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"Public Intimacy" - Dornbracht Conversations 4 at KW, Berlin

Iserlohn/Berlin On December 11, 2012, Dornbracht extended the invitation to Dornbracht Conversations on the topic of "Public Intimacy" at Kunst-Werke in Berlin. The members of this year's panel, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Susanne Pfeffer and Jeremy Shaw, talked with Charlotte Klonk about the loss and new positioning of privacy. The topic touches on the special, intimate exhibition situation of ONE ON ONE, which is dedicated to perception and communication in the field of unresolved tension between intimacy and publicity. The individually designed rooms and their exhibits are new productions, which were realized through sponsorship by Dornbracht Culture Projects.

For over 15 years, the internationally active family company has supported various exhibitions and projects. With Dornbracht Conversations (DC) a platform has been initiated which debates current developments in design, architecture and art. The members of this year's panel, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Susanne Pfeffer and Jeremy Shaw, talked with Charlotte about the loss and repositioning of privacy.

Charlotte Klonk opened the discussion by classifying the terms "private" and "public" in a socio-historical context. In line with current perspectives, she linked the oxymoron "public intimacy" to the Internet and social networks such as Facebook – and the fact that people reveal intimate details there to an unregulated public. "In recent times, it seems to be private matters which are at risk," explained Klonk. Today, it is understood as a free space which should be protected and which gives people the right to retreat. In contrast, this used to be connected to the domestic area, which initiated a feministic discourse about the issue of private and public. It is only since recently that the private area has also been perceived as an intimate space, said Klonk. "In this connection, the museum has always been the place in which the two categories combine." According to Klonk, all three podium participants experiment with this topic in a new way.

"My idea for ONE ON ONE goes back to Jan Hoet's Chambres d’amis in Gent," explained Susanne Pfeffer. In 1986, the Belgian curator showed works of art in private apartments there, just as the Berlin Biennale did in 2006 in Auguststraße. "I liked this idea of intimacy. It makes the art more direct". But instead of leaving KW, Susanne Pfeffer asked artists to produce works which are only intended for one observer and which seek direct dialog – and form a contrast to many large museums in which one feels lost in the face of the multitude of visitors, works of art and rooms. Charlotte Klonk backed this approach and explained that she is able to let go in ONE ON ONE instead of constantly engaging in critical reflection. This was exactly Susanne Pfeffer's intention as she pursued the issue as to what physical sensations one has in response to a work when one is alone with it. On the other hand, the exhibition creates a communicative level - alone by way of the queues which form in front of the cabins.

In response to the question as to how he came up with the idea for his work in ONE ON ONE, Jeremy Shaw explained: "I had two options – one was to create a beauty of silent encounter between work and observer. The second was to exploit the fact that someone is at the mercy of my work. I went for the latter option." He also wanted the different versions of his hypnotic video to create confusion when observers discuss them afterwards.

The documenta also included experiments with hypnosis and therapy sessions. "Marcos Lutyens hypnotized 7,000 people in 100 days," explained Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. She went on to say how remarkable it is that 150 percent more season tickets were sold, i.e. that visitors deliberately came more than once. "The exhibition was no longer an event but rather a temporary experience in which one comes especially for one work and then leaves again." As such, the observer is less productive and fast, less of a consumer. Due to the fact that the documenta did not serve as a place of public politics - as is usually the case nowadays - but rather as a place of collaboration, it was no longer private and public which encountered each other but rather intimacy and collectivity.

The head of the documenta questioned the difference between private and public, saying that this divergence is a problem of western culture. She therefore read out an e-mail from Lebanese performance artist Rabih Mroué, who describes his impressions of a visit to the Breitenau concentration camp in Kassel in detail and subsequently states: "Being an artist also means being part of the audience. Being it and yet also not being it." Christov-Bakargiev therefore stated that one can reverse the methods of the Facebook era: The border between private and public is fluid anyway. The only thing which is important is the time, concentration and devotion which ones dedicates to something.

"I believe that one of the biggest challenges of our time is understanding oneself," continued Christov-Bakargiev. "The idea of the collective subject is a product which capitalism wants to sell. They want to convince us that there is no subjectivity, but rather that one is always part of a superior subject: the designer in Berlin, the manufacturer in Stockholm, the dispatcher somewhere else." She appealed for a recourse to Kant and his understanding of the completeness of world, now that we have spent the past decades mainly focusing on the deconstructivism of French post-modernism. Charlotte Klonk agreed with the thesis from the end of this phase: "It is difficult to imagine how a meaning for the public should be created when one has no sense of self."
Whether exhibitions are not generally very private was one of the questions from the audience to Susanne Pfeffer – after all, one always shares time and space with the work of art. "Yes, but some observers today ask themselves why they should look at a video in an exhibition when they can go to YouTube," said Pfeffer, explaining her approach to the study. She referred to Cyprien Gaillard's installation made of beer crates The Recovery of Discovery at KW in 2011: The work lived from the fact that it changed continuously over the course of the exhibition. Charlotte Klonk was of the opinion that exhibitions are not private in general. From the very beginning, museums have existed to form a certain public, whereby the question is now to what extent one can control one's own experiences there at all. After all, there are all wall texts, custodians and lots of other visitors. This is different with ONE ON ONE – where one can engage with a work without informational notes or a mass audience.

The next question was whether there is a connection between the hype about exhibitions and the loss of privacy in museums. Christov-Bakargiev made a digression into the dialectic and permeable relationship between the space of art and the space outside of the museum. She then referred to the disembodiment which one feels within the work of Janet Cardiff and Susan Philipsz. It releases the observer from the here and now in order to place him with himself. This is in line with the old, romantic idea of being transported out of the world and into the artistic space – and thus into the only reality which unites body and spirit. At the same time, she pointed out the reactionary potential of this thinking. A retreat can therefore be both radical and conservative.

Further questions arose from the dichotomies of Occupy Wall Street and the headquarters of the movement in the Deutsche Bank buildings, the modernist exhibition architecture of ONE ON ONE and, above all, the etymologies of the terms "private", "intimate" and "public", which were used very interchangeably throughout the discussion but which, in fact, mean very different things – especially as there are various historical and cultural levels of privacy. In this regard, the word "intimate" was presented as a form of closeness, as a relationship to something, while "private" is more of an economic term.

All in all, the participants in the podium discussion agreed that more attention is paid to privacy today than to the public sphere, whereby the spheres connect with each other repeatedly. In this context, the exhibition ONE ON ONE served as an inspiring foundation on which the topic could be credibly determined. Due to the complexity of the topic, it was not possible to draw a final conclusion. However, the numerous suggestions, questions and comments, also from the audience, demonstrated the enormous need for discussion on "public intimacy", which shows the actuality of the topic of Dornbracht Conversations 4.


Further information on Dornbracht and the Dornbracht products as well as the digital press texts are available online at www.dornbracht.com or via the Dornbracht Press Office: Meiré und Meiré, Stephanie Eckerskorn/ Nora Niemeier / Andrea Ruppert, Lichtstr. 26-28, 50825 Cologne, T. +49(0)221 57770 -416/ -507 / -408, E-Mail: s.eckerskorn@meireundmeire.de / n.niemeier@meireundmeire.de / a.ruppert@meireundmeire.de. Your contact at Dornbracht: Bettina Arzt / Nadine Piepenstock/ Karen Heese-Brenner/ Anke Siebold-Laux, Köbbingser Mühle 6, 58640 Iserlohn, T. +49(0)2371 433-2130 / -2119/ -2118/-143, E-Mail: barzt@dornbracht.de / npiepenstock@dornbracht.de/ kheese-brenner@dornbracht.de/asiebold-laux@dornbracht.de
01_DC4 Dornbracht Conversations 4 with the motto "Public Intimacy" took place on December 11th 2012 at Kunst-Werken in Berlin. Andreas Dornbracht and Susanne Pfeffer (curator of the exhibition One On One at Kunst-Werken) greet the guests.
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht
02_DC4 Andreas Dornbracht and Susanne Pfeffer (curator of KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin) in the panel discussion.
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht
03_DC4 DC4 Panel discussion participants (from left to right): Charlotte Klonk (host); Susanne Pfeffer (curator of the exhibition One On One at Kunst-Werken); Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (curator, author and artistic director of dOCUMENTA (13); Jeremy Shaw (artist).
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht
04_DC4 Host Charlotte Klonk (art history professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin).
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht
05_DC4 Panel discussion on the topic of "Public Intimacy" on December 11th at Kunst-Werken in Berlin.
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht
06_DC4 Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (curator, author and artistic director of dOCUMENTA (13)).
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht
07_DC4 Panel discussion participant and curator Susanne Pfeffer at Dornbracht Conversations 4.
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht
08_DC4 Panel discussion participant Jeremy Shaw, artist in the exhibition One On One.
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht
09_DC4 With Dornbracht Conversations 4, the company examines the issues of awareness and communication within the area of tension between intimacy and public space. Managing Director Andreas Dornbracht on site in Berlin.
Fotos: Heji Shin
Copyright: Dornbracht