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work index

After the Gift, as the title already suggests, serves as the frame of reference, in which the after-life of the gift forms the starting point for a meditation on interwoven realtionships between humans, objects, plants and cultures.  After the Gift is a mimetic approach towards  visual form, medium and cultural techniques in different contexts.

 

After the Gift is an ongoing project tracing back to a residency at the Institut for Provocation at Beijing funded by the Mondriaan Fonds in 2016). The final exhibition Given Time, 2016,  consisted of a video, a series of bamboo objects and a gift giving performance, which took place during the opening.

The exhibition 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.

 

 

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

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 post-80s bamboo weaving artist from Ruzho, Henan Province in China.

 

 

The video After the Gift - Blossfeldt’s Fan serves as an archive of the dispersed hand fans during the performance and  is also an index for other baskets woven in the future.

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

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

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. 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.

 

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

 

After the Gift

 

2016-ongoing, 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

The video is a visual and mimetic play between Blossfeldt’s photographs and Chinese woven hand fans. In every sequence, a different hand fan flips a page of an enlarged Karl Blossfeldt photo book “given” by the induced airflow. Shot in slow motion, it allows the viewer to follow the overlapping of shapes, patterns, and colours. The constant flow of repetitive movements puts the viewer into a kind of hypnotizing state. The word “after” in the title relates to a gift giving performance in 2016, in which the hand fans from the video had been given to visitors of an exhibition. After the Gift - Blossfeldt’s Fan serves as an archive of the dispersed hand fans (looking like seeds) and speculates on an “after"-life of the gift that binds giver and receiver into a continuing relationship.

 

texts

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.

 

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 - a possible notion to reflect on artistic production, research and “given” time.

 

After the Gift - Given Time

2016-ongoing, Woven Bamboo

 

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

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

 'dutch rush, scouring rush, young shoot',   'scabious, seed’, ‘poppy, seed capsule',  'conical silene, seed capsule'

 

 

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