from the top: John Bock Unzone/Eierloch, 2012 Foto: Raphael Binder © John Bock, 2013, Courtesy: Anton Kern, NY; Sprüth Magers Berlin, Giò Marconi, Mailand; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Regen Projects, LA; the other five images: John Bock, exhibition views, Photos: Mark Brandenburgh © Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
A mutation is commonly known as a defect in the DNA – a biological mistake. How this term might be interpreted in relation to the current solo exhibition by 1965-born German multi-media-artist John Bock at Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn is up to discussion: "Im Modder der Summenmutation" (In the mud of sum-mutation) is both, a visual and a conceptual mutation.
It's no secret that John Bock's movies, installations and performances usually cross the borders of visual normality. The defect is the core of his dadaistic formal language. In other words: Nothing makes sense – everything makes sense. But obviously it's not that simple. Insanity and desperate existentialism both contribute to the narrative coherence of his countless opulent films. The Bundeskunsthalle chose mostly recent and very new films, which they exhibit in green and plain table cubicles. With each movie, from "Kreatürliche Unschuld" to "Nichts unter der Kinnlade", the bizarre John Bock-puzzle completes itself a little more. Here, the visceral aspect of mutation is taken literally: operations, amputations, bloody organs, splashing plastic pipes. But there is more to them. While speaking of things that do not always make sense ("I will now connect your circulation of blood with your circulation of shit"), the fictional characters live their life in a very serious parallel universe. The schizophrenic fairy-tales are not only presented as splatter-inspired-movies, but also as social dramas, reality documentaries or even interview situations.
Another place where mutation is a visual element in Bock's far-reaching oeuvre is the dominant sphere of his film props. These are usually made of textiles, wood, card-board and other materials. Quite often, they look like organic and visceral objects (penises, hearts, bugs), they have legs and bowels connecting different parts with each other. However, they are mostly nothing but funny and giant plush toys. At "Im Modder der Summenmutation" these props do not only appear in the film set, but they also grow into the lecture theatre, where Bock and several actors perform "RE-Vorträge" (Re-lectures) during the time of the exhibition.
The mutation in this big exhibition, which they present as a retrospective without being one, also concerns John Bock's conceptual approach for the show: He drastically exceeds the borders of an institutional exhibition. The center piece is a large film set that fills several rooms and allows a glimpse into the making-of process. While Bock currently finishes his most recent movie that he filmed in the studios, which are build into the Bundeskunsthalle, the processual character of "Im Modder der Summenmutation" makes every visitors a real-time witness of Bocks production. In other words: a participant, rather than a viewer.
The schizophrenic character of his movies is mirrored in the museum-parcours that the artist designed for his visitors: from scent manipulation to optical illusion – he continuously misguides, confuses expectations and responds to an institutional critique of how an exhibition should look like. The first two rooms display a tiny "Nose Hair of an Actress", which he glamorously presents in a large white space, and dozens of brain-storming collages, quoting several works of his past. This conceptual mutation, the playing with expectations and breaking of institutional rules, is an important aspect of John Bock's work. Also in other past shows, like his infamous group show parcours "fischgrätenmelkstand" at Temporäre Kunsthalle or "Kumulierte Summenmutation" at Julia Stoschek Collection challenged the ordinary exhibition context – maybe revolutionized it a little bit. Behind the splatter and the blood, there is first and foremost an artist who rethinks ways of how we should see art and how it can be represented.
Im Modder der Summenmutation
3.10.2013 - 12.01.2014
Opening Hours: Tue-Wed, 10-21h // Thu-Sun, 10-19h
John Bock "Nichts unter der Kinnlade", 2012 Foto: David Schultz © John Bock, 2013 John Bock "Zweierlei Eigen", 2012 Foto: Christoph Limbach © John Bock, 2013 John Bock "Kreatürliche Unschuld", 2013 Foto: David Schultz © John Bock, 2013 John Bock "Kreatürliche Unschuld", 2013 Foto: David Schultz © John Bock, 2013 John Bock "Im Schatten der Made", Foto: Jan Windszus © John Bock, 2013 John Bock "Im Schatten der Made", Foto: Jan Windszus © John Bock, 2013
all film-stills: Courtesy: Anton Kern, NY; Sprüth Magers Berlin, Giò Marconi, Mailand; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Regen Projects, LA