lonelyfingers – Konversationsstücke (Conversation Pieces) by Annelie Pohlen*
What makes an exhibition special? Aren’t all exhibitions special in one way or another? The exhibition lonelyfingers – Konversationsstücke (Conversation Pieces), shown between March 17th and June 2nd, 2013 at the Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, was exceptional precisely because it did not feature the presentation of artworks in the traditional sense.
The history: In 2012, Diango Hernández and Anne Pöhlmann started lonelyfingers, as an online project and artist’s platform. The platform focuses on expanding the exchange of ideas in a society increasingly networking through digital means, and one within which works of art are increasingly treated only as globalized commodities. Instead of the conventional artworks, lonelyfingers chooses to focus on objects drawn directly from the artist’s lives and working environments – objects that consciously or unconsciously serve as inspiration for the creative process without referring directly to finished artworks. After one year, Hernández and Pöhlmann extended this online platform to include a physical exhibition and expanded this communication between artists into communication between artists and visitors.
The visitors are received in an impressive drawing room with dark paneled walls and high shelves that function as a kind of display furniture. The shelves are full of objects, books, records, framed and unframed sketches, photos, menu cards and maps – all objects of different provenance. Cubes made of the same dark material are spread around the room and serve as stools, unequivocally inviting the visitor to stay and examine these enigmatic and yet familiar objects. Nothing is labeled, nor is there information regarding who among the participating artists – Daniel Barroca, Jay Batlle, Jarosław Fliciński, Jessica Gispert, Manuel Graf, Owen Gump, Diango Hernández, Rita McBride, Anne Pöhlmann, Glen Rubsamen, Tom Sloan and Monika Stricker – selected the object from his or her studio or living room.
Left alone in this way, the visitor has the opportunity to escape. Or to simply let one’s hands and mind wander and fall into a free form of communication, to invent, if necessary, one’s own stories about these familiar, unknown, banal, auratic, loved, overlooked and/or despised objects. While the insider might try unsuccessfully link individual finds with their owner, the layman has the clear advantage in capturing the existential and poetic core of this project: “Certainly we could also live without objects, but it is questionable whether we would be able to remember something if we did not have it. We use finds as points of reference…. and we create artworks to be remembered.” The reference to Duchamp is as clear as the rejection of the equation “objet trouvé” = artwork.
This “salon” along with a bar was designed and built by Tom Sloan using components from the Abteiberg’s existing exhibition architecture, allowing the history of the museum itself to be retold. The dialog between artists and audience is enriched by a series of seven Sunday talks – along with coffee and cake – intended to expand these stories and highlight the inspirational qualities these finds have for the artists. For example, the role of the teaspoon and finger food in Jay Batlle’s food performances, or the significance of a train journey from France to Italy for Glen Rubsamen’s research on the death of ubiquitous palm trees.
The presentation format and events all provided a sensually and spiritually vivid, entertaining, and enigmatic discourse on spiritual goods and the role of the museum as a place of gathering and of exhibition – both as a Cabinet of Curiosities and as a laboratory. The exhibition can also be seen as a continuation of the “artist salon” – tailored to the modern age and using contemporary physical and digital platforms for discussion.
And finally, the exhibition leaves us with TheFindsPaper, No. 1, a wonderful newspaper presenting the artist’s finds along with their artwork. This proximity and contact is enhanced by several texts and an index of all finds, arranged by owner, as exhibited in the Museum.
*Annelie Pohlen Nov. 2013 for AICA Germany (International Association of Art Critics)