Munich

View of “Gerry Bibby and Henrik Olesen,” 2016. From left: Costumes, 4, Black on Red, 2016; Costumes, 3, White and Pink on Black, 2016; Costumes, 1, Red on White, 2016.

View of “Gerry Bibby and Henrik Olesen,” 2016. From left: Costumes, 4, Black on Red, 2016; Costumes, 3, White and Pink on Black, 2016; Costumes, 1, Red on White, 2016.

Gerry Bibby and Henrik Olesen

Deborah Schamoni

View of “Gerry Bibby and Henrik Olesen,” 2016. From left: Costumes, 4, Black on Red, 2016; Costumes, 3, White and Pink on Black, 2016; Costumes, 1, Red on White, 2016.

“Conversation in a Yes/No Landscape,” curated by Nikola Dietrich, was the first collaboration between Gerry Bibby and Henrik Olesen (parts of the project were previously shown at Sismógrafo in Porto, Portugal). Yes and no, black and white: These were the classic binary oppositions articulated in the show’s first room, titled “Straße” (Street), with its stark black-and-white paintings on carpets, variations on the motif of the asphalt street with its center line. Upstairs in a section titled “Versatile?” we saw a wooden easel with a transparent glass pane placed in front of a large window to reveal a view of the gallery’s surroundings: Here the artists explored transparency, projection, framing, and imagination by way of an allusion to Magritte. The question mark in the title suggested that this versatility or openness was only ostensible, and a ball on the floor alluded to the possibility of a shattering (the glass pane, the window, the framework). A third room, containing the chapter “Language,” was reached via a ramp boldly painted pink: Titled Tongue (all works 2016), it looked like one. Here stood a pair of black-and-white constructions made of painted wooden laths: a set of bars and an animal figure, with labels identifying them as JAIL and ZEBRA, respectively. Figure recognition, nomenclature, black on white: after the excursion into nature, the factual asserting itself once more. A work called Power Line also resembled a telegraph cable, raising the issue of communication as mediated by technology. On the floor were boxes of printed T-shirts. For twenty-five euros each, you could choose between slogans such as YES/NO FUTURE, WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, UN CAPTIF AMOUREUX, and WHAT IS EMPATHY?—the nutshell conversations of a population that wears its messages on its chests. This room was artificially reduced in size by nearly half. The wall that was installed on wooden stands to achieve this bore the title No Wall; the pattern of the wooden laths on the back could be read as NONONONO: perpetual refusal as a graphic pattern and static necessity. The press release (with checklist) was affixed to this surface, and behind it stood a bar table with stools, the terrace, a view of the greenery.

“Conversation in a Yes/No Landscape” consistently translated theoretical concepts into spatial arrangements; the approach is familiar from Olesen’s previous work. Thus the asphalt pictures transformed the first room into a maze, giving the visitor no choice but to move in a zigzag. The hanging here was literally that, which is to say that three of the five pictures were suspended directly from the ceiling as room dividers. A certain opening-out took place with “Versatile?”; a conceptually motivated compression with “Language.” In this way, the show was spatially organized around a central question: To what extent is decision-making still possible today, given the evident limitations of binary logic? And yet one does eventually have to choose, for or against, yes or no. The Latin root of the word conversation means “to twist” or “to turn”: In other words, conversation means entering into ever new negotiations, repositioning oneself again and again. And so one of the printed T-shirts bore this message in German: HORIZONTAL/VERTICAL; HEAT/NOISE; WINDOW/DOOR/BED; I/YOU/WE; A SKIRT IS NOT PANTS; GENDER IS A CONSTRUCTION. This recourse to gender construction (not exactly a new question) and the naive division man/woman accorded well with the show’s in-your-face and at times self-consciously simplistic presentation, but, finally, thanks to the equal privileging of and and/or or, which the reader could intuitively fill in for the slash, it appeared in the end more ambiguous than one might at first have thought.

Daniela Stöppel

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.