Berlin

Andreas Slominski

Jablonka Galerie/Galerie Neu

If it’s true that Andreas Slominski is a setter of snares, one who stages his work as a crafty, tricksterish game to be played with the viewer, he set a particularly big trap with his parallel shows in the Berlin galleries Jablonka and Neu. And he did this in his usual way: with minimal investment of resources and maximal success, but above all by using large quantities of black humor. At Jablonka Galerie there was nothing to see except for five monstrous garage doors, fully functional and ready for delivery with shrink-wrapped keys. Yet these doors were hung in such a way that they could not be opened—their outer sides were facing the wall. The gallery had become the interior of a huge carport.

The doors are also ornamented with signs and equipment. One large brown door, for example, Asshole’s Garage, 2009, is emblazoned with its title, and a second features a pair of large license plates printed with Euro-banknote backgrounds and the words urine and age; a long garden hose completes the picture. Its title is, naturally, Urine Age, 2009. This is Slominski’s take on painting—especially large-format, expensive paintings. The most obvious question here is what Asshole’s Garage would look like mounted above the couch in a collector’s living room. Or even installed as a garage door. So you stood there enjoying the sly joke on the art market by way of Andy Warhol’s “Oxidation” paintings—having already fallen into Slominski’s trap.

This is because, parallel to the show at Jablonka, Slominski opened yet another show, “Mandy,” at Galerie Neu—or rather, he “non-opened” another show: He had instructed the gallery not to arrange an opening or issue a press release. What’s more, there was almost nothing to see—just an ordinary bathtub, which made a rather forlorn impression in the exhibition space where it appeared to have been placed without much forethought. A sort of meta-readymade: not a urinal, but still a bathroom fixture. It was also the stage set for a performance that Slominski organized to take place several days before the public opening: He invited members of a local swingers’ club to have group sex in this bathtub—well, anyway, to do whatever they wanted and to involve the bathtub. A small photograph, cheaply printed and taped crookedly on the wall of the gallery’s office, documents this event along with a framed sheet of gallery letterhead on which Slominski’s protagonists have signed their sleazy noms de guerre as one would sign a guest book on the night of an opening.

This was Slominski’s take on the circus of seeing and being seen, the “who-with-whom” socializing mania characteristic of gallery openings—his version of a self-referential critique of the art industry. At least that’s how you might be inclined to see it. And yet when you see the invitations Slominski did allow to be sent out after all—the little word boring is printed on the front—you start to wonder: Could it be that what Slominski was up to was not his own crude form of institutional critique/site-specific art but rather a blague on that genre, which itself has long since congealed into an artistic convention that can be readily reproduced at will as if copying from a textbook? A form that has therefore become purely and simply “boring”? Both shows derived their force from radically implicating the viewer in an “economy of uncertainty”: imparting enough information to give one the false impression of understanding what is going on, but withholding enough to induce a certain insecurity. Once the wheels of the imagination start turning, it is impossible to make them stop again. You are left standing right where you have been all along: in your own garage. And Slominski has locked the door from the outside.

Dominikus Müller

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.