Ralf Berger

Galerie Luis Campaña

At first glance the gallery space seemed devoid of art objects, although you could hear an irritating, ear-numbing drilling sound. Turning to find the source of the din, however, you discovered a video monitor hanging below the ceiling. On its screen appeared an image of a jackhammer’s revolving shaft, thundering and shuddering as it sank into a concrete floor; hands, straining to hold the drill, appeared in close-up. Eventually it became apparent that the jackhammer was boring into the floor of the same gallery space, and that the actual floor was riddled with perforations.

Ralf Berger has said, “Let every work become an event,” and he believes that every time someone looks at a painted image, or has any sort of encounter with an art object, it constitutes an event. His first exhibition was very much in keeping with this mentality. On a video monitor, you could see him spitting on the gallery floor. Visitors were requested to spit at a silver plate, hung on the wall, that was kept frosted by a refrigeration device. Those who chose to spit at the frozen plate were then conducted into a back room, where they were greeted by a masked person (many did not realize until later that this was the artist himself) who offered his hand and a plastic bag of spit.

In the new show, in addition to the drill piece, one could also use a remote control to guide a pair of hiking boots, belonging to the artist, zooming around the gallery mounted on two toy cars. On the way to the opening of the show Berger walked barefoot, again using a remote control to drive the shoes both in front of and behind him. This action, captured on video, could be viewed during the show on a monitor in the back room.

Since both actions verged on the ridiculous, it was difficult not to smile. But, at the same time, the elements of Berger’s work—spit, loud drilling, walking barefoot on a dirty street—cause one to recoil automatically. Humorous and ironic, Berger’s actions suggest that an object or action becomes a work of art at the moment it elicits a powerful response in the viewer.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Diana Reese.