Stefan Panhans, The Long Goodbye (Pre-Afterwork-Ok- Clubset) Casino, 2013. installation view, steintorplatz,   hamburg.

Stefan Panhans, The Long Goodbye (Pre-Afterwork-Ok- Clubset) Casino, 2013. installation view, steintorplatz, hamburg.

Stefan Panhans

Dorothea Schleuter/Feldbuschwiesner Gallery

Stefan Panhans, The Long Goodbye (Pre-Afterwork-Ok- Clubset) Casino, 2013. installation view, steintorplatz,   hamburg.

Stefan Panhans’s art has been very present of late, with two overlapping shows as well as a public work: In Hamburg, the exhibition “The Long Goodbye (Pre-Afterwork-Ok-Clubset”) took place at Dorothea Schlueter, while the art-in-public-space project The Long Goodbye (Pre-Afterwork-Ok-Clubset) Casino, 2013, is on view at Steintorplatz in the city center; in Berlin, “Untitled & Items for Possible Video Sets: FW Run/SORRY Homestory,” an exhibition of the artist’s photographs and videos, was on display at FeldbuschWiesner Gallery.

The situation at Dorothea Schlueter looked like a stage setup—one reserved, for the time being, for inanimate things: a congeries of brightly colorful, everyday objects ostensibly scattered casually. The backdrop was a rough gray stone wall with a pointed door suggestive of a fairy-tale castle or a Gothic crypt. The beige flooring in front of this wall bore markings in various colors reminiscent of those found in gyms, although the lines and circle segments were free compositions and nonfunctional. The objects were mostly drawn from the domains of camping, lifestyle, and home-exercise equipment: silvery ground pads rolled up in ornamental fashion or laid out as improvised sleeping accommodations, an indoor trampoline, gaudy sneakers, unlabeled transparent bottles containing brown- and orange-tinted drinks, sleeping bags, a wall object that looked like a piece of Minimal art but is really meant to be used for boxing training. Panhans had cast his inanimate actors with a close eye on their looks. Everything seemed brand-new and as though someone had haphazardly unpacked it—the bric-a-brac of the contemporary theatricalization of existence as embodied in fitness and lifestyle gadgetry. Their packaging—cardboard boxes, various foils, and foam peanuts—was given a part in the production as well.

All this served as the set for Panhans’s new video The Long Goodbye (Pre-Afterwork-Ok-Clubset) V, 2013, which shows numerous human actors dressed in abstract or absurdly disfiguring costumes availing themselves of the objects on exhibit—and dissolving the setting into action. The video was then displayed as part of Panhans’s “Casino” project in central Hamburg: Playing inside a windowless wooden hut painted pink and yellow—a distinctly alien element in the cityscape—it could be seen only through three peepholes. The staged act of voyeurism could be read as an inversion of the usual gaze of the downtown stroller, whose defining object is the public shopwindow.

Using a gallery installation as a backdrop for a video shoot, Panhans gave a new twist to a gesture he has practiced for some time in the photographic series “Items for Possible Video Sets,” 2009–. An extensive selection from this series, as well as the video pieces SORRY, 2010, and Homestory (Il Cielo in Una Stanza) (The Sky in a Room), 2012, were on display at Feldbusch Wiesner Gallery in Berlin. Contrary to what their title suggests, the photographs are stand-alone works: None served as a preparatory sketch for a video shoot. In these still lifes, realized in the studio, Panhans stages objects found during his forays into the world of contemporary merchandise: decorative articles and craft supplies; colorful papers, foils, masks, and costumes; sporting goods and gag objects. These elements appear in his photographs in often abstruse but visually powerful combinations, such as the designer muesli coating a soft-porn magazine in Items #17, 2011; in Items #2, 2009, a fashionable running shoe meets a loose scattering of gaudy little packing noodles—edible filler—and bits of an organic whole-grain roll. In the style of carefully designed advertising photography, Panhans’s pictures fuse such unpalatable constellations with pictorial backdrops to create the impenetrable surfaces of a world imbued with peculiar and sometimes contradictory moods. With a keen quasi-ethnological eye for fashions and fads, Panhans conjures up trenchantly ambivalent deformations of the contemporary aesthetic of enticement and product design.

Jens Asthoff

Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.