Meet the duo turning human orifices into exhibition spaces for the Berlin Biennale
New Scenario proposes new definitions of 'hole-in-one'.
New Scenario is a collaborative artistic and curatorial project by Berlin and Dresden-based Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig. They describe their project as “a dynamic platform for conceptual, time-based and performative exhibition formats.” These shows exist outside the realm of the white cube in order to re-contextualise works of art in places such as limousines, abandoned zoos and human orifices. The work they produce is primarily analogue, yet relies on the internet for distribution, highlighting the importance of documentation.
They have attracted a great deal of attention as of late, specifically for their project BODY HOLES, that premiered at the 9th Berlin Biennale, curated by DIS. “If the body were a museum. There would be seven galleries,” reads the description on their website, referring to the fact that works of art were placed in seven different human orifices, then documented and presented as an online exhibition. Their work is playful while at the same time serious in its critique of institutional and commercial frameworks of art production and distribution. They join a growing milieu of artists, such as hotel-art.us and Lock-Up International, looking beyond the white cube in order to experiment with new models of exhibition making.
“WE WERE FED UP BY TODAY’S STANDARDIZED LOOK AND APPROACH TOWARDS EXHIBITIONS, AND THE TYPICAL PROCESS IT TAKES.”
How was your collaboration and New Scenario born?
We collaborated on a lot of projects and exhibitions together before we started New Scenario. When we started to work on the first show, C R A S H, we created the platform and the project as a conceptual and programmatic framework. The show was curated with Burkhard Beschow, who is part of info-punkt – a project that also investigates forms of (online) presentation and distribution. The idea for New Scenario was born out of curiosity and what we felt was the necessity to take a look beyond the white cube and established forms of exhibition making and how they are represented online.
New Scenario could be seen as both a curatorial and artistic practice. How do you negotiate between the two realms… or do you see them as one and the same? How do you find working collaboratively versus alone?
The way we work differs from the way a ‘real’ or classic curator works in an institution. We were not educated as curators. We work from an artist’s perspective. So our practice is curatorial in a way because we invite other artists or work with specific artworks that we choose – and it’s artistic because we shape these projects in the same way we would shape an artwork. For us, it doesn’t make much difference, but we understand that one can’t draw a sharp line here. Working collaboratively makes a lot of sense with New Scenario; all ideas are shaped through communication. The projects come to maturity through intensive exchange. It’s a long and difficult process sometimes, but it’s worth it. There’s always another person, so you can’t get lost in your own process. The different approaches and perspectives the other artists provide through their work make the projects rich and what they are; this wouldn’t work in the same way if we were to present just one point of view, or only our particular view.
Most of the time we give the artists full freedom in the production of their works. We provide them with a rough idea of the location and the concept, and then we work with what they deliver. There’s not much negotiation with the artists about the execution though, on how to specifically present or show their work. That’s the part we control and shape – the conceptual framework, so to say – in order to create a tight and convincing presentation. So the forms of collaboration and communication change with the different stages of the projects. Our goal is to create group shows that are visually and conceptually challenging, entertaining, and that stand out from the rest.
In your first project, C R A S H, you staged an exhibition inside a limousine. What was the intention in choosing the location as this type of vehicle, which is typically represented as the transportation choice of high-wealth individuals, and a place most of us never experience?
The interior of a stretch limo is quite interesting, almost the opposite of the white cube, but at the same time they have a lot in common. It’s a place charged with a lot of atmosphere due to its imagined function, which is to carry rich and dubious people. Some kind of twilight zone, a space of transition and movement that is relatively narrow and cosy, slightly lit up by colored artificial light, clean and almost gloomy, a space that suggests luxury and is hidden from the outside world. The white cube has some similar qualities and functions, yet it is visually the total opposite. This super artificial, spaceship-like interior triggered us; that was the main reason to do the show. We were curious to see what happens when artworks are presented and documented in this kind of extreme environment. We wanted to investigate how the environment interacts with the artwork, how it creates a narrative and special atmosphere, and vice versa. At the same time we were also fed up by today’s standardized look and approach towards exhibitions, and the typical process it takes.
“THE INTERIOR OF A STRETCH LIMO IS QUITE INTERESTING, ALMOST THE OPPOSITE OF THE WHITE CUBE, BUT AT THE SAME TIME THEY HAVE A LOT IN COMMON.”
In your second project, Jurassic Paint, the online documentation takes the form of a scientific table describing each artist/work of art as a dinosaur. In the images, art works such as paintings are interspersed alongside real-life concrete dinosaurs. How was this project conceived?
The table is playing with the similarity of the important primary specifications of the different subjects: the name or title, the dimensions, and the year or age. These specifications are sometimes more important than an actual artwork or the actual habits of an animal. People tend to be easily impressed by size, age, or popular names. A brontosaurus is popular and valued for its sheer size; on a simple level, paintings often work the same way.
We designed the page in this pseudo-scientific classification so that one can access specific images through the artist/artwork and/or through its related dinosaur. Two different doorways – sculpture or painting – leading to the same image. We didn’t want to value the paintings over the sculptures, we wanted to draw attention to the handmade, concrete dinosaur sculptures, which we think are beautiful. (The autodidact Franz Gruß put a lot of work and dedication into creating this sculpture park, which he started in his own garden in the 70’s. As a result of his achievements, he was admitted into the VBK, the association of fine arts, back in GDR.) We guess some people derided the project because of this dinosaur topic. And of course it has some ironic and humoristic qualities, but what interested us was the combination of ‘wild’ nature, realistic, large-scale, prehistoric sculptures and rectangularly shaped, contemporary paintings, and their relation to one another. It’s most of all a show about painting as an artistic medium, about related questions and ongoing discussions and discourses – the never-ending proclaimed deaths, burials and exhumations of this artistic medium and its perceived “dinosaur status” among the arts.
Your most ambitious project to date is of course BODY HOLES, which you premiered online as part of the 9th Berlin Biennale. How did the project take shape?
Body Holes was realized over the course of one year with curatorial help from Nuno Patrício. We had different thoughts and ideas in the beginning of how to approach the subject and about how to present it, but during the production process we slowly tightened it up. Near the end we were asked by DIS to present BODY HOLES at the 9th Berlin Biennale, which we did. The project was released simultaneously on the #fearofcontent section of the Berlin Biennale website and on our platform, newscenario.net. Both presentations are slightly different in appearance in order to fit each platform, but structurally they are similar. Over the course of the production, several shooting sessions took place with different volunteers. Medical specialists and other helpers were involved. Some shootings took place in Berlin, some in Dresden, some in Basel. We kind of went from orifice to orifice and invited the artists in the process. We didn’t really have a full list of artists when we started. The project grew over time and we ended up with over forty incredible contributions.
“A BRONTOSAURUS IS POPULAR AND VALUED FOR ITS SHEER SIZE; ON A SIMPLE LEVEL, PAINTINGS OFTEN WORK THE SAME WAY.”
While works of art are placed inside bodily orifices, what do they become outside of the holes? Do they cease to be works?
It depends on the nature and concept of each individual artwork. Most were created (site-)specifically for a particular orifice. Some would ‘work’ outside that context as well due to their artistic and aesthetic qualities but others would lose some of their quality and sense. The (Lord-Of-The-Rings)-Ring would just be a normal Lord-Of-The-Rings-Ring. It’s the combination of object and environment (and documented condition) that forms the artwork – or the specific artistic state of matter – which is situated somewhere between these parameters and not merely bound to the object itself.
All your projects exist solely online in the form of documentation. How do you approach documenting the projects, and how does the documentation influence the project overall?
The online form was necessary due to the nature of the projects so far. Regardless, we find it appealing that there is this physical distance, or an absence of the physical space or physical latitude. The shows manifest in a documented form were we can set the focus and guide the viewer, but at the same time they can be viewed very closely and very intimately from home, and one has the freedom to move between the images and texts or projects. Not physically showing the limousine was one of the main goals of the show C R A S H – to keep the whole thing in some form of abeyance and inanity. It feeds into the overall illusive atmosphere. New Scenario is not bound to online-only presentations, but online presentation will always be at the center of the projects. DYCHTOPIA, for example, was a curated, eight-page section released in the form of a book. Future projects can, or will, have physical manifestations in which viewers can engage physically. It just depends on the nature of the projects; they might take very different shapes.
What are you planning for future projects?
We have a long and secret list of projects we want to do and right now we’re working on two big projects; one that will involve a lot of extras, a lot of people, and one that will kind of be the total opposite of BODY HOLES. We keep it short with details, we don’t wanna spoil the fun.
To stay on top of all of New Scenario’s projects, check out their website, newscenario.net