Make Your Own Life:
April 21 - July 30, 2006
Artists In and Out of Cologne
Friday, April 21, 5-6pm, ICA Members Only, join on-site
Friday, April 21, 6-8pm
In this seminal exhibition ICA presents a look at the mythic and art historical significance of Cologne, Germany, bringing together three generations of European and American artists.
In the 1980s and early-90s, the German city of Cologne was one of the most important centers for contemporary art in Europe, if not the world. With its many galleries, artist run-spaces, and artist bars, the city assumed a kind of mythological dimension, a place where artists came to show, sell, socialize, and distinguish themselves and their work on levels symbolic and real. Bringing together over twenty-five artists from Cologne, Los Angeles, New York, London, and Berlin, "Make Your Own Life" explores one of the defining legacies of this time: the privileging of the artist's life and context as a basis for understanding artistic practice. The open question of how one makes one's art in relation to a set of communities, histories, market conditions and social attitudes was at the core of the Cologne scene. It was fiercely debated, dramatized in exaggerated behavior, art works and exhibitions alike, and it contributed greatly to the impression that Cologne was a place of extreme self-consciousness and audacity.
Artists included in this exhibition are: Bernadette Corporation, Cosima von Bonin, Merlin Carpenter, Stephan Dillemuth, Michaela Eichwald, Andrea Fraser, Kim Gordon, Charline von Heyl, Gareth James, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Jutta Koether, Michael Krebber, Louise Lawler, Hans-Jorg Mayer, Lucy McKenzie, Nils Norman, Albert Oehlen, Christian Philipp Muller, Stephen Prina, Josephine Pryde, Blake Rayne, Reena Spaulings, Josef Strau, Rosemarie Trockel, Filmgruppe West, Christopher Williams, and Christopher Wool, among others.
"Make Your Own Life" underscores the social and artistic relationships shared by these artists. While some of the artists in this exhibition are well-known Martin Kippenberger, Mike Kelley, Rosemarie Trockel many others have never before been exhibited in the United States. One of the main goals of this exhibition is thus to make connections between established and lesser-known artists, between older and younger artists and between artists working in different cities who nonetheless encountered each others' work when visiting Cologne. "Make Your Own Life" seeks to locate the attitude or ethos of Cologne, and to ask what it meant, how it was performed, and where it might be perceived today.
At its core, this attitude relates to questions of artistic autonomy, identity and community. To say that these artists are concerned with questions of "life" and context is not simply to imply they make autobiographical art; rather it is to underscore their engagement, equally political and poetic, with what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has named the habitus, the symbolic "world" of social, aesthetic and commercial distinctions in which all individuals live and work.
Whether explicitly or implicitly, each of these artists carve out space for exploring the decisions and assumptions entailed by the words "artist" and "artwork." Because the market and professional conditions of art are more than capable of making such decisions for artists, often at their expense, it is crucial to think through the ways artists transform or resist the terms of their participation in the field. Cologne, in this sense, provides us with a model context for reflecting on the possibilities of artistic agency. It is a context created by artists creating themselves.
Structured around a set of themes that have contributed to the mythic and art historical significance of Cologne this exhibition looks at the role of painting; the migration of conceptualist and institutional critique strategies across generation and context; the creation of discursive space around non-discursive art surrogates like rock bands, nightclubs, and art bars; artists as writers; the prevalence of assumed identities, stage names and (metaphorical) cross-dressing; the gestures of dandyism; self-organized artist groups and collectives; and ideas of influence, friendship and apprenticeship.
Many of the artists included here extend their practices well beyond the art object. "Make Your Own Life" presents a range of documentary materials, artist writings, artist books and catalogs, exhibition posters, invite cards, press releases and photographs that contribute to the unique thickness of the Cologne context. Selections from the numerous musical projects many of these artists maintain parallel to, or as part of, their art, are presented. Records and CDs by Electrophilia, Diadal, Workshop, Red Krayola, Van Oehlen, Destroy All Monsters, and releases by labels such as Decembrist, Blue Chopsticks, and Leiterwagen are featured in a special listening gallery.
"Make Your Own Life" is accompanied by a publication with essays by guest-curator Bennett Simpson, as well as contributions from art historians, critics, and artists.
This exhibition is scheduled to travel to the following venues:
- The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
September 9 - November 25, 2006
- Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle
January 20-April 15, 2007
- Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami
late May- late July, 2007
ICA acknowledges the generous sponsorship of Barbara B. & Theodore R. Aronson for the exhibition catalog. We are grateful to the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative (PEI), funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by the University of the Arts, and to Patsy and Karl Rugart for their support. Additional funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. ICA is also grateful for in-kind support from Loews Philadelphia Hotel. (Information complete as of 3/1/06.)
Images, top to bottom:
Michael Krebber, Alien Hybrid Creatures, 2005, Installation view, Vitrines with books. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne
Michaela Eichwald Zoo Köln, 1998. Courtesy of the artist...
Jutta Koether and Kim Gordon, Club in the Shadows, 2002. Video documentation and installation. Courtesy of the artists...
Hans-Jörg Mayer, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, 1991. Photo,
Installation views at ICA. Photos by Aaron Igler. > click to enlarge