Don't Expect Anything
Be Open To Everything

»I want us to learn from each other. About ourselves, about each other. And start to become more aware. How do I see myself, how do other people perceive me?«

»I want us to learn from each other. About ourselves, about each other. And start to become more aware. How do I see myself, how do other people perceive me?«

It is the beginning of December 2001, 20-year-old Johann König and art student Jeppe Hein meet on the stairs in front of Frankfurter Kunstverein. During a long conversation Hein talks König into founding a gallery.

© Jeppe Hein

Not even a year later Johann König shows a solo presentation by Jeppe Hein in his recently opened gallery. A ball made of steel, which starts moving as soon as someone enters the gallery space and only stops when the gallery is empty. As long as the movement sensors detect a physical presence in the room, the ball is continuously moving. The visitor has no chance to stop it or to control the direction the ball takes. It knocks the gallery walls, clashes with the radiators and collides with the room’s edges and thereby aggressively marks, almost destroys the white cube.

Exactly 15 years later, Hein is working on his new solo exhibition at KÖNIG GALERIE, opening this fall. The show won’t feature any objects, it will “transmit experiences” instead.

JEPPE HEIN: “For anyone to understand why I am doing this exhibition and why it is so important to me, they need to know that it was a journey to get to where I am now. Eight years ago I hit a brick wall. I was always on the go, travelling around the world and wanting to be everywhere at once. So, in the end I was never really anywhere. That is why I started therapy and took up yoga. You have these phases when you turn your life upside down and look at everything in a new way. I had to ask myself all these questions: where do I stand, how do I behave in different situations and why? My biggest question was: “Who am I?”. Yoga helped me a lot to answer this question, to turn the gaze inwards. I slowly started producing works again, the watercolours that were later exhibited at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. It was a kind
of breathing, painting, breathing. I have done over 4000 of them now. It is always like entering into a dialogue with my feelings, my daily routine and my life. I have made new neon boxes too: YOU ARE RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW; WHY AM I HERE AND NOT SOMEWHERE ELSE; YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE HERE. All these works are the result of a process. A process that is a massive challenge for me. You have to constantly question and reflect on yourself to avoid falling back into your old ways. I kept on coming up against a wall. More and more often. And I kept trying to break the cycle.

When I look back, especially with this new exhibition, I see that all these small adjustments in my awareness led to things being different today. I faced a lot of fear. Not fear in the sense of sitting in a dark room and having a panic attack; fear expresses itself in much smaller and more subtle ways too. The question of the artwork came quite naturally after that. How do I want to make artworks? How is an artwork created and how do I want to engage with the art world?

That made me think of my exhibition in the Centre Pompidou in 2005. There we were, Christine Macel, Johann König and me, discussing what showing art actually is about. We had a very close dialogue. We wanted to stage an exhibition and kept asking ourselves: how do we perceive an artwork, with our senses, with our feelings? How can we approach the space differently? In the end, we came up with a labyrinth. An imaginary labyrinth without physical walls directing the movement of the visitors. Instead, the maze structure was organized by infrared signals. In a big space, a fixed number of infrared emitters were mounted to the ceiling at equal distance to each other, forming a grid pattern. At the entrance, the visitor found a board with printed diagrams of different pre-programmed labyrinths, and attached infrared sensor headsets, which reacted with a vibrating alarm when an infrared signal, equivalent to an invisible wall, was received. The visitor thus combined the visual information with the technologically produced invisible leads, recreating the labyrinth in his imagination. It was not a visible or physical tangible object, but a work of the imagination and thus only became a sculpture through the interactivity and psychology of the viewer. That was a kind of precursor to this exhibition.

I refrained from any public comment in recent years and now with this exhibition in St. Agnes I am going to lay the whole process bare. I think showing your own vulnerability makes you stronger. All the things that helped me, these small subtle adjustments to daily life, yoga, exercises, I wanted to condense all of it and show it, but also pass it on. All this comes from my own experience, therefore I can’t expect it to affect the visitors. It’s all got to do with me. It’s what I learnt eight years ago, about my life, about myself.

The idea is to invite people to have an experience and awaken the senses over the four weeks of the exhibition. The main themes are: I feel, I see, I understand, I am. When we talk about feelings we are often still in our heads. People are very cerebral. On the first weekend of the exhibition I want to try to get in touch with people’s guts and people’s hearts. I’m going to try to release creative emotions through breathing and mindfulness. What do I feel towards another person? How do I remain fully aware of what I am eating and drinking? And how do I deal with an emotion that I don’t know and that might initially challenge me? Week two is about seeing. What do you see when you look around, how do you experience yourself, how do you see things and how do you see other people? Do you look at the people you encounter without judging them? And what about all the little things that you usually don’t notice in your daily life? If you don’t see it then you can’t feel it. I want people to take a close look at things in that week. That way you get more out of your life. How do you understand things? How can I understand myself and the structure in which I find myself? When I saw that I was constantly trying to change my wife, change my children, change my friends, there came a point when I realised that I can’t change another human being. Everything that I’m looking for is within. Week three is all about finding and understanding that. The last weekend is titled I am. Who am I, why am I, where am I going in my life? Why is it so important to live in the here and now? Who do I meet? How can I find a balance without my attention constantly wandering and at the same time always stay open and focused?

© Jeppe Hein

I try to relate to the space like I do to my art. It’s where I lay bare my process. I see my work as a tool for entering into a dialogue. And if I’m not showing any work then the middle man is cut out. Then I become the tool, the tool that my art usually is. That’ll be a big challenge for me.

Every day we will open the doors at a specific time for 30 minutes and people can come in. They’ll leave their shoes and phones outside and then enter the large room first. Things will happen and unfold here. It’s not a traditional exhibition situation. I’d like the visitors to come with an open heart and be ready for an adventure, perhaps one in which they’ll have to get out of their comfort zone. But they can also leave at any time. It is important for me for that to be said right at the beginning.

I’ve invited people that inspire me to join the exhibition and to take over the workshop one evening. Other artists, a philosopher, a yoga teacher and more. I’ve also invited them to step out and explore something that they don’t usually do, so that the participating musicians and philosophers get out of their normal environment. In the form of lectures or workshops, everything is possible.

I want us to learn from each other. About ourselves, about each other. And start to become more aware. How do I see myself, how do other people perceive me? It starts with us seeing people completely differently if they are wearing certain clothes. Every morning when we look in the mirror we see someone else. Every day something small changes. Just to be aware of that is already a good way of becoming more mindful in daily life.”



Jeppe Hein (b. 1974 in Copenhagen, Denmark) is a Danish artist based in Berlin. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Städel Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Jeppe Hein is widely known for his production of experiential and interactive artworks that can be positioned at the junction where art, architecture, and technical inventions intersect. Unique in their formal simplicity and notable for their frequent use of humor, his works engage in a lively dialogue with the traditions of Minimalist sculpture and Conceptual art of the 1970s. Jeppe Hein’s works often feature...
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