Forms of Spittle 

with Nicola Brunnhuber, Martin Creed, Michaela Eichwald, Ursula Hübner, Till Megerle, Marlie Mul, Florian Pfaffenberger, Amelie von Wulffen

curated by Cosima Rainer
curating assistance Bianca Moser

The exhibition “Forms of Spittle” focuses on the “dark thicket” in today’s artistic production which is no longer concerned with hygienic abstractions and a normative understanding of beauty but with forms of dissolution and the acceptance of failure and dirt. Demonstratively rejecting the idealism of art as an expression of the mind prevailing since antiquity, artists thematize the embarrassing, ridiculous and excrescent dimension of artistic subjectivization and production. Since expressive individuality and authenticity have increasingly become an integral part of the late capitalist creative society’s catalogue of requirements, this renunciation may be read as symptomatic of the tensions of our time.

The works displayed in the exhibition come from artists who take a clearly distanced and humorous view of these notions of creativity and self-expression. The invitation card, which shows a picture of the artist as a well or fountain down-dimensioned to a children’s game, who, paraphrasing a famous work by Bruce Nauman, reveals mystic truths, prepares the ground for the group show’s presentation of seven artistic positions that operate in this field of tension, subverting the hegemonic creative self. Relating to the French author and philosopher Georges Bataille, who has taken up one of the most radical anti-aesthetic positions with his concept of l’informe, the exhibition assembles works that mostly deal quite literally with the spittle of forms of subjectivization, with their leakage, with watering them down and decomposing them.

In Florian Pfaffenberger’s (b. 1984) sometimes sculpturally proliferating pictorial works, for example, teapots and sugar bowls rack their brains about their contents which may be spilled at any time or are already streaming away because a new picture emerges in the picture. It is an unceasing work of forms, a continuous flow in which one form swallows the other and throws it up again, that characterizes the artist’s approach. As if in a psychedelic state of intoxication, everyday objects transform into pictorial characters that oscillate between trash and high culture. The pictures humorously explore overlapping processes linked to artistic subjectivization in times of an ideological paradigm of optimization.

Amelie von Wulffen’s (b. 1966) beamed drawings see the props of a heroic artist’s biography slithering into nightmares. Bizarre phantasms, as known to us from dreams, assume sprawling forms. Parts of the artist’s body and her skin disintegrate, and she must roam from place to place as a vagabond and present her drawings to simple peasants and workers. Another episode shows her frustratedly taking a call in which her sister, a housewife and mother, tells her that she has been invited to participate in the documenta. Even banal fears such as sitting at the wrong table of an opening dinner turn into existential threats in Amelie von Wulffen’s drawn dream diary. Her exhibitionist tour de force reveals monstrous inner abysses related to the reality of art’s competitive field.

Marlie Mul (b. 1980) has taken up an art-historical forerunner of today’s spittle painting with Jackson Pollock’s drippings. Her room-spanning installation of paint-splattered popcorn bags is titled Poppin Pollock. The burst, messed-up bags and the chaotically scattered popcorn spread horizontally in the room in a deterritorializing way associated with Pollock and find themselves accompanied by cracking and chewing sounds coming from loudspeakers which reduce the pathos Pollock’s body seismograms have been theoretically charged with to the banality of digestion. Marlie Mul’s installation also links up with the trashy consumer and fan culture which adopts and develops its ideals in similar decomposition processes.

Martin Creed’s (b. 1968) video installation Sickfilm likewise ties in with the tradition of body drippings spanning from Pollock to Andy Warhol’s piss paintings. Martin Creed’s trash version transfers the boundless cosmic character of Pollock’s spittle into the present. His video installation shows four persons coughing up colored sputum in a hygienically clean white cube. Creed does not only confront us with a direct form of spatial painting in his matter-of fact conceptual manner but also fulfils general expectations toward art: “turning the inside out” is still a myth, a promise, or, as in this case, a threat associated with the production of art.

Nicola Brunnhuber’s (b. 1980) contribution to the exhibition, on the other hand, entirely evades any personal form of expression. The artist conceptually rejects the so-called studio practice as a traditional context of artistic production. His works come about in passing and only rarely or on the occasion of a pending exhibition. His formal language comprises lowly valued objects like a mop, plastic bags, or subcultural trash icons. In the present exhibition, Brunnhuber shows drawings by his artist friend Till Megerle (b. 1979) who already dedicated himself to Bataille’s theses and his text “The Big Toe” at an earlier point in time.

Michaela Eichwald (b. 1967) explores clichés of painterly expressiveness. Frequently relying on an overpowering advance, her abstract pictures play with the rhetoric of the history of painting. She deliberately employs seemingly authentic expressive gestures, undermining them with a highly artificial arsenal of materials, uncommon formats, and narrative collage elements. Her bewildering array of materials and techniques yields contradictory and actually abject form and color combinations which are always also concerned with the imitation and digestion of the apparently “genuine” and original. Reminiscent of smeared napkins and intestinal convolutions, the details of her paintings trigger associations with digestive processes and forms of excretion.

Ursula Hübner’s (b. 1957) series of portraits R. O. confronts us with grotesque head and face forms of awkwardly rampant bog plant blossoms, mushrooms, and creepers set off against airy, mostly light blue backgrounds. The features do not add up to a whole; only details can be made out. While many areas are left blank or translucent, life seems to concentrate in other places. Musty decay and manured growth merge with one another like in a compost biotope. The portraits, individualized by means of different first names in their titles, may be read as surreal mood paintings that convey how an ostensibly stable personality starts floundering, dissolves, and loses its form. Emotions concerning the low and the repulsive as described by Bataille in his criticism of the human figure and anthropomorphism are skillfully employed here with the objective of integrating the rest suppressed as a part of subjectivization processes.

Text: Cosima Rainer
Translation: Wolfgang Astelbauer