until 14.04. | # 1910ARTatBerlin | Galerie Barbara Wien is currently showing the exhibition “Speeches Speeches Speeches” by the artist Dave McKenzie.
Talk about the exhibition with Dave McKenzie
In your third exhibition with Barbara Wien you will be showing new works. Some are a continuation of An Intermission, a series of banners printed with various types of images. Sometimes they are accompanied by text. For example, “We Will Not” stands above the image of a bottle in which “natural vitamins” are to be found, under the truncated portrait of a businessman is “Speeches”. The sources, relationships and meanings of the images are often ambiguous; they elude a simple and quick interpretation of the viewer. In addition, you often edit the pictures a lot, for example by trimming them. Can you tell us more about the image sources and what are your criteria for selecting them?
The pictures come from a collection of 35mm slides that I bought on ebay a few years ago and that includes travel photos, family portraits and other photo genres. She belonged to a private person who traveled a lot. I have worked with these pictures at different times and in different contexts, but I have so many that I have never looked at them all. When I start a new project, I go through part of the archive and try to select some images that suggest something out of sight. Often this task has nothing to do with the intentions of the photographer or the people depicted. By modifying them, I also try to update them, make them less explicit, and make other readings possible. When I focus on a picture, it’s usually because I think it’s something that feels topical and urgent – making it a bit like designing a newspaper or magazine page.
Banners have a strong symbolic value through a long tradition of various uses in religion, advertising, protest, or politics. For demonstrations and parades, banners are performative objects, as they materialize a statement, making it visible and present in a certain space. Can you tell us more about the selection of this medium? Are you referring to a specific area where banners are commonly used, e.g. in the advertisement or on demonstrations? Could these banners also serve as props for performances?
I often work with media that everyone recognizes at first glance, and the banners definitely fit into that category, but they’re not from any particular area or tradition. I think they are probably a mix of all the traditions you mentioned. Mainly, I want to see it as a platform for potential action – real or just imagined.
Banners are objects of communication that turn language into something visual. In previous work, you have dealt with the impossibility of talking, or the difficulty of talking but not being understood (Babel, 2000), by addressing the word to somebody (meeting with Henry Kissinger in Camera, 2012 ) and you have already made several dumb replicas of yourself (Self-Portrait Pinata, 2002). How do you see your exhibit Speeches Speeches Speeches in this context?
Recently, Oprah Winfrey made a truly haunting speech at the Golden Globes, and the response to the speech centered on whether she would run for president. The actual content of the speech was pushed into the background by what was seen as its real concern. I think about and about the difficulty of being heard and understood. The banners try to make something out of this difficult space; I’m less concerned about being understood than listening to what you believe. It’s good for me to start there.
The texts on your banners have an interesting format, I have the impression you imitate or quote the font style, which can be found on typical banners. Whether in advertising or as political slogans, these are often short, catchy sentences with an almost constant use of subject pronouns: you, we and them. Who do you turn to? Who are “we” as opposed to “them”?
The salutation is often a really important part of my job, so it often takes the form of a letter. A letter usually knows who the sender is and who the intended recipient is. The banners do it in a slightly different way, but I hope that temporary communities can form around them. So that in the end you feel like you are the speaker or the addressee.
In the exhibition you also show table sculptures with the heads of mannequins and other objects. The heads have neither faces, nor can they talk. Can you tell us more about it?
The heads are generally more abstract than the banners. They are proxies for all kinds of associations and actions. I think in many ways that they feel like characters in one piece without a script. When I work on my heads, I feel like I’m writing a text that I can not always read, and in that way, I’m dependent on a deeper, richer language of associations and even misunderstandings.
(Questions from Gauthier Lesturgie)
Dave McKenzie (* 1977 in Kingston, Jamaica) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, US. He had u.a. Solo exhibitions at University Art Museum, University at Albany, USA (2017); Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, USA (2010); Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, USA (2008); at REDCAT Gallery, Los Angeles, USA (2008) and The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, USA (2007). He has participated in numerous international group exhibitions, including: Cooper Union, New York, USA (2016); Studio Museum in Harlem, USA (2016); Tate Liverpool, UK (2015); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, USA (2015); Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK; Whitney Biennial 2014, New York, USA; Performa 13 in New York, USA (2013); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA (2012) and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, USA (2012).
McKenzie has received numerous awards and scholarships, including: the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Fellowship (2018), Rome Prize for Visual Arts (2014-2015); Guna S. Mundheim Visual Arts Fellow, The American Academy in Berlin (2011); USA Rockefeller Fellow, United States Artists and the Art Matters Foundation Grant (both in 2009).
McKenzie is currently participating in the group show “Stories of Almost Everyone” at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, which runs until May 6, 2018
Vernissage: Friday, 02nd March 2018, 06:00 to 09:00 p.m.
Exhibition period: Saturday, 03rd March to Saturday, 14th April 2018Zu Barbara Wien
Image caption: Courtesy Galerie Barbara Wien – Dave McKenzie
Exhibition Dave McKenzie – Galerie Barbara Wien | Kunst in Berlin ART at Berlin