not lead to the creation of urban isolation and destruction in the name of propaganda. Instead, according to his own wishes, the artist redesigns the home he grew up in, transforming it into a secluded medieval mill.
Wearing a dark hooded-garment, the artist appears as a protagonist in the film work “Train B.” As a passenger in a subway car, one recognizes the artist’s face in the reflection in the train’s window, while the train takes him through three stations and past three collective catastrophes: A subjective trip through hell passes singing poster ads for the Hitler youth at the “Wolfsschanze” Station (“Wolf’s Lair,” the 1st station); the train goes through highly contaminated areas of Chernobyl (2nd station); and lastly the subway car crawls through the ruins of Ground Zero (3rd station), to ultimately leave it to viewers to let their growing willingness to get emotionally and politically involved take over and to let them assess the events.
The obvious connection between narrative and reality can again be seen in the large-format photograph, “Warum ich lieber Märchenkönig als Künstler geworden wäre” (“Why I would have preferred to have become a fairy-tale king instead of an artist”), which shows a portrait of Burger as Ludwig II. Slightly disguised in a wig, with a glue-on beard and teeth painted black, a portrait emerges that is a cross between fairy-tale king and artist, that tries to give his face an expression of despair and tragedy.
In a pastiche-like way, Burger often depicts darker versions of life, thereby making recourse to genres we are familiar with. The literary critic Fredric Jameson (Foster, Hall. “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, Port Townsend, 1983.) refers to this imitation and reference system as the narrative’s guiding principle: Without being an acute part of everyday life, the reference to something all too familiar remains and brings a certain sense of nostalgia with it. Inextricably intertwined with cinematic narrations, memories and references, one continually bumps into one person, Felix Burger, who leaves behind his satiric fingerprints and who, locked up in this system of references and citations – as is he were in solitary confinement – ultimately cannot be trusted: In the medial cells of cinematic works, the viewer in search of authentic expression and true emotions must fail as much as the artist himself in his attempts to escape into fictional worlds. In the uncertain limbo between media world and reality, where competition alternates with correlations being made between diverging images, human existence is held captive in an eternal becoming.
GALERIE JETTE RUDOLPH
Strausberger Platz 4
D- 10243 Berlin
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GALERIE JETTE RUDOLPH
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