Celebration Factory by the Luxembourg artist Filip Markiewicz at Kunsthalle Osnabrück is the fourth stage in an evolving traveling exhibition and performance project that began in 2016 at NN Contemporary Art in Northampton and continued at Casino Luxembourg- Contemporary Art Forum in 2018 and the Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Derry- Londonderry in early 2019.
Kunsthalle Osnabrück is located in a former Dominican church with a converted cloister complex, making the venue an ideal stage for Filip Markiewicz’s ireful show Celebration Factory, in which the artist deploys every mode of expression the fine arts have to offer to not just depict but celebrate the political and moral crises shaking Europe and the world.
The hollowness of the discourses that address these topics is underscored in the paintings, drawings, video performances, installations and prints scattered throughout the Kunsthalle. Celebration Factory thus resembles a gigantic morning-after scene that in the light of day suddenly seems grotesque, glaring and out of place, including the hangover. Party on?
Filip Markiewicz and the show’s curator Enrico Lunghi discussed this project further with us in our conversation and we asked Christel Schulte, Curator for audience participation and learning at Kunsthalle Osnabrück for a statement.
Dear Filip, Celebration Factory is the fourth edition of an exhibition and performance project which, to sum up, has gone from a series of drawings to a performance?
Yes, this transition happened in a slightly complicated and unexpected way. The Celebration Factory project was initiated by curator Catherine Hemelryk. I met her at the 2015 Venice Biennale after “Paradiso Lussemburgo” which I presented at the Luxembourg pavilion. We stayed in touch for a long time, then she offered me a personal exhibition at NN Contemporary Art in Northampton during the Brexit referendum in 2016. In 2017, Commissioner Holger Kube Ventura invited me to take part in the collective exhibition “Capital Flow” for the first time at the Kunsthalle Tübingen, where I showed my drawings “We could be in euros for one day…”.
Coincidentally, the Basel Theater contacted me for an independent project with the playwright Katrin Michaels. Together we developed “Fake Fiction” for a year, with my euro banknotes becoming an integral part of the scenography. Both projects, “Celebration Factory” and “Fake Fiction”, somehow evolved alongside one another and when the curator Kevin Muhlen invited me to Casino Luxembourg to present a new version of “Celebration Factory”, we decided to show the two combined – the series of drawings as well as an adapted version of the performance “Fake Fiction”.
Can you briefly explain how you came up with the idea of working with Oskar Schlemmer’s journal in this context. Was there a visual and intellectual stimulus at a given point in time? And how did you go about selecting the text?
The process was long, myself and Katrin Michaels from Theater Basel did not know at the outset how this would develop within a year. We kept all doors open, regardless. These were the years 2015-2017, that is to say shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris and the so-called European refugee crisis. [Attack against Charlie Hebdo / January 7, 2015]
I had interpreted these issues in the text of ‘Fake Fiction’, but also in terms of the rise in populism with the election of the President of the United States, not to mention the Facebook scandals … I also needed to take a break and get some fresh air.
A few months earlier I had met C. Raman Schlemmer. We had corresponded on a regular basis through his grandfather Oskar Schlemmer, also through contemporary theater and performance art as we experience these today.
Many points of convergence emerged and together with Katrin Michaels, we found that the journal’s texts were still highly relevant today. So I decided to integrate these Oskar-Schlemmer texts into my piece as ‘ready-mades’. The selection itself was made with ease, Oskar Schlemmer’s texts are indeed quite varied: some tackle the Bauhaus school and the aesthetic questions it raises, while others are more personal and moving, because between the lines one reads the tragedy of World War II and how Oskar Schlemmer was targeted as a “degenerate” artist. I found these topics to be suitable for Fake Fiction.
Can we interpret the current exhibition format at Osnabrück almost or precisely as a result of these writings, on the basis of the text ‘Birth (Theater / Basel)’?
The last instalment of “Celebration Factory” at the Kunsthalle Osnabrück shows almost everything in a new context. The Kunsthalle is a specific backdrop which, through its architecture, deals with religion of course, but it is also very theatrical. I was thrilled to present all of my creative material afresh.
So I started to paint in oil, which is new to me … a new journey in a way.
I had this inner feeling that it would lend itself very well to the Kunsthalle Osnabrück.
The performance with Joran Yonis was also made in the installation with the piano. The film “Dance of Silence” is the culmination of this, which I am happy with because it was created spontaneously.
Art is not too difficult when you can work in an adequate context, and I have always had luck in recent years with Catherine Hemelryk, Kevin Muhlen, Katrin Michaels, Julia Draganović and now with Enrico Lunghi and Christel Schulte.
They have made all of this possible.
I remember vividly your description of balancing theater and play: can you choose a work or an installation from the exhibition and use this example to illustrate this kind of equilibrium and tension for our readers?
I try to think of my work as a tightrope walker, in every way poised between tragedy and comedy. Adults may in the end perceive everything as play, but young people and children noticing something too is essential.
Charlie Chaplin is most likely a key reference with The Great Dictator, but also with The Simpson.
What matters is telling something on different levels, because art is not just superficial entertainment as Maurizio Cattelan’s banana blatantly meant. I find entertainment and pop culture exciting, but entertainment cannot just be about consumption.
Entertainment and comedy are also intellectual pursuits that should not be relegated exclusively to the market.
Last but not least, you mentioned some coincidences regarding the collaboration with Raman Schlemmer and how it came about (Bauhaus Band / Northampton / Basel / diaries, etc.) – do you really believe in coincidences? And what do you take away from this collaboration, from a personal and artistic point of view? Is there an essence or an energy that you could pinpoint and describe?
Yes, I think there are many coincidences in life, but it is up to the artist to organize and recompose these into a visual symphony. My work with the post-punk group Bauhaus and the song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in Northampton at the same time as the Bauhaus school around Oskar Schlemmer in Basel was a coincidence.
The renewed confrontation with these two worlds on the other hand is a composition.
“Celebration Factory” is for me a free experimental area where one can try everything, and I am pleased to have been able to work across a range of media: theater, art, concerts, performances, films, conferences, parties, drawings, bottles beer, vinyl records…
I think we have reached a point in art where we have to reopen preexisting boundaries between disciplines and techniques. Many interesting things are happening, new expressions, and one should not be afraid to experiment with everything – there is always something to learn from the Bauhaus, both from the school as we know it, and the post-punk band from Northampton.
Enrico, this is not the first time you have worked with Filip. Where did you get to know and what do you think is the particularity of his approach in his work?
I met Filip fifteen years ago at one of his raft performances:
I was immediately impressed by his zest for life and his intuition for reality that brought him closer to a post-punk Warhol hippie.
Since then, I have been closely monitoring his projects and I have accompanied some, but I have never worked directly with him.
This is happening for the first time here in Osnabrück.
It was a happy coincidence for me to follow in the footsteps of curator and former director Julia Draganović who ended her position at Osnabrück in 2019 to take over the management of Villa Massimo in Italy.
In general, long-term projects, according to a well-supplied context and process, are the ones that interest me the most and this one with Filip is no exception. It is, I think a masterpiece in this respect.
The Kunsthalle Osnabrück is in itself a spectacular exhibition space, but also predestined as a stage for this exhibition project. Can you briefly explain to our readers why, and what aspect, time or scenario is particularly strong and / or touching for you.
Filip has already stressed the scenic character of his project at Casino Luxembourg, but the Kunsthalle Osnabrück gives him the opportunity to use a magnificent nave and the courtyard of a unique cloister.
It was difficult, of course, but he mastered it with confidence: the long yellow walkway that leads directly to the portrait of the Joker as an altarpiece in Gothic architecture, the arrangement of his photos, drawings and videos reminiscent of an unfinished art fair , the giant mask suspended by Oskar Schlemmer in the cloister… all of this is a metaphor for our problematic world saturated with images and symbols, in which practically everything is degraded into falsehood, even politics, culture and life itself even.
The graveyard of cars in the courtyard with the decaying piano gives the whole another tone – poetic, melancholic, almost romantic, which one could hardly find elsewhere.
CChristel, Filip Markiewicz’s “Celebration Factory” exhibition has already been shown at three locations.The exhibition’s concept is closely connected to each of these venues, on a site-specific basis.
A key aspect of this exhibition and performance project by Filip Markiewicz is the variety of successful collaborations that have arisen between the artist and the actual place -the city of Osnabrück and the Kunsthalle that used to be sacred, but also more specifically with the exhibition structure itself that is very precise and to the point.
We were lucky to be able to work with Joran * Yonis aka Pia Tabea Visse on a live performance that was staged during the opening and was a memorable experience for the public.
In addition, we produced a video performance as a permanent record that bears the equivocal title
“Because a painting breathes when you look at it, but it dies when you photograph it”.
The performance is an impressively physical response to the Filip exhibition. Joran * Yonis’ background with the YUP [Young Urban Performances] informs his practice and the suspense he built up here shapes Osnabrück’s interpretation of [Warhol’s] “Celebration Factory” to re-imagine what “Celebration” means for the city of Osnabrück.
How did the Kunsthalle Osnabrück as erstwhile sacred place impact on this exhibition and performance project? What does the figure of the Joker mean to you in this context?
The Joker is connected to the title “Impeach”. Combined, these two inscriptions have different connotations: lawsuits, indictment and, considering today’s politics,
violation of regulations at the highest level.
A legal situation is reconfigured here precisely where the altarpiece used to hang, at the altar.
This creates a kind of lock or threshold room inside this former church -the altar is after all a place of coming-and going.
The exhibition offers a dual perspective: visitors can follow the yellow catwalk leading on to this joker scenario -or decide to turn their backs to it to see the other masks on display instead- this dual perspective is a powerful catalyst for visitors to unleash their emotions when they navigate the space.
Enabling visitors to be raised 20 centimetre above ground, the catwalk adds another layer of meaning as it transforms the notion of self-elevation into that of self-empowerment.
At that moment of crossing the catwalk, visitors may feel exposed as it were, which reinforces this emotion.
As a curator for audience participation and learning, this kind of insight sparks my interest in devising shared experiences – and in promoting both a lively and in-depth examination of art and of one’s own identity.
CELEBRATION FACTORY: FILIP MARKIEWICZ
29. November 2019 bis 2. Februar 2020
kuratiert von Enrico Lunghi
Kunsthalle Osnabrück | Hasemauer 1 | 49074 Osnabrück
Photo Credit: The artist und Friso Gentsch
Author: Esther Harrison