Hamburg

Marko Lehanka

Andreas Schlüter Galerie

Presented as a pair, the ears hung on the wall at eye-level, with a space between left and right, as if inviting one to insert one’s head into the empty spot. The joke suggested countless snapshots in which extended fingers appear behind someone’s head like rabbit ears to make the subject look ridiculous. But in this piece Marko Lehanka used pig, rather than human ears, which he purchased in an animal-food shop—drying and then decorating them with plant and animal motifs, charming ornamentations, and text. Wooden boards with mottoes burnt into them adorned the walls, next to the pig ears, resembling those plaques that typically hang in kitchens with sayings like “Here cooks the chef himself” or “When the driller drills, the hammer rests.” Lehanka deliberately overstates the culture of the everyday, which the bourgeois holds at arm’s length by calling it “kitsch.” The work suggests a certain coquetry, but also a struggle to bring art down to a more human level, combining art’s elitism with more down-to-earth aesthetic conventions.

He also celebrates his own authorship. A number of years ago he founded his “Madchen Institut Lehanka,” (Girls Institute Lehanka), which he advertised with a folding color postcard, on which the only printed information was an invitation to “get to know one another.” You could do so by ordering a poster presenting the head of the institute—Lehanka’s own head—in color. He also pays tribute to himself and his artistic production with seven hours of video footage documenting all of his openings to date, Meine schönsten Eröffnungen (My most beautiful openings, 1996), and Unsere schönsten Eröffnungen (Our most beautiful openings, 1996), two videos presented together in an elegant light blue box embossed with silver.

While Lehanka relentlessly exploits the darker side of contemporary culture, he slips with equal enthusiasm into the role of a cynical commentator, remarking, for example, on media depictions of femininity. Twenty color photographs, hanging in the gallery office, depicted a young woman engaged in all kinds of craftsmanslike, stereotypically “masculine” activities in and around the house. Lehanka calls these pieces “critical observations on the place of women in society,” deploying clichés as an ironic counterpoint to the work’s image.

Lehanka’s central project—one that he has been working on for a number of years—is a computer program that generates “novels.” He has published a number of separate texts, one using the cover of a threepenny novel as an image. These texts are unwieldy, but they do have the appeal of automatic writing, and Lehanka has refined the program so that the sentences and paragraphs are now complete, even if the conclusions offer little closure.

Justin Hoffmann

Translated from the German by Vivian Heller.