The makeshift plywood shed Beni Bischof had built in what was otherwise an open gallery space intially looked like an abandoned hobby room: an old sofa, a similarly dated television, traces of production and lots of empty bottles. Rambo III was playing. In this installation, Potz Fresh Power with Rambo and Friends (2011), one could look back through a coarsely cut window onto the gallery wall, densely illustrated with collage, drawings and figures, some of them sketched directly onto the wall. There was a musclehead striking a pose and staring out intently from a photographed page of a magazine (Call me the Finger Man, 2011). But something wasn’t quite right about the self- aggrandizing showmanship of this very hairy hero: the monochrome surface of the image was penetrated by two fleshy fingers, which appeared to be protruding from his massive shoulders.
Fingers – along with sausages, clumps of paint and mounds of plaster – are part of the select repertoire of artistic optional extras with which Bischof reverses the logic of the entertainment industry or drives it backward into the absurd. He transforms hard guys and glamour girls into mythical creatures with additional arms and legs or animal features. Here he imposed masks onto a number of record album and magazine covers by perforating them and by applying plasticine or oil paint. Kim Wilde became a grimacing, many-horned devil with peroxide hair (LP, Kim Wilde, 2011), whilst supermodel Edita Vilkeviciute was given a hairy-looking visage in oils (Paint, Fashion Wonderland 2, 2011).
Bischof’s stock in trade also draws on a catalogue of art and design museum pieces. Besides a number of design icons contaminated with mounds of plaster, such as Konstantin Grcic’s ‘Chair One’ (Cool Grcic Chair, 2011), the exhibition featured a wall that had literally been infected by a Mondrian poster: a pattern of brightly coloured spots proliferated across the surface of the wall around a museum shop version of this abstract icon (Mondrian Remix, 2011).
In his materially intensive deconstructions, Bischof usually concentrates exclusively on media representations of almost inhuman (physical) size and significance. And almost all of the seats in the exhibition were already taken by phallic sculptures in plaster. The only space left was the shed. Here the visitor was received, not by artistically occupied designer furniture, but by a homely ensemble of monobloc chairs, rustic style, and a comfy sofa.
Was the shed a model contemporary allotment garden, offering the visually harried audience a little respite from the weighty aesthetic production around it? Unfortunately, even this meagre ‘recreation area’ in the little hobbyist’s shed constricted the artistic potential of Bischof’s works because it seemed to be positioned as the subcultural antithesis to the high-culture formats in the surrounding exhibition space. But if all this positioning roused ill tempers or even grave concerns, Bischof was ready with a remedy sprayed in large letters at the entrance to the gallery: Existenzängste, Champagner (Existential Anxiety, Champagne!, 2011).
Translated by Jonathan Blower