Is the future still coming or has it already been? The Kunsthalle Kiel invites you to fantasize in the light-footed show "Playing Future".
The future as a spaceship Enterprise: Wosik’s "Beamer into the Future" Photo: Kunsthalle Kiel
It’s my birthday in a few days, and for the time being that has nothing to do with the group exhibition "Playing Future," which is currently on view at the Kiel Kunsthalle. But then the "future" that one plays here or with which one plays here becomes personally very concrete – thanks to the object "The remaining life of Nasan Tur" by Nasan Tur, which immediately looks at you (i.e. also at me) when you open the comparatively heavy entrance door and then enter the lower area of the Kunsthalle: ten red digits light up at you from a narrow box, which is clad in real gold (or so it is claimed). And every second, a digit clicks away.
"The artist has calculated his own remaining lifetime and put it in a little treasure box," says Kunsthallen director Anette Husch, who curated the exhibition together with her colleagues Natascha Driever, Dorte Zbikowski and Veronika Deinzel.
How did Nasan Tur calculate his life span, which is still to come and will then end? He took the usual factors into account and put them into a formula, just like insurance companies do when they want to take out a life insurance policy: current age and statistical life expectancy, body weight, known previous illnesses, and inherited risk factors; perhaps also marital status and work situation, and certainly nicotine and alcohol consumption – in other words, all the things that, for better or worse, are part of life and make it what it is.
And he is quite serious about it, since his golden life clock will continue to run undaunted even when the exhibition closes (which will be on September 13) and the object will then go to the artist’s studio or perhaps be bought up and placed in a collection depot. "But what happens when this clock stops at zero?" asks Natascha Driever.
And while we stand there, pondering, talking shop, while I myself briefly (only briefly) think about how much time I might still have left (theoretically) on the occasion of my upcoming birthday marking, Nasan Tur’s clock continues to run unperturbed, changing the last digit: four, three, two, one, zero, nine. Where will it end in the end?
The years that remain
Anette Husch then also admits: "I haven’t yet calculated how many years of life are actually included there." Which, in turn, is very understandable and very appropriate, because even if we all make every effort to renounce any magical thinking, who knows what happens when you actually say out loud and clear the time that someone else still gives themselves to live?
Things are milder in the neighboring space, which the Moroccan-French artist Yto Barrada occupies with her work "Lyautey Unit Blocks" made of enlarged building blocks: a homage to the French military governor of Morocco Hubert Lyautey (from 1912 to 1925), who despite his colonial function understood how to mediate between tradition and modernity when he did not have the old city of Marrakech demolished precisely because new living space was to be created for future residents.
Instead, he had the new neighborhoods built around the old city core, which could be a model of how the future and the past can cooperate.
The expansive installation "Future Fossil Spaces" by Swiss artist Julian Charrière is also very impressive. He went to Bolivia, where the world’s largest deposits of lithium – the building material of our future – are located in the area of huge salt lakes. So far, Bolivia has been able to keep foreign investors out of the country.
But will the country still manage to manage this treasure of the future wisely, to be better equipped than others for the future? "It’s like a view from the future of a mining area as it will be one day, so it’s almost retro-futuristic," comments Natascha Driever Charrière’s nostalgic-looking plant of salt cuboids and water basins piled up into columns.
One traipses over the work
This interplay of anticipatory questions and present visions of the future characterizes the exhibition in general, whereby, pleasantly enough, a gentle humor also shines through again and again. Especially in Gregor Wosik’s floor work, just before the cash desk area, where in the form of classical pavement painting a female astronaut seems to climb out of the ground over a staircase into our local reality.
And it’s fun to stand there at the edge and see how the arriving visitors perceive the artwork: some gaze in awe at Wosik’s fun 1970s-style science fiction vision of the future and try to take up the optically correct position to follow his play of perspectives; others simply traipse across it and haven’t noticed a thing.
Upstairs, too, on the second floor of the house, there is something worth seeing that invites you to open yourself up to the game with the future, which is already present in the idea of how it might turn out. The small, darkened cabinet shared by Max Sudhues and Tabor Robak is quite wonderful.
Sudhues has taken apart a video beamer and placed its now ostensibly useless parts on the projection surface of an ancient-looking overhead projector, literally throwing a play of forms reminiscent of early photograms onto the wall.
Robak, on the other hand, invites viewers to follow a journey through computer-generated cityscapes on a plasma screen. And again and again the rain, which floods the screen like a gentle torrent as suddenly as it does regularly, wipes away the city through which one is currently flying. And offers a view of the next cityscape; and while you think you’re looking at real water, you of course know that this torrent of water is a thoroughly programmed one and in the end consists only of a particularly successful combination of factors 0 and 1.
The bouncer in the best sense is the work "Are you really here" by Jeppe Hein, which offers us a mirror at eye level with the words "Are you really here" emblazoned in the middle – without any question mark. And yes, so there I stand, looking at myself, and for my part I am quite sure at this moment that I am standing here and nowhere else. And that is a very comforting thought in view of Nasan Tur’s life clock, the seconds and then minutes of which have run out during my visit, of course, and are running out continuously even now, as you read this text, and can never, really never be retrieved.