Helen Marten

Dust and Piranhas, 2011, digital animation, 25 min 25
Courtesy of HELEN MARTEN, Johann König, Berlin and T293, Naples

I saw HELEN MARTEN‘s work for the first time last weekend at the reopening of the Kunsthalle Zürich in the new Löwenbräukunst complex, which present her first institutional exhibition as the second solo show to be staged at the Kunsthalle Zürich’s renovated and extended premises.

MARTEN works primarily with sculpture and installation, although a recent project used digital animation (see above), to enact a relentless cultural assemblage borrowing from a blur of architecture, design, fashion, history, the unyielding presence of images, objects, codes and influences.

I selectively bounce between the parameters of architecture, fashion, design, history etc etc, but everything is so hilariously bound up in push and pull relationships anyway, that playing the name game with influences is difficult because everything blurs and overlaps so pervasively. But I love the inevitable filtration processes of modern culture: how the complex social histories of Tartan, Burberry or leather filter from the academic to the catwalk’s haute couture, via youthful street reassignment to contemporary trends in painting and object-making; or how you can broker merges between gang signs, computer symbols and Bluetooth runes. – HELEN MARTEN in conversation with NATALIE BAKER (TANK MAGAZINE)

Written and composed in response to the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 designed by PETER ZUMTHOR, the animated video Dust and Piranhas (2011) is narrated primarily by a pair of anthropomorphic columns – one white classical Doric, the other wooden, inflated and postmodern. These protagonists guide us through a wavering commentary about stylistic choices that point towards notions of status and consumer culture:

How to protect beauty from dust and piranhas

How to promote beauty to dust and piranhas

The idea is that it’s worth getting underneath the Arcadian patina of optimism to say that the alibi of the boys and girls that run in slow motion along Hawaiian beaches with their hair blowing in the wind and their smiling white teeth because their toothpaste is infallible, is in actual fact an alibi that won’t stand examination, not for one second.

If you’re hooked on urban living, become an internationalist. Cross borders. Check out Kuwait. Check out London. Check into Caracas. Read the National Geographic. Drink sweet fennel tea, throw bone out the door and eat cheesecake way past it’s sell-by date, wallow in irresistible texture, in thickness and the blank white taste of nothing.

You can do better than that.

Aren’t you ashamed?

We’ll change the subject…

Is soft pile more affirming than carpet tiles? Would you know how to fire at a B-52? (yes) (no) and at an F 104 (yes) (no) have you ever been to a fortune-teller or magician? (yes) (no) have you ever seen one working on a General Town Plan? (yes) (no) if you see seagulls in the city along the river, do you think they have flown up the river from the sea or that your city has followed the river down to the sea?…………………….

And good news: Almost the exact shape of Florida is currently on view at the Kunsthalle Zürich until the 4th November, 2012.

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  1. […] on wfw and watch Dust and Piranhas (2011), the first digital animation by HELEN MARTEN, written and composed in response to the Serpentine […]