BY Dominikus Müller in Reviews | 20 MAY 13
Featured in
Issue 10

Corin Sworn

Neuer Aachener Kunstverein

BY Dominikus Müller in Reviews | 20 MAY 13

Corin Sworn, The Rag Papers, 2013, Installation view

On entering The Rag Papers, Corin Sworn’s first institutional show in Germany, one found oneself in a sparsely furnished, foyer-like space. On the walls hung two medium-format textile collages behind glass (Revisionist Diner and 1990s Grateful Dead Resurgence, all works 2013), and in the middle of the room stood a storefront mannequin named Tony. In cheap white running shoes, Tony wore a second-hand suit made of faux-elegant fabric, complete with a mismatching, colourful shirt and – in the suit’s breast pocket – a handkerchief that didn’t match, either. Identical holes, cut at intervals on the fabric of the suit, revealed further patterned fabrics: a hotchpotch of found materials. This outfit was clearly at pains to achieve a style, layer by layer, and the ensemble was well pressed and prepped. But at this point, not much was revealed about the show aside from old clothes and collage techniques.

The theme became clearer on the upper floor with the show’s eponymous centrepiece, a film installation produced by Neue Aachener Kunstverein in cooperation with London’s Chisenhale Gallery. A tangled, though strangely light, meta-narrative about finding, using and recontextualizing texts, objects, and fragments, the work was perfectly in keeping with the textile collages’ stylistic chaos.

At first, the screen was black. After a brief concert of flashes from the lamp-lit living room, a voice began recounting, in a fragmentary and associative style, the accidental meeting of two individuals; scraps of information interwoven with abstract asides on the circulation of people and objects; general reflections on techniques of appropriation and adaptation; and finally a specific reference to making a film out of found fragments.

Eventually, the film started: an old apartment – tastefully but sparsely furnished – a desk, an improvised drawing board, a mantelpiece with objects and a record player. A woman enters the room, walks around, puts on a record, talks on the phone. After rummaging on the desk, she then walks off. At some point a man enters, puts on another record, stands at the window drawing a little bit and leaves. The relationship between the two characters – whether or not they are the people in the earlier narration about a brief encounter – is left unclear. Finally, other images are edited into this unfathomable chamber drama: footage of sorting facilities with mountains of second-hand clothes, images of endless lines of crates and boxes with people rummaging through them, and finally pictures of old glassware. The objects look elegant, but cheap – dramatically lit and presented against a black background. We have come full circle – back to the cobbled-together suit on the ground floor.

Sworn’s is a second-hand universe, loosely and casually assembled out of repetitions, loops, and moments of focus. This constant drifting really only made sense on the meta-level, while the narrative itself was shot through with holes. But everything was linked with such care and nonchalance that it didn’t fall apart – a lesson in fabricating and stitching together a self-reflexive commentary on one’s own activity. The principle of integrated, interwoven collages – using spaces, films, sounds and images – may be nothing new (and neither are the themes of collage, reuse and recontextua­lization). But what is rare is to find everything assembled with such concision and confidence.

Translated by Nicholas Grindell

Dominikus Müller is a freelance writer based in Berlin.