24 February 2012


KW_YKMF_07_72dpi-1 KW_YKMF_06_72dpiKW_YKMF_02_72dpi  KW_YKMF_15_72dpi KW_YKMF_13a_72dpi
film stills from top: 1+2 Richard Kern and Nick Zedd "The Manhattan Love Suicides: Thrust In Me", 1985; David Wojnarowicz and Phil Zwickler "Fear of Disclosure: Psycho-Social Implications of HIV Revelation", 1989; Richard Kern "Fingered", 1986; Richard Kern "X is Y", 1990; courtesy the artists

It felt like entering Berghain, or some other Techno Club, when I walked through the first hallway at KW's current exhibition "You killed me first". Black light, darkness, loud music. Kunstwerke - Institute for Contemporary Art dedicates a large show, staged on four floors only containing short films, to the Cinema of Transgression - an avantgardistic, low-budget and New York-based art movement from the 1980s and early 1990s. "Any film that doesn't shock isn't worth looking at", their manifesto claims and continues, "all values must be challenged, nothing is sacred." Nick Zedd, Richard Kern, David Wojnarowicz and the other members certainly did not respect borders and much less anything that could be sacred. Rather the opposite: Rock' n' Roll, sex, suicide, rage, rape, drugs - this show is hardcore in every sense. No surprise that it only welcomes visitors over 18 years.

Already the first hall shocks in every possible way:  In "The Manhattan Love Suicides: Stray Dogs" the visitors are received by a frankensteinish David Wojnarowicz, who bursts and splashes of blood, loosing an arm due to the lack of love that he passionately seeks from a painter; Tessa Hughes-Freeman's "Nymphomania" shows a dancing fairy, who is raped to death by a devilish creature. After one trembles passed the extremely irritating flicker light that dominates the stairs, the hall on the first floor presents six movies, out of which Kern's "Sewing Circle" and "Fingered" are pretty much unbearable. Floor two and three, similarly, have a night club atmosphere with screenings, painted walls and comfy seats, where one can enjoy looking at all kinds of super-sized private parts.

"You killed me first"( a title borrowed from Kern's corresponding film that I attached below) doesn't only show violence for the violence sake. It questions everything - religion, society, habits, establishment, prejudices - and it is political too. Zedd's piece "Police State" and Wojnarowics's "Fear of Disclosure: Psycho-Social Implications of HIV" confront issues without indulgence. Like their cathartic slogan "We propose transformation through transgression" these movies were and are to give a harsh wake up call - a request to live here and now, to be aware of what is censored and tabooed and to enjoy our sins.

The Cinema of Transgression
with works by Karen Finley, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Richard Kern, Lung Leg, Lydia Lunch, Kembra Pfahler, Casandra Stark, Tommy Turner, David Wojnarowicz and Nick Zedd
until 9th of April 2012

KW Institute for Contemporary Art
Auguststraße 69
10117 Berlin
Opening Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 12-19h, Thursday 12-21h

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images by artfridge