Küsnacht , Switzerland

Christian Jankowski

Grieder Contemporary

The title of Christian Jankowski’s recent show, “Was ich noch zu erledigen habe” (What I Still Need to Do), alludes to the nonstop schedule of many of those active in the art world, who often find it impossible to keep their work and free time separate. The show’s setting seemed perfect: The villa containing the gallery space also serves as owner Damian Grieder’s private refuge, fitting in well with Jankowski’s penchant for showing the permeability of art and everyday life, the public and the private.

The words WARUM BIN ICH NICHT IN EINER BIENNALE? hung above the facade in large neon letters. This work, whose complete title is Was ich noch zu erledigen habe (Warum bin ich nicht in einer Biennale?) (What I Still Need to Do [Why Am I Not in a Biennale?]), 2010, functions as a tongue-in-cheek avowal of the ambition (and indignation) of this successful artist, who has of course participated in major biennials. The question points back in particular to his contribution to the 1999 Venice Biennale, for which he called up Italian television fortune-tellers during their shows and asked them whether his biennale piece would be successful. Intruding into TV formats and in general linking his work with spheres unrelated to art are among Jankowski’s characteristic practices. Just outside the gallery entrance stood a life-size statue of Julius Caesar from the “Living Sculptures” series, 2007, while just inside stood another, of Che Guevara. These are modeled after street pantomime artists imitating historical figures; by casting the works in bronze, Jankowski turns the Pygmalion myth on its head.

For the multimedia installation Das gesunde Werden (Healthy Becoming), 2009, shown in a space inside the villa, the artist submitted to—and documented—therapeutic treatments in the Tirolean spa hotel Lanserhof, whose previous guests have included Martin Kippenberger and Franz West. Twenty framed photographs represent the therapies Jankowski tried out, such as yoga, “medical manual abdominal treatment,” and psychotherapy. In addition, a pair of flat-screen monitors on a table showed, on the left, sixteen clips of therapeutic treatments and, on the right, ten “statements” by therapists and staff concerning the artist’s physical and psychological condition, commentaries that at times include the speaker’s views on aesthetics and art. Two other tables in the room displayed medical and psychological evaluations along with medicinal products and paintings from Gestalt therapy. The desire to perfect all aspects of our lives to achieve a holistic Gesamtkunstwerk is taken to the point of absurdity in this installation, since even moments of relaxation are displayed as unrelenting work.

In the thirty-four-minute video The Perfect Gallery, 2010, Jankowski deploys the popular TV format of the home improvement show and collaborates with interior designer Gordon Whistance of the BBC show House Invaders to create the perfect gallery space. Jankowski developed this project after being invited by curator Sandra Ross to stage a solo show at London’s Pump House Gallery. The video shows the emotional roller coaster the participants undergo during the architectural transformation of the gallery’s interior into a clean white cube. Whistance doesn’t know much about the art business, and among the film’s highlights is his visit to the Saatchi Gallery in search of an ABC of workable gallery architectures. The renovation turns the empty gallery space into a work of art, splicing the reductionist and critical strategies of Conceptual art with the aspirational thrust of contemporary mass culture.

Valérie Knoll

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.