By LYNN KÜHL, JUL. 2020
This was the first art exhibition that killed me. I survived for exactly seven minutes—until I accidentally jumped off a tower and died. Actually, I died by drowning. Driven by survival mode, I climbed up a high glass tower. As an incompetent mountaineer, it took me quite a long time to do this; and as I find climbing stairs (despite regular exercise) incredibly exhausting, I was also a little annoyed at having to climb all these steps. But once I arrived at the top, I was royally rewarded: wide green fields, sun-drenched mountains, grazing pigs, and, of course, the hoped-for view to even more installations. “What else could I wish for?” I thought to myself as I strolled closer and closer to the abyss. Unfortunately, a little too close. I suddenly found myself under water, my life energy shrinking. While I was fighting for my life, I kept panic-pressing "Space" and "w" to jump forward. But I was too clumsy. And so I died my first death in the Landesgartenschau (roughly translated as: State Garden Show), a virtual experience hosted by the elite Mythical Institution.
Through the act of gaming, the Mythical Institution realizes a type of fantasy exhibition format that foregrounds engaging art in an ecological and economically sustainable manner. "It's super historic and of course very exclusive," describes head curator Jan Berger. The Mythical Institution is a utopia with thick stone walls and a fabulous garden. The institution hosts artist residencies and has just recently opened its second show. There's a library and a lecture programme, but these are accessible to programme participants and staff only. The historic main building dates back multiple centuries and is believed to be of aristocratic origin. Rumour has it that it once served as the summer residence of royalty, having been passed down for generations until it was finally donated to the Mythical Institution.
The estate is steeped in a legacy that disseminates the importance of pristine values. The current exhibition, Landesgartenschau, which runs until July 17th, features works by Nicola Arthen, Fattini Brambel, Johannes Büttner, dieinternet.org, Nina Kettiger, Jeffrey Alan Scudder, and Nicholas Warburg, and takes place in the Hallowed Garden Monument. This is an ancient monument and successor to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Hallowed Garden Monument lies at the fringes of the Marie Therese Memorial Lake, where nature unravels its splendor. All artists were personally invited to participate. After the open call for the first exhibition Le Grand Trampolage, this round was more exclusive.
According to Jan Berger, the open call for Le Grand Trampolage was pretty wild. One of the artists included in the exhibition, Mila Slominsky, stated in her application that she was born in 1899 and died dramatically in the Hindenburg Disaster. Fortunately, however, she was revived by two art students who fucked her back to life again, giving her the opportunity to apply despite her tragic misfortune. Utterly impressed by Slominsky's long and accomplished resume, Berger included her in the program. Another artist, Lola Mae, was only 12 years old when she applied; but because she knows how to present herself so well to the online world, nobody knew her real age.
Le Grand Trampolage took place on the premises of the institution itself, where its botanical garden and stately interiors could be used as a backdrop. An external site was chosen for the current Landesgartenschau: the world of Minecraft. The green landscape was prepared by Berger in such a way that the invited artists had to install their works themselves. Work could only be done in pixelated blocks, and, of course, in full survival mode. This also applies to the visitors. And it's ill-advised to jump from the large tower that Nina Kettiger has built into the landscape, her walk-in installation Score for Promenade, Loop no.1.
Jan Berger wanted to create a playful fantasy world that follows the etiquette of the art market. So he explored the possibilities of computer gaming, and hit upon Minecraft as the ideal base. In this world, the high standards set by the institution are decided by a highly demanding group: the bees. Recently, they have come to look upon a satanic rendition of Robert Smithson's earth sculpture Spiral Jetty—Spira666 Jett999, by Johannes Büttner and Nicholas Warburg—as a place where there is a noticeable lack of flower pollen. Meanwhile, Fattini Brambel’s nudist indoor-camping site Dummvolk, wach wach auf! impresses the bees with its thorough biodiversity. The bees' evaluation follows a specific metric: whether or not a work is good is shown in honey pots. WM
Lynn Kühl is a writer and communications consultant on art and politics. She is based in Berlin and has published reviews, essays, research papers, and radio reports in venues like gallerytalk.net, Melodie & Rhythmus, and others. She is one of the spokespersons for the transmediale festival and has worked with initiatives and institutions like Various Others (Munich), Neumeister auctioneers, and the European Commission.view all articles from this author