Nils Norman

Friesenwall 120

The main component of Nils Norman’s exhibition was an approximately one-hundred-minute audiotape on which he discusses his evolution from student to exile to artist with his friend Merlin Carpenter, an artist who underwent a similar transition. The tape consists of an intimate, jokey art conversation, and it shifts from a “we are old friends” routine, to a “conversation on art” routine, to a “two allies in a foreign world” routine. Norman and Carpenter play a special role in that sector of the Cologne art scene that uses Friesenwall 120—a space that is not so much a gallery as a video/magazine archive and meeting place dedicated to underground culture. They are the only two British “members,” both are young, with a still-youthful attitude. Neither artist is represented by a gallery, and yet, they are both very much alive and kicking in a subtle British style. This work deals with the self-definition of Norman and Carpenter as artists through their common distancing from the English milieu they left behind. This tape was produced retrospectively, and it became possible at the moment when they began to feel at home in a new environment. For this reason it is logical that such a tape should be played in this room, which is dedicated to the (re)construction of a bohemian atmosphere. The showroom functioned—especially in the beginning—as a kind of shy simulation of a place for discussion and action, in a quasi-situationist sense. The tape by Norman and Carpenter worked in this context as a kind of reminder—please talk, please make contact. It was like a Jane-Fonda-Aerobic-One-Two-Three-Inspirational-Cassette for upcoming artists. In the meantime, the two founding members of Friesenwall 120 (which is an art project in itself) have gone one step further by transporting the bohemian atmosphere of the place to Munich and representing it as a show. This corresponds to the production of the tape, based on Norman and Carpenter’s informal discussion of their time at St. Martin’s Academy in London. The installation includes a personal fetish—Norman’s suit from his student days, as well as a basket of dirty laundry and a couple of photocopies that functioned as illustrations to the tape. From this original version, they edited a more refined one, which they read for the final tape. This reconstruction of the original event thus corresponded directly to the program and goals of the space in which it was shown.

Julia Koether

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.