Critics’ Picks

View of “Das Etablissement der Tatsachen” (The Establishment of Matters of Fact), 2012.

Berlin

Alice Creischer

KOW
Brunnenstrasse 9
April 27 - July 22

For her debut gallery exhibition, artist and theorist Alice Creischer has created a reference-heavy site of production, where viewers are invited to navigate through a two-room multipart installation that is as captivating as it is convoluted. The focus of her whimsical new body of work is a paper balloon with a protruding tube, titled Receiver; it is a component of the section In einem Theater, Namens The Establishment of Matters of Fact (In Theaters, Named The Establishment of Matters of Fact) (all works 2012). Loosely modeled after a vacuum pump that scientist Robert Boyle invented in the 1660s, Receiver is animated by air; a poster instructs viewers how to connect neon-colored straws to the tube and to blow into the balloon and the three long paper tentacles attached to it. Extending vertically toward the ceiling, the tentacles are attached via a Velcro strip to the back of a somber collage, which hovers nightmarishly over viewers’ heads and contains photocopies of children’s heads and delicate drawings of mice, among other things. Boyle is known for having sought to establish empirically reproducible facts (by suffocating mice) and for stirring a debate on the political dangers of a space free of matter (i.e., anarchy). Here the pump is a metaphor for the entanglement of knowledge with power, an issue that has been central to Creischer’s work since the 1990s and runs like a red thread throughout the show.

Descending to the basement, viewers encounter Work Station with Theatre Play, a table displaying notebooks, pencils, mirrors, and four dramatic scripts that serve as the theoretical foundation for the show but ironically look like pulp novels. The scripts feature Creischer’s nonnarrative prose about Boyle as well as snippets from a 1976 lecture by Michel Foucault, and are laden with footnotes on the history of science, critical theory, and current political events (the footnotes are printed in reverse and are only decipherable with a mirror). It is up to the viewer to make connections between, for instance, a vacuum pump from the seventeenth century and present-day politics, links that remain somewhat precarious. Yet by denying clear-cut assertions, and by exposing its own uncertainties, this exhibition stands out from much contemporary art that fashions itself as political.