Anchored firmly in art history, Kerstin von Gabain’s exhibition Bad Pringle features the artistic techniques of casting and analogue photography. Von Gabain uses these traditional processes in order to take a fresh look at the relevance of original and copy in current artistic practice, while at the same time circumventing current debates surrounding digital images.
The show features a number of mostly everyday items – burgers, french fries, spray cans, Pringles tins – cast into white plaster, transparent epoxy resin and coloured wax. The casting process removes all viewable traces of the product’s branding, leaving the objects to be viewed only in terms of form and colour. Instead of emphasizing the formal qualities of these everyday objects via their promotion to artworks, though, the presentation has a certain casualness about it, as if this new status were entirely incidental: to go (to pick up…) (2015) sees a plaster burger on a plinth of unpainted MDF, while another plaster burger lies discarded on the floor beside a few french fries made of brightly coloured wax.
Other casts are shown in combination with real objects. For bad pringle (2015), two plaster Pringles tins are stuffed into a pair of black shoes, protruding from them like lower legs. A similar approach is taken in bad medium coke (2015): casts of two plastic cups with a McDonald’s logo sit in a pair of pink Converse All Stars. This humorous approach to found objects, as well as the references to trashy everyday culture, recall artistic practices of the 1980s and 1990s, from Fischli & Weiss to Cosima von Bonin.
Accompanying the sculptures a series of photographs highlight the way the medium lends itself to staged scenes, a quality that has inflected the history of photography since modernism, which helped both establish its status as an artistic medium and to foster its use in advertising. A series of analogue colour photographs shows scenes featuring Von Gabain’s plaster casts of Pringles tins and spray cans. In compositional terms, these works look like advertising shots focusing attention on the product: in pale spray can (2015) and three pictures from the pale pringle series (2015), a hand demonstratively holds a plaster cast object towards the camera. The similarity of the compositions and colour schemes (mostly muted pastel tones) points to conceptual photography as well as fashion.
While these pictures feature the same casts on show in the exhibition, other photographs copy and quote earlier of the artist’s works. For untitled (2015), for example, Von Gabain reuses the composition of an earlier photograph (Untitled (Tracksuit with shoe), 2014) made for her 2014 show at Secession in Vienna. This earlier exhibition also included photographs of plaster casts of legs and feet in shoes – recalling the Pringles tins and plastic cups in bad pringle and bad medium coke in this show. These references to earlier works make it clear that for Von Gabain, the concepts of ‘original’ and ‘copy’ that run through the history of mechanical reproduction do not connote status. Rather, in her appropriative and cross referential practice, ‘original’ and ‘copy’ are understood instead as mere stages in the process of artistic production. Objects are transferred through a succession of new contexts, documenting their history as everyday goods, art objects and images.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell