For her first solo exhibition in Berlin1 I come in you - The Party Sequel (Berlin)2 Lisa Holzer shows The Party Sequel (Berlin). The Party Sequel (Berlin) follows a series of pictures of smeared puréed lentils evoking shit and concrete in shapes inspired by Morris Louis’ 1950s Veils series, merely transformed to portrait format, alongside pictures of sticky white sugar icing in similar shapes. Kari Rittenbach referred to them as paintings.
The Party Sequel (Berlin) are pictures of puréed potatoes and peas and pictures of differently coloured sugar icing in whose sticky, soggy surfaces I am sometimes mirrored. You. I am in the middle of your picture3. A somehow crooked narcissus-idea plays here as well. The pictures are pigment prints on cotton paper framed in exclusive white varnished frames in the size of torsos-plus-aura. Both mashed potatoes pictures are a little too pale.
The shapes of the puréed potatoes, peas, and the coloured sugar icing are freer interpretations of the Veils shapes and/or inspired by two watercolours by my little son.
Since for ever, since childhood, I am haunted by colour or certain colour schemes. Which is why I was so extremely happy with this nearly b&w, brutally raw, almost severe, and more angry looking first part of this series. However look where I end up again, knee-deep in colour, annoyingly playful party-colours. Even what's supposed to be the pictures' puke loves to encrust in these annoyingly happy hues. To torture myself?! Yet I knew, almost a year ago, soon after the opening of Fieber, I knew, I needed to do a party sequel of this series. I was totally sure, that this was what I had to do, without being clearly able to explain why, then or now. And I won't.
Some cheesy happy Asian pop tunes would fit here, I guess.
So, welcome to the party!
That process, sounds and all, of puréeing, spreading and smearing and photographing these carefully overcooked lumpy potatoes and peas, which - instead of shit and concrete - evoke or should evoke only shitty-sweet regression, is very satisfying. As is the whisking of icing, coloured or not.
Food has to do with body, and desire, and destruction, and painting as well. Dishes get dirty, at times before breakfast.
What do I tell, the pictures me? Are they weak enough? Vulgar? And how frustrated, resentful, aggressive, how passive-aggressive is I come in you, if at all? Would these pictures fail as abstract expressive or be taken up in the contradictions of Abstract Expressionism respectively its hangovers? Are these pictures paintings or how much paintings? Are they beautiful? And why again??
I love Morris Louis' Veils series, how the thinned colours merge with the canvas in these weirdly natural shapes or as well Jean Fautrier's cake-like finger-thick primed paint, and both their paintings' yearnings, as diverse as they are. I didn't really figure out yet what it is that draws me so much there... painting in the 1940s and 1950s. And I'm also still fascinated by some Abstract Expressionism. Joan Mitchell's guts, etc. AbEx's self-contradictions, immediacy, its vulgarity, and ridiculous sentimentality or its involvement of the body, passion, destruction, and of course because of all the good reasons to damn it.
Is this romantic? Am I romantic?
I assume, I am touched deeply by a certain gutsy seriousness, be it naive or not. And I guess, the body needs to be involved in some way at least to touch anything, really. That I use photography to control and frame this dank manky outcome in this pleasurable process seems somehow passive aggressive as well.
What kind of echo is this? What a party!? Does this second part answer the first?
Apparently Louis was a loner, they say he had few friends and rarely discussed his art with anyone, not even his wife.
And the other bodies? Do the pictures transport my dark or at least rather ambivalent view on parties? I have difficulties with/at parties. I have difficulties with a certain way of happiness or lightness. What is the common ground thing? What do parties have to do with regression? It still seems wrong to me to work at parties. As teenager I cried a lot at parties.
Emily Sundblad said: “But I think also people drink too much to really cause a revolution. They get too drunk, and they cannot do anything.”4
And who gets invited? Together with Trevor Lee Larson I am invited to do a performance for the Special Program of this years' Art Berlin for VIPs, at least they got invited first. This is a VIP dream. And another border/edge/verge (Rand) of this exhibition, of me.
A porous wet dream that's not wet enough. A shitty oasis between inflatable fake pools, baby pools, bum tubs, with shit-brown paint-on, and an air compressor matrix --rude air. This is sweet, leaking regression. See the weeping, bloody black mascara-sprinklers? This is a has-been party, a closing opening. Remember me? This is music.
Morris Louis is dead. Others die too. Photography as painting has a connection to death. Language anyway. We die later.
Édouard Louis writes: “Years later, while reading the biography of Marie-Antoinette by Stefan Zweig, I will remember the people who lived in the village where I grew up, my mother in particular, when Zweig speaks of all the furious women, worn out by hunger and poverty, who, in 1789, descended upon Versailles to protest and who, at the sight of the monarch, spontaneously cried out Long live the King!: their bodies - which had spoken for them - torn between absolute submission to power and an enduring sense of revolt.”5
I am still interested in surfaces and the question what a picture is, a picture constitutes. Its instability, elasticity or permeability and silence. Its borders/edges/verges (Ränder) and mine. The pictures cry. Sometimes colour passes, permeates the glass, comes out of the picture. Do they puke a little? I don't know (exactly) why they puke, or cry. Or are these sploshes of coughed blood here? All is leaky and leaks through. See some smeared shit? How regressive is smearing and shit? Crying as readymade and puking as well. And yes, vomit would be the better word, more visceral. And the not coated glass of the frames mirrors everything. You?
My mascara is smeared or theirs. Runs, literally.
The most famous Austrian tissue brand is called Feh - Oh! It's a Feh - which sounds exactly like Fee, fairy and Germany's biggest brand is Tempo, speed. Transition and action. In Berlin you always get a pack of tissues as a present, when you buy something in the pharmacy. Usually with some ugly medication advertisements printed on the package. Germany lacks a sense of beauty particularly in details or food. Tenderness. Sweet sense for subtle pleasures. Like everything in Japan, tissue packages tender so much more beauty. My eyes were rarely as happy as there. I'd love to have a gallery in Japan!
Berlin is an annoyingly youthful party city built on sand, and here's where the cookie crumbles. Unintentionally this makes even the young somehow droopy. All the energy we produce crawls down and away constantly. And this will not change. We're not in New York. Lots of old European sadness hangs around as well. Winters suck, and they suck slow in their very own greyish pace. And you already start thinking of winter when August hits autumn too early again. But there's no better city for having babies and/or not so much money. Moreover you have space and time to think.
The gallery's toilet's body sweats/cries in a permanent installation. Look what I did!
Intensities visualise in more or less amounts of rather different liquids. What is it with tears? How transformative is crying? I am interested in crying as bodily expression, action, as means of transition, communication, as one border/edge/verge (Rand) of me, my face, my work, as leakage or readymade, crutch, ..
Applying tears proved trickier than I thought, they play differently on the glass, and it is of course trickier than applying single drops of sweat with tiny toothpicks, carefully or not. I used chop-sticks and skewers to make these pictures cry.
In one of the better articles about Donny John Trump, I read something interesting about what Immanuel Kant thought of crying and babies (and I cite from there, which is a little embarrassing, but I didn't have the energy to find the original quotes in time and this article didn't cite them either). Something I would have loved to know already a few years ago when I was busy with my baby's crying. I am sure, I would have been able to maybe even enjoy it at times as this so comprehensibly angry punk-attitude described here. For Kant a baby cries to make a judgement, a judgement about “the (unfair) conditions of its existence.” To him it is a claim for freedom because of its helplessness. “..the baby's cry is not merely one of distress or irritation, but constitutes a veritable complaint: it is a denunciation of a situation that the baby deems to be unjust; its anger is righteous anger. .. Indeed, one of the few things the infant effectively can do is scream: screaming is thus the very expression of freedom in the form of the denunciation of unfreedom. Now Kant admits that the newborn does not yet have the cognitive capacities for making such a judgement, but argues that at around the age of three months the tears which come to accompany its crying bear witness to a dawning awareness of having been wronged.” The Kantian baby “is caught between the uselessness of its sensible body, on the one hand, and a precocious intuition of its supersensible vocation, on the other.” The baby “does not want help and has no faith in the other; its pain cannot be consoled because it is not looking for consolation. In its fury the baby would rather destroy the other, if it were able.”6
Despite crying the only thing a baby can do to protest is to refuse food.
Coloured sugar icing, puréed peas or mashed potatoes.
This is a rather vegan show. How do we play out social embarrassment? And as adults? Who are they? Who is hungry?
I remember seeing Andrea Fraser's Official Welcome in Vienna, and being hugely impressed by it. Her bursting into tears felt so natural that I didn't want to believe it was mere acting. Thus I was happy when I recently read an interview where Fraser talks about her crying in Official Welcome and says: “.. I scripted something for myself to say that I knew would make me cry.” and “I imagine it is quite common for people to avoid talking about things for fear of crying, consciously or not, and I think there's a tremendous loss in that, a loss of contact with what matters to us and a loss of capacity to communicate what matters.”7
Édouard Louis, who's not in any way related to Morris, but is as Andrea Fraser quite close to ideas of Bourdieu, in an interview about The End of Eddy: “When Eddy cries at school because he was bullied, he thinks his tears are the result of the single wicked act of those who call him a faggot. But to write Eddy was, for me, a means of seeing Eddy’s tears as the product of the entire history of homophobia, of masculine domination, and of social violence which had preceded them. When I wrote it down, I understood that even our tears are political. That’s why this book is both a novel and an analysis. I don’t see any difference.”8
We'll cry, maybe. As crying, as one border/edge/verge (Rand) of my work, my face/of me or as some kind of door, is, what I am currently thinking about. I want to touch something. My pictures cry, after they sweated for some time now. How do they, I act on the world?
Sometimes there is no border/edge/verge (Rand).
I feel cheesy, moody, needy, ashamed as an artist. Porous like a door. A hustler. How regressive are things? How porous am I? How involved? What comes with tears, matters? And what do I not say/see, avoid, again, in order to go on, forward? as artist?? What recurs? Hesitation? I used to cry a lot at parties.
Anger and sadness live in suspended relation. And do get mixed up.
I come in you.
̶ Lisa Holzer, Summer 2017
1I live here since 9 years.
2And I am not done here. The Party Sequel (Paris) featuring pictures of puréed black beans and carrots alongside other pictures of coloured icing will be on view at Galerie Emanuel Layr at Fiac 2017 in Paris this October.
3»I am in the middle of your picture« is a line from All I need by Radiohead, first cited in Vier Pressetexte (2009), and then again in I am not there (2011). I am in the middle of your picture was the title of my first solo show at Galerie Emanuel Layr in 2011.
4But I think also people drink too much to really cause a revolution. They get too drunk, and they cannot do anything. Emily Sundblad in WELCOME TO THE TATE CAFÉ a conversation between Merlin Carpenter, Emily Sundblad and John Kelsey. Paris, March 2012.
5Édouard Louis, The End of Eddy, Harvill Secker, Vintage, 2017. penguin.co.uk/vintage. The original edition was published in 2014, entitled En finir avec Eddy Bellegeule, Editions du Seuil, Paris.
6Aaron Schuster in e-flux.com/journal/83, June 2017, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/83/140999/primal-scream-or-why-do-babies-cry-a-theory-of-trump/.
7Andrea Fraser in conversation with Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, 2016, http://brooklynrail.org/2016/04/art/andrea-fraser-with-thyrza-nichols-goodeve
8Édouard Louis in an interview for The Paris Review, 2016. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2016/05/03/the-state-of-the-political-novel-an-interview-with-edouard-louis/