Whitehot Magazine

December 2007, Jonathan Berger @ Andreas Grimm

Installation View, Johnathan Berger's seer installation view
courtesy Andreas Grimm, New York


Jonathan Berger’s seer at Andreas Grimm
By Hans Michaud

Jonathan Berger’s “seer” is the third installment of a project entitled Prologues, Epilogues, Thresholds: An Exhibition in 3 Parts at Andreas Grimm Gallery in New York City.

I am my own empire. The empire is inside of me.
When I began to learn about ancient Western history the Fall of Rome became a tumultuous and melancholy point of reference. It stayed this way even as I learned more and more about what actually did happen around this time period.

The Fall of Rome.
Could The Fall have felt, to the inhabitants of Rome, overwhelmingly melancholy during the downward slide? Of course this is ridiculous. My point here being: if the country you’re living in is beginning to fall or is in the middle of falling, would you know it? Would anyone know it, even the most knowledgeable financial managers and cultural-critics-at-large? The doomsayers and the news junkies? Or would a “fall” simply present itself as merely more change, each and all of us not having the bird’s-eye-view necessary to put it all in some form of workable perspective? We would notice this changing, that changing, possibly a few things becoming easier of more difficult. And in this light, what, exactly, is NOT falling, or rising, for that matter?
Rome, as much or more than any other state, existed to stay the same. The Roman Emperors and the Roman aristocracy wanted to keep reality predictable. To keep things the way “they’d always been” (in a manner of speaking). This may be one modus operandi of every state, everywhere, throughout history. Possibly Rome was attempting to keep the world in stasis no more or less than any other state. Quite possibly this may be the real reason for the existence of states, as they exist in our world. Regardless, what would a collapsing state look like? If the main thrust of states is to “keep things the same”, then it stands to reason that the environment of a collapsing state would embody change. Fast change, comparatively.
Jonathan Berger’s “Prologues, Epilogues, Thresholds” seeks to take snapshots of those changes.

Installation View, Johnathan Berger's seer installation view courtesy Andreas Grimm, New York

Installation View, Johnathan Berger's seer installation view courtesy Andreas Grimm, New York

“The Empire Locked Into a Specific Idea”
When I apprehend this idea of “The Fall of Rome” and as a result experience melancholy, a small amount of low-grade panic, mystery and solemnity, what I am actually feeling does not, in fact, have anything to do with the “Fall” of the ancient state of Rome. What I experience is my own projection of that idea, my own interpretations. Possibly I’m using this concept as a means to insert intentional emotions described above and map out the psychological terrain I’m padding through at the moment. This is most likely what happens to anyone regarding not only this subject but also any subject they apprehend. We make it all up. We construct abstract concepts such as “Rome fell” and then project ourselves into our own fantasy construct arising from the signifier of said concepts.

Rome fell.
Well, maybe it did and maybe it didn’t but in the end it all depends upon interpretation. Maybe something else happened entirely. Some other series of events possibly having no connection to anything we might have dug or dreamt up. Or we’ll dig or dream up someday. It has everything to do not only with us but also anything we might imagine. In this light, does the collapse of any state rest entirely within our imaginations?

Installation View, Johnathan Berger's seer installation view courtesy Andreas Grimm, New York


In the following description of “seer”, I’ll try to stay away from the visual descriptions and confine my tract to other impressions.
Over the years and especially following a visit to ancient sites along the Mediterranean Sea, I’ve pondered over some historical reference material in regards to any kind of historical reconstructions. How do archaeologists and architects and historians actually reconstruct a site? Do they only attempt this on a site they are absolutely sure about in regards to historical accuracy? The reason I’m bringing up these questions is that I cannot help but wonder if the original really did look anything like the simulacra. Or if it matters in the first place. Maybe what matters, after all, was me, in fact, existing within said space and apprehending it in this manner. The sovereign acts of appreciation, comprehension and the subsequent appropriation (taking the experience away with oneself) are very much like walking into the Andreas Grimm Gallery in New York City and experiencing “seer” for the first time. At the risk of refuting my initial promise to veer away from physical descriptions I’ll simply state this: the brightness of it all, indeed, the whiteness, summons an inside-out Husserlean phenomenology: consciousness/reality is a blank movie screen in a darkened theater. As long as there are no lights, one cannot see the projection screen. Turn the projector on, however, and the screen becomes visible. That is, the screen is visible behind a welter of projected images. It is these images, these mental projections, that illuminate the screen of reality, indeed, are the only things illuminating it. And reality is simply covered with our projections.
Okay, now, turn the projector off. Again, we are in utter darkness.
(This is where I’ll begin adding something to the mix):
Now remove the darkness.

Installation View, Johnathan Berger's seer installation view courtesy Andreas Grimm, New York

…what are we left with? Just a concept: reality, stripped of the projections of human consciousness. Stripped of the convenience of darkness.
In other words, inside of Andreas Grimm, I couldn’t shake the deeply unsettling notion that I was, literally, standing inside my own consciousness, an absolute mirror.
I am my own empire. The empire is inside of me.

-Hans Michaud


Hans Michaud

Hans Michaud is a freelance journalist in New York.


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