Berlin

Daniel Pflumm

Galerie Neu | Mehringdamm

Daniel Pflumm’s field of artistic production is an expansive one. Along with video installations, the artist—who was born in Geneva in 1968 and now lives in Berlin—also works with light boxes and as a club organizer. But Pflumm’s approach is only marginally related to the general crossover today between art and party culture. Elektro, and later Panasonic, two clubs he founded (and operated illegally) in the Mitte section of Berlin, experimented with dry minimalist techno, contrary to the capital’s taste for pop-compatible events like the Love Parade or the Berlin Biennale. Between 1992 and 1997, Pflumm’s clubs served as both laboratories for video artists and editing facilities for hacktivists.

Pflumm’s own videos correspond to an aesthetic influenced by industrialism and the constructivist tradition. In Questions and Answers, 1997, footage of two CNN correspondents winking at one another for a fraction of a second is slowed down and made into an endless loop; in other pieces, computer-animated company logos are transformed into abstract signs, into “graphically raw material,” as Veit Loers wrote in a catalogue about Pflumm’s approach. He sums up the artist’s project: “Media goods are turned into media art.”

For his recent exhibition at the Galerie NEU, Pflumm took this engagement between art and product to an even greater level. In the video Neu, 1999, the commercial function of the gallery itself comes into play. Along with an approximately 2-by-3-foot light box on the roof which displayed the word NEU in white text on a red ground (a smaller version was affixed to an exterior wall of the gallery), Pflumm erected a supplementary wall in the newly occupied space. A monitor was positioned in the center of the wall like an icon, playing various video images of toothbrushes, detergents, and cleaning agents. The product logos, taken from television commercials, were manipulated by Pflumm in such a way that the gallery’s name appeared in each instance in place of the brand name—all other labels were erased digitally. Having been neutralized in this manner, the objects displayed on film acquired a glimmer of minimalist design.

At intervals during the video, in the lower-left corner of the screen, the gallerists appeared, dancing to a continuous electronic beat—a kind of self-promotion that is ironized by the association with household products. Pflumm’s deconstruction of the art industry reveals the gallery as a business enterprise dealing in concrete products. Yet it is precisely through the context of the gallery that these products are defined as art. In his play with cultural distinctions, Pflumm operates on the level of institutional critique—including that of the media. For the artist, after all, is both PR agent for the gallery and strategist for his own cause. With this work, not only is the mercantile domain of art conveyed in product form (video, lit signage), but Pflumm simultaneously positions the material source in a new way—in the world of media. The reevaluation of aesthetic subtlety through everyday images is explored in all its permutations in these videos: Pflumm presents a kind of updated pop art as tableau vivant, functioning on the level of television commercials. The seduction lies in the ornamentality of the commonplace.

Harald Fricke

Translated from German by Elizabeth Felicella.