Shortlisted for "Kunstpreis der Böttcherstrasse" at Kunsthalle Bremen, 28 July – 30 September 2018: Michael Müller "Stripping the Force"
“Stripping the Force” consists of two parts, separated from each other by a wall. Formally, these parts are quite distinct from each other, but in terms of their themes and motives they are closely connected. The frontal part of the exhibition is set in a simple, ethnographic style and deals with an ancient, presumably extinct civilisation: the “Himmelheber” (“Sky-Bearers”). As Müller explains in conversation, the Himmelheber have already been extinct and revived a number of times. Among their characteristics are a voluntary death by choice (always in autumn and at a river, always chaperoned by a companion, Tarung) and a hermaphrodite priesthood that is meant to connect to the Dram, the “In-Between”, where the Gods and ancestors are located, a realm between life and death.
The people of the Himmelheber have bequeathed objects of peculiar beauty, some of which are shown in the frontal part of the exhibition – accompanied by a wall text and an audio guide. The objects are fully coated with a coarse, dark paste that consists of blood, bone meal, hair, urine and sperm (materials that are derived – and secreted – from the vulnerable, “open” body). Presumably, the paste had a ritual function and was (or still is) used by priests during religious acts. Aside from these relics, the first part is dedicated to some exemplary rites of the Himmelheber, which the audio guide (also a work of Müller’s) explains. How and when do we die? How will we be remembered? Who will accompany us through the act of dying? Which shape does our life take? The Himmelheber offer extraordinary answers to some questions that human beings have been dealing with for millennia.
The second part of the exhibition, in the rear end of the space, is a kind of “remix” of the first part and contains an exuberant contemporary flood of images. Several display stands, costumes and other items of clothing are on view in front of a purple-coloured wallpaper – mixed in with films, drawings, texts, prints, collages and objects. On several screens one can see the rehearsal for the two-and-a-half-hour long performance “Praxis, Probe und Produktion von Wirkungen und Wirklichkeiten” (“Praxis, Rehearsal, and Production of Effects and Realities”) that takes place within the space on the evening of the opening, employing some of the works of the exhibition in a performative way (a remote-controlled animal, a relic of the Himmelheber, among other things). The exhibition presents a diversity and pushes this diversity to the extreme, it quotes from clichés and develops – in an eccentric, hybrid fashion – mutations and metastases. The “topic” of the exhibition (the people of the Himmelheber) is varied, fractured and fanned out – like a ray of light that is broken into a kaleidoscopic range of colours in a rainy sky. The possible and the real are progressively rendered indistinguishable. What is one’s own converges with the foreign other. And the longing for distant places is turned back onto itself. The works might appear to be ironic, associative and strangely uninhibited. But ultimately, it turns out, they are one thing above all: deeply human.
"An Exhibition as a Copy" at Galerie du Monde, Hong Kong, 8 March – 21 April 2018
Entitled An Exhibition as a Copy, Michael Müller’s exhibition consists of four pairs or groups of similar exhibits that investigates the duality of the original and the copy. The juxtaposition of the peculiarities of the artworks’ surfaces underscores the form as well as instigates a dialogue with each other; it also allows for deviations to stand out. The relationship between model and reproduction, original and copy thus becomes increasingly unclear.
The meticulous pairings of works will focus on the relationship between the original and the copy in an exemplary way: two almost identical, monumental though intricate drawings depicting a stain on Michael Müller’s studio floor (Differenz, Atlas and Differenz, Antiatlas), irreproducible in detail; a small, pastose relief and its adjacent 3-D printed copy (Das Bild als Objekt); and a figurine of a wolf-like monster including a 3-D printed duplicate (Keramisches Frühwerk (Monster) and Rekonstruktion (Keramisches Frühwerk)). For this occasion, the gallery will specially transform its space to replicate the exhibition setting where Müller’s works typically incorporate elements of surface and ground. For instance, Do it! (Setting Up History) #7 and #8 consist of monochrome, pastose paintings that are painted in the shade of the gray wall on which they are presented.
The Himmelheber (sky-bearer from the mythical tradition of the Titan Atlas) is a new series that Michael Müller has been working on since 2017, in which he also strives to unveil more extensive details of this new form of life in the coming years. According to Müller, the Himmelheber have died out and been reborn innumerable times. Consequently, many of their artefacts are preserved in multiple versions, copies and adaptations. The little information Müller provides on the Himmelheber compels the visitors to their ‘free’ interpretation.
Covered in a dark, coarse paste, the five groups of Himmelheber exhibits displayed in the show are: Hoover Generation Future Smart Pure White & Luxor Black / Smokey Grey Transparent, Stripping the Force (Chapter 1. Mourn), Stripping the Force (Chapter 2. Lonely Rest), Feldforschung (New African Kono) and Kopfgeburt. The paste consists of blood, urine, bone meal, hair, and sperm among other things – materials that derive from the vulnerable, ‘open’ body. A neon-lit, duo part acrylic glass cabinet displays quasi-ethnographic exhibits reminiscent of vacuum cleaners, standing one on top of the other. The objects are coated in their entirety, reduced in shape and contour, ultimately reaching a uniformed appearance. The paste marks them out as ‘chosen’ sacred artefacts.
Besides the vacuum cleaner forms in the two-part neon-lit acrylic glass vitrine, a series of small animal-like sculptures, Feldforschung (New African Kono), and two helmet-like sculptures are on display, Stripping the Force (Chapter 1. Mourn). The helmet-like sculptures are positioned in front of a photo wallpaper, which reduplicates the work, integrating it into a complex scenic context. The aforementioned groups of works exemplify the pictorial language of the Himmelheber and lend the other works in the exhibition an ethnographic impression.
"Teil 33. Nachlass zu Lebzeiten" & "Teil 18. Die Welt gibt es nicht" at Galerie Thomas Schulte, 29 April - 24 June 2017
Galerie Thomas Schulte presents from April 29 to June 24, 2017 two solo exhibitions Teil 18. Die Welt gibt es nicht! and Teil 33. Nachlass zu Lebzeiten by Michael Müller. The exhibitions constitute the finale of a four year cycle Eighteen Exhibitions, which started in April 2013 and which in the end will consist of overall 33 exhibitions and 4 performances.
In its recent iteration, the comprehensive solo exhibition Skits – 13 Exhibitions in 9 Rooms at the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden from November 2016 to February 2017, the cycle was summarised and continued. Now Teil 18. Die Welt gibt es nicht! and Teil 33. Nachlass zu Lebzeiten with due expenditure bring the cycle to an end – an exceptional and exuberant (perhaps programmatically preliminary) oeuvre. The cycle follows a certain order and chronology, in which various themes are approached almost scientifically and translated artistically. With these final exhibitions, the artist‘s attention is directed to the significant qualities of his own work. Between the works presented, clusters are formed, which can be regarded as pillars of the artist’s work. Teil 33. Nachlass zu Lebzeiten is probably Michael Müller‘s most personal exhibition. During the final act, the artist reconsiders the essential questions in which the drawings, the idea of the window and the principle of the map play an important role. (...)
The exhibition title Teil 18. Die Welt gibt es nicht! is a variation of the title of a previous exhibition, namely Die Welt interessiert sich nicht für den Sinn, in which the central work was a series of small sculptures, which is being radically reinterpreted by Müller taking the form of soaps and perfumes. The second exhibition title Teil 33. Nachlass zu Lebzeiten is a reference to the title of a novel by Robert Musil whose Man Without Qualities stood at the beginning of Michael Müller’s cycle as a central point of reference. (Ulrich, the Man Without Qualities, decides to take one year leave from his life in order to find an occupation adequate for his skills.) The two current exhibitions bring together a multitude of heterogeneous works including Die Anderen, a series of formally diverse plaster sculptures resembling heads, and a series of drawings inspired by the act of reading Jacques Derrida’s Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question – and finally several works, which at the very end of the cycle reach back to the very beginning: to the artist’s earliest works.
"SKITS. 13 Exhibitions in 9 Rooms" at Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 25 November 2016 - 19 February 2017
After the restoration of its roof, the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden will reopen its upper floors by presenting »SKITS. 13 Exhibitions in 9 Rooms«, a solo exhibition of the Berlin-based artist Michael Müller, from 26 November 2016 to 19 February 2017.
Sixteen tons of fire-dried quartz sand, hundreds of metres of pond foil, several square metres of white and pink carpet, several tracks of translucent red plastic foil, an aquarium with two Mexican albino axolotls and 50 blind albino cave miners. In addition: 600 white tiles, numerous tons of different types of wood, 200 plates of damp clay, art works by Art & Language, Jan Brueghel the younger, Angela de la Cruz, Jochen Dehn, Rolf-Gunter Dienst, Willem de Kooning, Jonathan Lasker and Vlado Martek, in addition to Michael Müller's own drawings, paintings, sculptures, installations and videos: these are some of the materials and works of his exhibition.
The first part of the exhibition title - »Skits« - describes a short speech act that is used in hip-hop music. It is a deliberate interruption, often parodic, of the closed content form of a respective hip-hop album. The second part of the title - »13 Exhibitions in 9 Rooms« - is supposed to provide information on the subject matter of Müller which appears to be logical in view on the considerable material he has gathered for the exhibition. As varied as this inventory may seem, as varied are the motives Müller presents in the nine rooms of the Kunsthalle: literature, language, writing, music and dance, mythology and nature, religion and their rituals, gender identity or clothes up to the operating system of art are covering the range of his topics.
Within the meaning of this extraordinary use of effort and material, Müller's exhibition inventory has to be enriched with fifteen dancers, ten musicians and two DJs. They will perform the four-hour performance »Third Rehearsal for Nietzsche's birthday party, 2313« with drums, violins, a cello, a piano and clarinets during the opening night. The exhibition is organised by Hendrik Bündge, curator of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.
"For All Those Who Trust in Form and Not in Content" at Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai, 3 - 28 January, 2017
Jhaveri Contemporary is delighted to present ‘For All Those Who Trust in Form and Not in Content’, a solo exhibition by Berlin-based artist Michael Müller, his second at the gallery. Müller has received significant attention recently with his unorthodox exhibition cycle, ‘18 Exhibitions,’ which began at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, in 2013. (So far, the cycle has consisted of 20 exhibitions and performances that revolve around Robert Musil’s novel, The Man Without Qualities, among other influences.)
Michael Müller’s works neither lend themselves to a common conceptual denominator nor order themselves into an easily identifiable formal language. Instead, exhibitions are marked by variety, heterogeneity, and ambiguity. ‘Languages’ of art are presented side-by-side and with equal emphasis: the result of a process of testing, combining, and varying. An example of Müller’s preoccupation with questions of authorship is the title of his exhibition, ‘Wer Spricht?’ (‘Who is Speaking?’), the artist’s first institutional solo at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin (2015/16).
Three bodies of work in ‘For All Those Who Trust in Form and Not in Content’ testify to the plurality and heterogeneity of Müller’s practice: the formally reduced and conceptually driven etchings, Verschwinden; the more ‘decorative’ installations of the Do It! series; and, lastly, expressive, figurative paintings like Small Indian Girl.
Verschwinden (to vanish)
The suite of 11 aquatint etchings on Japanese paper, printed with a light-sensitive pigment developed particularly for this work. Over the course of time, the tone of these sleek and highquality pink prints, ordered from light to dark flats and dark to light borders, will fade away. The etchings engage not only materially (through the fading of the pigment), but also formally (through the gradation of the pinks) with tone and intensity. In a metaphorical turn, they speak to the ‘vanitas’ theme of classical art history, relinquising claims to an eternal, timeless validity.
On two walls in the central gallery hang paintings from the series Do It!. Consisting of pastose structured, small-format acrylic monochromes, they are painted, per Müller’s instructions, in the colour of the walls on which they hang. In this case, they become purple and turquoise. In the next exhibition, they will be painted over with another colour. Wall and work are thus resynchronized with one another, ton-sur-ton. Also included in the exhibition are two new jigzaw puzzles. Working with readymade puzzles, Müller coats the surface of his framed puzzles with real gold leaf, concealing their original image. The new surfaces of False and Real and For All Those Who Trust in Form and Not in Content are now more valuable than the motifs in the original picture could ever be.
Small Indian Girl (The Copy of an Unknown Artist), pretending to be a female artist
The painting shows a childlike figure, rendered once again in pink. The figure struggles to cart the form of a breast over a mountain: an image of the feminine, somewhere between a backpack and handcart. Stylistically, the painting engages with the relationship between quotation, homage, and plagiarism (here referring to the tradition of Philip Guston and similar painters). The artist’s choice of motif – at once allegorical, political and quasi-feminist – draws attention to questions of cultural and gender identity, as also to the place of women in traditional male-dominated societies.
© Jhaveri Contemporary Mumbai
"WHO’S SPEAKING?" at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 29 November 2015 - 24 January 2016
In continually changing formations cutting across all artistic genres, Michael Müller examines processes of composition and translation in visual art. Proceeding from the drawing medium and its specific strategies for visual invention at the boundary between line and form, idea and depiction, Müller transfers this tension from surface into space – and puts it to work as an installation. WHO’S SPEAKING? brings together works from recent years with specifically-developed new productions, which use various ways for investigating the question of artistic authorship.
From Müller’s perspective, “who is speaking?” also means “what is being said?” and “why?” But also “who is listening?” The exhibited works return time and again to the issue of how an artist becomes visible in his work. Each single piece stands at a pressure point between the application or transformation of historical and contemporary artistic codes, and the artist’s personal obsessions.
For WHO’S SPEAKING? Müller has conceived new versions of two figures – Hermes and Hermaphroditos – who weave a web of references and connections between the individual works, and accompany the viewer throughout the exhibition. As the voice in a new sound installation, the protagonist of a video, or as a figurative sculpture that reverses the relationship between work and viewer, these two figures from Greek mythology appear in both expected and unexpected places, and link the content of the exhibition’s two floors formally.
© KW Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin
"Berührung", 4 July - 12 September 2015, "Die Welt interessiert sich nicht für den Sinn", 4 July - 19 September 2015, "Nachspiel: Wesen und Inhalt einer großen Idee", 15 - 19 September 2015, at Galerie Thomas Schulte
Michael Müller’s exhibitions “Berührung” in the main space of the gallery and “Die Welt interessiert sich nicht für den Sinn” in the Window Space are the continuation of his 18-part exhibition cycle, which he began in 2013 at Galerie Thomas Schulte.
Anew, the artist creates a multimedia cosmos on the basis of a dense system of references. As the title of one of the exhibitions reveals, it is about “Berührung” (contacts). The panorama of objects, pictures, and installations encompasses not only material and immaterial shapes or real and unreal, but also the profane, as well as the sacred ideas of making contact. The relationship between Lou Salomé, Nietzsche, and Paul Rée (in all constellations) is addressed as a contact as is Descartes’ theorem, which allows three kissing or mutually tangent circles to construct a fourth tangent circle.
The, perhaps, most simple form of contact, to literally touch, is embodied by the sand under the feet of the audience, which covers the entire surface of the exhibition space. Heating lamps warm the skin of the spectators and the ceramic objects distributed in the sand appear to be like shells on the beach, which are to be discovered and unearthed. Next to an explicit drawing of sexual penetration, plastic chairs are stacked into a tower.
Performing on or using the exhibited objects, Müller has 15 actors present musical and performative actions on the evening before the opening, entitled “Erste kleine Probe für Nietzsches Geburtstagsparty 2313”. Through the contact, the pieces are integrated into a context, which will remain even after the performance has taken place, and thus obtain a narrative charge. Contact so becomes equally a transformation, in which art objects turn to quasi objects of use and puts into question the hierarchy of things or even goes so far as to rearrange it.
The idea, which is played out in the rehearsal of the actors, to celebrate the 70th jubilee of the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph with a Nietzsche-year, came from Clarisse, a character from Robert Musil’s novel, The Man Without Qualities, which continuously serves Michael Müller as a point of reference throughout his exhibition cycle. The celebration, which is rejected in the novel, due to its absurdity, is now displaced by Müller into the year 2313 and thus continues Musil’s “conscious utopianism”, which comes to effect in various forms throughout the novel.
It involves sensemaking through aestheticization to optimize the freedom to think up alternatives to religion and worship of the body. Contact points are not only included in every work, whether mathematically, spiritually or physically addressed, but linked equally throughout the exhibition and as part of the whole with the cycle.
© Galerie Thomas Schulte
"basal" at Aanant & Zoo, 21 February - 11 April 2015
Donald Bernshouse, Stuart Brisley, Julien Carreyn, Jochen Dehn, Merlin James, Philip Loersch, Vlado Martek, Michael Müller, Kasper Pincis, Gerhard Rühm, Max Schaffer
"Was nennt sich Kunst? Was heißt uns wahrsein?" at Galerie Thomas Schulte, 31 May − 26 July 2014
Parallel to the launch of the 8th Berlin Biennial, Galerie Thomas Schulte will host the opening of Michael Müller’s current solo exhibition “Was nennt sich Kunst, was heißt uns wahrsein?“ (What is considered art? What does it mean to be true to oneself?), the eleventh part of his exhibition cycle, which started last spring. With this show, Müller further attempts to discover that which we call art and what truth means to us. Little time is left until object, space, and color transform a twelfth time. The cycle ends with a grand finale – or, in other words, with the “Kleine Probe für Nietzsches Geburtstagsparty 2313” (Small Rehearsal for Nietzsche’s Birthday Party 2313) this fall.
There’s really nothing left to say. All possible approaches have been distributed. All the walls are endlessly occupied, all the surfaces are covered with wallpaper or carpeting, in pink. Pedestals are everywhere, covered with works, objects, and artifacts. Every corner of the exhibition space is layered with sound. An overflow of stimulation.
But if there’s nothing left to say, the question remains: what’s it all about? When everything has already been said, it could be said that nothing more actually is said. There’s only noise. Ultimately it’s about giving the open space of possibility a form to structure the noise so that some things then do remain to be said.
In the midst of the numerous opinions, assumptions, facts, and objects, is there actually “truthfulness”? Does there still exist, today as well, what we once with such endearing self-confidence called “truth”? What role does art play in this? Whatever calls itself art can only be deduced from itself (that presents “itself”). Whatever it has to say, we must translate. Since it is generally silent, we translate freely.
The reading, and the friendship, that always went deepest – to the heart of the matter – was yours.
Come closer. Take your time.
Take off your shoes.
Equal among equals.
© Galerie Thomas Schulte