Manuel Graf, QU'EST QUE C'EST LA MATURITÉ?, 2008, video installation, projector, ceramic, Plexiglas, plastic, lamp, lightbulb, 11 min, unique
22 JANUARY – 16 FEBRUARY 2008
Johann König, Berlin is pleased to present the second solo gallery exhibition of the artist.
"The Seam and the Jump sit on the seesaw, riding up and down. Today, the Seam is wearing a beautiful oriental gown, loosely woven, with a meandering ornament. She designs wonderful jewellery as she thinks back. She is fond of the Jump, sitting across from her wanting to seesaw with her wildly. The Jump finds the Seam a bit dull, with her unending rapport. He would rather meet up with his young lads, the Thrust and the Pulse. They perfectly suit his tastes: always going ahead, always at the construction site. After all, the Jump only finds the Seam tedious because she can be there more often and still never be bored. Soon, they will all get together in Arcadia. Tego and Texo will also come.
Manuel Graf sets two handmade tea services and a video projection in a theatrical relationship. The small sculptures are mirrored as images in the film QU'EST QUE C'EST LA MATURITÉ 2008 (What is maturity) – a kind of animated Revue theater in three acts. During the first act, tea cups, sugar bowl, and teapot, designed as a classical architectural ensemble, spin to a Waltz tempo under a spotlight. The images convey a lulling and sedating effect, as if in the contemplation of a musical box. The second act leads towards the absurd with artificially accelerated and overwound music. An Ikebana construction site grows from nothingness like a design for a plug-in-city from architect group ARCHIGRAM, while ripe oranges weigh on the scaffolding. They are not harvested but left to rot and fall about. Straight away, fresh fruit is delivered and the process begins all over again. Converted into a carousel, an orange tree goes merry-go-round in the third act, as seesaws are replaced by bonbon-coloured fetishes dangling in the air: high heels on silk ribbons from today and past á la Bernard Rudofsky.
On the small stage, he lets a kind of voodoo magic occur, as tea sets, profane objects symbolic of tradition, contemplation, and maturity, are charged with childish fantasy. Sounds and images possess the dead material as a creative breath does the modelled clay. In so doing, Graf plays with an ancient desire of humanity: to bestow inanimate, handmade things with life as if with a magic wand. At the same time canonising the mundane, the act of drinking tea leads to a space beyond ideologies; Arcadia, where both the childish and the mature coexist.
Graf's video works, frequently accompanied by objects, are deeply permeated by historical references and allusions. The complex iconography in his works is drawn from a great fascination for architecture, pop, and fashion, as well as a profound understanding of these fields. With light-footed, playful handwriting, Graf has developed an explicit artistic position within the theoretical discourse.