With his trademark dry sense of humour, Ukranian-born artist Alexej Meschtschanow curates the group exhibition I Just Came To Say Hello at Klemm’s.
As an artist, Meschtschanow creates massive aesthetically morphed mutations, corsets and found objects which give new life to glass, metal and sometimes old photography. His relationship to Klemm’s is more than merely “artist-gallery” or “product-sales”. Rather, he played a major role in its fruition, from physically taking part in renovations to working with gallerists Sebastian Klemm and Silvia Bonsiepe to develop the gallery’s programme.
This month, Meschtschanow dons a rare hat: that of curator. His show, featuring Amanda Ross-Ho, Emanuel Geisser, Friedrich Kunath, Markus Karstieß, Martin Mele, Katja Novitskova and Philippe Vandenberg, deals with egocentricity and psychology in the artistic temperament and is the second part of a three-part exhibition series conceived between him, Klemm, Bonsiepe and fellow programme artist Ulrich Gebert.
Where does the title come from and what exactly are you saying with it?
These days, one is permanently being infiltrated by media. The girly song with the stanza “I just came to say hello!” – don’t ask me who it’s by – got stuck in my head. The notion of a teenager, standing at the door, looking to the side and reaffirming some kind of pointlessness – I found it amusing. A psychologically interesting moment: emergency situations of forced communication.
How did you select the artists, and how do they complement each other?
I came across the artworks in different locations, in part from the internet, and I more or less became infatuated. I wanted to ‘knock’ on their doors. In some cases, also with people whose works aren’t broadcasting a social open-mindedness, or who even, to put it mildly, have aspects of autistic egomania manifesting in their work. I wanted to get better acquainted with the substance.
In preparing an exhibition, you don’t just look at things, you take them in your hands. I was sure that even though the artists were so different, they somehow belonged together. I agree with a statement Truman Capote once made: we are all the same people. So the solitary entities somehow arise from a collective consciousness. Then it’s only a question of how to position them together in the space, generating a balanced background in order to provide some kind of harmony.
What role does humour play in the show?
Fundamentally, everything I say and do is meant to be serious. It’s just that nowadays one is forced to act under the burden of self-relativisation. One alleges something while knowing at the same time that thousands of other opinions for the same point would be just as possible. This creates a hint of sarcasm in the voice. Humour is a fantastic outlet to relieve the pressure of the ‘all too truthful’. Look at Kunath’s or Mele’s work, or the sculptures by Katja Novitskova, which look to me like grass that has grown over the corpse of the Terminator. A joke about the futility of human activity is actually not a joke.
The components do agree with each other, it is really well-done… but why should people find it interesting? Why should they go and see it?
I am not trying for originality. In our circle, we know Jonathan Meese’s theories about the “Dictatorship of Art”. There’s an instinct of taste, which differentiates itself from the brutal practicality of the instinct to survive. Personally, I really enjoy walking through this show’s constellation and I trust that a few others would feel the same way. Standing in front of the over-oversized, ripped black T-shirt from Amanda Ross-Ho, looking at the deeply bitter text-pictures of Phillipe Vanderberg (who passed away in 2009), or the psychologically-touching “Dance-double” from Emanuel. Geisser, or the ecstatically writhing ceramic bones from Markus Karstieß. I shudder, awestruck! One can discover this or that truth, shedding light on the human species. For me, that’s enough, I don’t need to think about whether or not it’s special.
What role does the underlying relationship between you and the gallery play?
The ‘gallery’ does not exist. At least, a ‘gallery’ like Klemm’s from my perspective is not just a business, exhibition location and physical space; it’s also a social knot, which is pretty interesting. It’s a relationship in which one has to find space for friendship, working-relationships, and common and conflicting interests. You love each other and bicker like an old married couple. Klemm’s is a part of my mental home, and it was totally natural for me to present an exhibition with an intimate title like I just came to say hello in this setting.
Why a group exhibition with artists who have nothing to do with the gallery?
All practices of incest lead to demise. I am a positive-thinking person and I wish to avoid such demise. That’s why I gave these eight artists, who have nothing to do with Klemm’s, the green light. Fresh air is good.
I Just Came To Say Hello, Through Mar 2 | Klemm’s, Prinzessinnenstr. 29, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Moritzplatz Tue-Sat 11-8.
Originally published in issue #124, February 2014.