Berlin

View of “Daniel Keller,” 2015. On floor, left and right: Onanet Spiruline 1 (detail), 2015. On floor, center: LLCMarriage Counseling: You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married, 2015. On wall: Stack Relief (Kai Zuckerberg + Bushwick Kutcher), 2015. Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul.

View of “Daniel Keller,” 2015. On floor, left and right: Onanet Spiruline 1 (detail), 2015. On floor, center: LLCMarriage Counseling: You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married, 2015. On wall: Stack Relief (Kai Zuckerberg + Bushwick Kutcher), 2015. Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul.

Daniel Keller

Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler

View of “Daniel Keller,” 2015. On floor, left and right: Onanet Spiruline 1 (detail), 2015. On floor, center: LLCMarriage Counseling: You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married, 2015. On wall: Stack Relief (Kai Zuckerberg + Bushwick Kutcher), 2015. Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul.

Underpinning Daniel Keller’s recent exhibition “Kai ❤ Dalston Bushwick” was a convoluted story of a love triangle unfolding in the near future. Finger-width tubes looping along the floor and sporting cubic-zirconia engagement rings were laced through holes in the walls. These tubes connected transparent glass cubes in different shades of green—aquaria filled with water and pumped full of air to foster the reproduction of spirulina, an edible algae that has been touted as a so-called superfood. This assemblage conveyed a fascination was with romantic relationships, specifically their logistics. Thus the show was concerned with all sorts of unions and separations.

This was arguably Keller’s most significant solo showing since the split, in 2012, of Keller/Kosmas (formerly Aids-3D, a collaboration with Nik Kosmas). Of course, Keller has been active on his own in the meantime, notably through the group show “Liquid Autist,” which he organized at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in 2013 and which led to some important debates. There, playing on a Silicon Valley archetype, he illustrated his concept of an autistic creator with works by male artists only. That exhibition also included, in fact consisted almost entirely of, cube-shaped works.

The story behind the show, “iDrive” (2014), was written by the artist in collaboration with his partner, Ella Plevin, is set in the near future. It describes Kai, the fictitious daughter of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Dalston, the fictional son of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, and their escape from Freistadt Cupertino. The press release reads like a series of post-breakup messages: “Dear Dalston . . . I’m sorry I made you part of my hostile emotional stack . . . you’re more than an LLC to me, promise . . . Your feeds look good, I’ve been watching. KZ.” In the Silicon Valley lingo the couple uses, the texts framing and in part constituting the show mimic the curious phenomenon by which business and tech lingo makes its way into popular usage, sometimes becoming normalized to such an extent that people are unaware of its origins. However, this stylistic idiosyncrasy, overdone by Keller and Plevin and combined with several styleless turns of phrase, can make their writing difficult to follow.

Though the background narrative and thematic territory was hard enough to follow on its own, and even more so in combination with other points of reference, it was intended to frame the other works in the exhibition. LLCMarriage Counseling: You Can Be Right Or You Can Be Married (all works 2015), is a good example. The checklist contains a detailed description of its materials: “glass doors acquired from sofa shop in Kreuzberg vandalized by anti-gentrification protesters and repaired by local glass company, steel.” The glass, shattered and then repaired, is emblematic of the imperfect union between yesterday’s status quo and today’s (late-capitalist) transformations. The work is also representative of Keller’s vision of an art provocatively fashioned in the image of business. In this sculpture, the polemical implications of broken windows—like good, neutralizing rhetoric—are permitted only as spectacle.

If we’re to glean any particular meaning from this work, it may be that the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg is experiencing a rocky patch in the course of urban development. Protests against gentrification might be justified from the point of view of those displaced by it, but if gentrification is inevitable, then such protests can be dismissed as being on the wrong side of history. Thus the new norm: the marriage of business with society, and of business with culture. But turning broken windows into an aestheticized artifact of a normative event such as gentrification is weird. That protests might be cast as an obsolescent curiosity is unsettling. To create such an opaque framework out of loaded references without fully accounting for them is unbalanced. “Kai ❤ Dalston Bushwick” didn’t say all that much about the present, or much that’s all that convincing about the near future.

––John Beeson