Whitehot Magazine

July 2010, Five Centimeters Short @ rupert goldsworthy

Desirée Holman, Something Ain’t Right, 2005
Digital C-Print, 30 x 24 inches
Courtesy the artist and Silverman Gallery


Five Centimeters Short
rupert goldsworthy gallery
Curated by Erik Bakke
alexandrinenstrasse 4
10969, Berlin

16 January through 2 February 2010

Even with its title, Five Centimeters Short states its provocative character. The title was inspired by Joseph Beuys who, during his legendary statement of 1964 on the Berlin Wall, suggested elevating the Wall 5 centimeters more in order to better its proportions. Only twenty years after its fall, the Berlin Wall, a physical border between East and West Germany (and Europe), is already an icon in the collective imagination. It is a symbol of destitution, and both separation and globalization--the Berlin Wall, or what remains of it, is recommended by travel guides around the world.

Most of the people going to Berlin, a city recently labeled “poor but sexy” (Klaus Wowereit, Berlin mayor, during a press interview in 2003), do not look for the Brandenburg Gate or the Reichstag, or for cathedrals, museums or buildings in Potsdamer Platz. It is the 'Wall' that lures tourists and travelers. In search for a physical piece of it or just a signal of its past presence, everyone looks for the Wall. Not only for what it has represented historically, but for its objective meaning. And, above all, for what it still represents: an idea. 

Five Centimeters Short
presents a series of works by Bruce Conner, Tracey Emin, Desirée Holman, David Huffman and Erik Bakke himself, who curated the exhibition. Bakke builds an ideal bridge between Berlin and his native city, San Francisco, and, in particular, the American counterculture of the late 60’s. The linkages between these two (mental?) places are the ideas of counterculture and underground, hippies and squats, ideas generated by division and separation.

Bruce Conner’s experimental movies are a mix of images and documentaries depicting the mechanisms and the dynamics of US capitalist society of the 60s. Conner manipulates the flow of images, cutting and pasting, inserting commercials and news. In the film Report (1967), for example, the artist juxtaposes images taken from the advertising industry, imparting the idea of a happy life dedicated to consumerism, with those of the assassination of JFK. The speed and cynicism of Report collides withThe White Rose (1967), a documentary movie on Jay DeFeo's painting The Rose. The film shows the transportation of this famous work out of the artist’s studio. The huge painting was an obsession for the artist, who worked on it for around seven years. Moving it from the artist's studio in San Francisco required making a hole in the wall and a crane. In the movie the artist is seen while separating from her work: she looks out the window, waiting for workers to take away the painting, smoking nervously, sitting on the edge of a window, her legs waving in the void. The artist expresses the tension between mass culture and society on the one hand, and on the other, the need for freedom. The studio is the visual representation of this conflict.

Desiree Holman’s research grew out of her interest in behavior, human relationships and life in society. The video called Troglodyte (2005) presents a group of dancers and actors dressed as monkeys, playing in a naturalistic setting. The images are split as if in a mirror and dancers (who are dressed as chimps) dance at a relentless pace in an attempt to recover a lost authenticity.

In Five Centimeters Short, this viewing of archetypes begins with a painting by David Huffman taken from his Traumanaut series. This series depicts African Americans dressed as spacemen in urban or romanticized surroundings, marking the psychological subjection stemming from the slavery of African people. The need to redeem an undervalued culture is also present in the Banners of Oroville by Erik Bakke. The banner is part of a project linked to the book "67 76" in which the artist associated ‘67, the year of the beginning of the student protest movement in San Francisco, with 76 the emblem of oil. Bakke made a series of collages in which this association is multiplied through the use of characters and stories belonging to the imagery of American popular culture. In this work Ishi, the last ‘wild’ Native American, is compared to Chris Ishii a Japanese American cartoonist, who after having worked with Walt Disney was interned during World War II, along with other Japanese Americans. These stories are all interwoven in the work of Erik Bakke similar to the images in his collages. Slightly different is the path taken by Tracey Emin with her attractive work Fighting for Love: in two identical pages of a letter, one the photocopy of the other, the British artist tells how to live without love. The copies remind us that life goes round and round the chances we missed and the things we dismissed.

Bruce Conner, Still from 'The White Rose, 1967
Image Courtesy The Conner Family Trust


David Huffman, Leon, 2009 (Installation View)
mixed media on wood, 18 x 18 inches
Courtesy the artist and rupert goldsworthy gallery


Tracey Emin, Fighting for Love, 1998 (Installation View)
Prints on Apple Green Paper
11.5 x 8.25 inches each, ed. 300
Courtesy the artist and rupert goldsworthy gallery


Erik Bakke, Banners of Oroville, 2010 (Installation View)
Mixed Media, 151 x 60 inches
Courtesy the artist and rupert goldsworthy gallery


Elda Oreto

Elda Oreto is an art historian and critic. She writes on contemporary art for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, and for the magazine Flash Art, and manages the art criticism blog: artspleen.blogspot.com. She has worked freelance for press offices and for exhibitions in public and private institutions. Elda graduated with a degree in Philosophy and completed her Post-Grad in History of Art at University 'Federico II' of Naples.

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