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Given Time is a project that consists of three new works: a video, a series of hybrid bamboo objects and a gift giving performance which took place during the opening of the exhibition. The title Given Time forms the frame of reference, in which Time and Gift function as two relevant notions. Given Time is a metaphorical approach towards translation processes and mimetic realtionships of visual form and cultural context.

 

The work draws from a series of sources – Marcel Mauss’ essay The Gift (1925) and his theories on gift giving and reciprocity, the tradition of flower arrangements as gifts for inaugurations in China, Karl Blossfeldt’s photography of plants from the early 20th century and woven hand fans collected from all over China.

1)

Reminiscent of a typical museum display a group of four bamboo objects are displayed on white pedestals. The objects are all woven materializations of Blossfeldt’s photography. As hybrids of two cultural assets (photographic school of Neue Sachlichkeit and the traditional Chinese craft of basketing) the work speaks of refertilisation in the process of contextual, cultural and technical transfers. Originally representing either a seed or pedicel the bamboo objects also refer to the function of the basket itself as a device to transmit gifts. All objects are manufactured by Lailai (Lijun Zhuan), a professional bamboo weaver from Luoning.

Untitled, Gift Giving Performance, 2016, Hand Fans, Shuyu Chen, Max Gerthel, Sascha Pohle,

Excerpt of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, New York, [ Vintage Books ], 1983, CHAPTER ONE, The Motion, Page 3 - 4

During the opening of the exhibition Given Time a ceremonial gift giving performance took place that serves as a textual and conceptual reference in regard to content for the exhibited work.In front of the entrance door of Institute of Provocation an inaugural speech was given by the two directors Max Gerthel and Shuyu Chen. The speech was a recited fragment from Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. It gives an anecdotal example of the twisted term „Indian Giver“, where a Native American gives a peace pipe to an Englishman, who however rather treats this gift as capital ( he puts it on a “mantelpiece“ in the British Museum) than keeping the gift in motion in order to allow others for having a smoke.

 

1 When the Puritans first landed in Massachusetts, they discovered a thing so curious about the Indians’ feelings for property that they felt called upon to give it a name. In 1764, when Thomas Hutchinson wrote his history of the colony, the term was already an old saying: “An Indian gift,” he told his readers, “is a proverbial expression signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected.” We still use this, of course, and in an even broader sense, calling that friend an Indian giver who is so uncivilized as to ask us to return a gift he has given. Imagine a scene. An Englishman comes into an Indian lodge, and his hosts, wishing to make their guest feel welcome, ask him to share a pipe of tobacco. Carved from a soft red stone, the pipe itself is a peace offering that has traditionally circulated among the local tribes, staying in each lodge for a time but always given away again sooner or later. And so the Indians, as is only polite among their people, give the pipe to their guest when he leaves. The Englishman is tickled pink. What a nice thing to send back to the British Museum! He takes it home and sets it on the mantelpiece. A time passes and the leaders of a neighboring tribe come to visit the colonist’s home. To his surprise he finds his guests have some expectation in regard to his pipe, and his translator finally explains to him that if he wishes to show his goodwill he should offer them a smoke and give them the pipe. In consternation the Englishman invents a phrase to describe these people with such a limited sense of private property. The opposite of “Indian giver” would be something like “white man keeper” (or maybe “capitalist”), that is, a person whose instinct is to remove property from circulation, to put it in a warehouse or museum (or, more to the point for capitalism, to lay it aside to be used for production). The Indian giver (or the original one, at any rate) understood a cardinal property of the gift: whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again, not kept. Or, if it is kept, something of similar value should move on in its stead, the way a billiard ball may stop when it sends another scurrying across the felt, its momentum transferred. … the gift must always move.

1 Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, New York, [ Vintage Books ],

1983, CHAPTER ONE, The Motion, page 3-4

 

photo series with hand fan, visitor and chair Language by Max Gerthel

Introduction

On a late 19th century summer’s day, a young French anthropology student received a gift from his professor who had recently visited China. It was a fan, an object common to East, West and everywhere in between. But this fan, made of intricately woven bamboo, was special. A question stuck in the student’s head; ‘who’? Who had made this object? Who had given it to the professor? Who had been cooled by its breeze? It was as if this one everyday object contained fragments of multiple lives. He set it on his desk, continued to mull the lives of his Chinese fan, and began to write.

 

At around the same time, a young German student was given a far more modern tool, a camera. He turned its lens on his focus of study, the architecture of the natural world. Later, as a teacher, he shared these images with his students, and with those who would later gaze in wonder at his book Art Forms in Nature.

In 2016 a copy of the same book turned up on the bookshelves of a Beijing artist residency. ‘For M.’ was scrawled inside its cover.

 

As if blown by the flick of a fan, this story starts to circle: A German artist who receives a grant to visit China finds himself flipping through a collection of plant photography found on a bookshelf. In Luoning, Henan, a lady named Lailai weaves bamboo in the fashion of the French anthro-pologist’s fan. The artist sends her images from the book, which she weaves into tangible objects.

 

Text by Tom Baxter

Leporello, B&W, edition of 200, design by Sascha Pohle

Karl Blossfeldt, The Complete Published Work, 2014 Cologne, [ TASCHEN ]

 

cv

 

Given Time

 

2016, bamboo objects, various sizes / HD video 25 min, color, silent /gift giving performance

After the Gift - Blossfeld's Fan, 2016, HD Video, 25 min, 16:9, Color, Silent

After the Gift - Blossfeld's Fan suggests a visual and mimetic relationships between Blossfeldt’s photographs and my vast collection of Chinese woven hand fans. In every sequence a different hand fans flips a page of an enlarged Karl Blossfeldt photo book“given” by the induced airflow. The video is shot in slow motion and allows to follow the overlaps of shapes, patterns and colors. The constant flow of repetitive movements puts the viewer into a kind of hypnotizing state.

 

texts

Given Time creates an intimate and sophisticated interwoven space in which the connections between guest, host, donor and artist are examined and superimposed onto a new set of works in multiple media.

 

Mauss’ ethnological study on the gift as a merging of object and person, his investigation of social contracts in non-monetary economies and the final ethical conclusions for industrial societies, serves as a main inspiration for the project.

The title of the exhibition is adapted from Derrida’s book 'Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money', which stands as an ideal and irresolvable paradox in opposition to Mauss - a true gift should not appear as gift in order not to enter the circle of exchange, repayment and debt - aa possible notion to reflect on artistic production, research and “given” time.

 

Exhibition view, Given Time, 2016, Black Sesame at Insititute for Provocation, Beijing

Untitled, 2016, Woven Bamboo

Object 1: (H) 64 cm x (W) 29.5 cm 1

Object 2: (H) 29 cm x (W) 30 cm 2

Object 3: (H) 37 cm x (W) 28 cm 3

Object 4: (H) 39 cm x (W) 22.5 cm 4

Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature), 1928, Berlin, [ Wasmuth ],

Karl Blossfeldt, The Complete Published Work, 2014 Cologne, [ TASCHEN ],

1 Page 60, ‘dutch rush, scouring rush, young shoot’, 2 Page 77. ‘scabious, seed’,

3 Page 232 ‘poppy, seed capsule’, 4 Page 429, ‘conical silene, seed capsule’

2)

Exhibition view, Given Time, 2016, Black Sesame at Insititute for Provocation, Beijing

 

3)

Exhibition view, Given Time, 2016, Black Sesame at Insititute for Provocation, Beijing

After reciting the text, both in Mandarin and English, the audience were invited to enter the building and to receive a gift from the artist. Inside the space more than 80 hand fans from my personal collection were displayed on a long table. Each hand fan was given personally to a visitor - the collection was “given away“ (meaning in Chinook Jargon) like in a Potlatch. The hand fans were chosen either randomly or trying to match them with the person’s outfit or look or assumed taste. The same hand fans also appeared in the exhibited video After the Gift. Thus the audience became a shared owner of an artwork and a visual part of the exhibition at the opening day - as protagonists they held their „precious“ gifts or simply used the hand fans to weave some cold air during the hot summer day.

 

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