Author Archives: Fiona Graf

Artist Spotlight: Antonia Wetzel

Antonia Wetzel is a storyteller. The floor of her Pilotenkueche studio is covered with huge sheets of paper, and each of them bears a narrative. Some of them are written statements with bold, black letters covering a whole page, while the others are mainly large scale comics. Although they are all separate and conclusive in themselves, as a whole they build a cohesive braiding of sentiments and stories. 

‘Comics are a way for me to bring the most important information of a whole storyline into just one painting’, Antonia says. Constantly adding new paintings to the paper stacks, she has created an ever expanding sketchbook on concrete floor. The existing parts being perpetually and haphazardly juxtaposed with more recent material, and thus constantly gain new meaning.

‘Sexuality plays a huge role in each of my works –  and obviously shame’, Antonia explains. This involvement with sexuality and shame is almost abidingly present throughout her practice: Often based on Antonia’s own experience, her works exhibit situations associated with the emergence of shame and the feeling of being exposed in a sexual context. The chosen role as the exhibitionist is a liberating one, offering the protagonists the opportunity to escape vulnerability and to retrieve their dignity through regaining a position of power. 

There is an aggression in the act of the unmasking, a brutality in the bluntness of her words, yet there is wit. One of the paintings on the floor depicts the artist as an old woman in a chair, holding a young man in her lap. Both of them are naked. It is Antonia’s cynical answer to the sexist lifestyle promoted in many of Charles Bukowski’s pieces. The artist’s humorous approach makes the said appear even more incisive, simultaneously it acts as a medicine soothing the wounds of both beholder and originator.


For the Pilotenkueche exhibition at Kunstkraftwerk, Antonia embraces a new medium: performance. Her interactive piece, ‘Fuck an Artist’. urges the spectator to actively engage with the theme through writing their fantasies on postcards inscribed with the question ‘What do you want to do to me?’. These will then be put in a glass box, exposed to everyone. The content of the notes will eventually be reflected upon in a performance by the artist herself, who will be present during the entire process. Deliberately objectivising herself whilst maintaining ascendancy through the exposure of her subject, she generates an ambiguous mechanism, a power dynamic run by mutual dependence. 

As part of the exhibition, Antonia will also hand out ‘Hurenpaesse’ to visitors. ‘Whore passports’ are issued to sex workers by the German government. They are a crass example of the stigmatisation sex workers have to face in a hypocritical system that protects the industry’s customers, but leaves the providers exposed. The passports will feature a real phone number which can be used to make an appointment with the artist. 

‘I can get away with calling it art, but a real sex worker does not have the same freedom. In this space of it being a performance and me being an artist I can sell sex if I want to, but a real sex worker will face a lot more difficulties and that is the point I want to make. Certain people get a lot of freedom because of the circles they are living in and in what context they are doing things, and then others live other stigmas and labels and don’t have the same freedom.’

There are many myths evolving around sex work, though the narratives have largely been woven by men. With contemporary society stagnating on a platform of ‘acceptable disparity’ whilst cherishing the illusion of gender equality, Antonia’s work is now as relevant as ever.

written by Fiona Irene Graf


See Antonia’s work in the upcoming exhibitions

HUNGRY DUNGEON FRIENDS

vernissage: 
Saturday 17 August 
7PM-10PM

Performances: 
Isaac Magner and Agathe Barre
Antonia Wetzel
Tom Austin 
Simon Schäfer

Saturday 24 August
Performances: 
Isaac Magner and Agathe Barre
Antonia Wetzel
Tom Austin 

open: 
Sunday 18 August – Sunday 1 September 
10AM-6PM (closed Mondays)
location:
Kunstkraftwerk
Saalfelder Str. 8
04179 Leipzig

GRATEFUL PARK

vernissage: 
Friday 20 September
7PM-11PM
open: 
Saturday 21 September – Monday 23 September
1PM-5PM 
location:
PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program
Franz-Flemming-Straße 9

Artist Spotlight: Tom Austin

A year of working in London’s most prestigious galleries left Tom Austin unimpressed, unsatisfied and empty. When he arrived at Pilotenküche the beginning of June, he didn’t know if he wanted to make art anymore. The sometimes self-serving, complacent aspects of the art industry, led the artist to question the long-established hierarchies within it, and their impact on the process of art-making and on society itself. In order to gain distance and dissociate with the world he had been disappointed with, Tom left. He spent 6 months working on farms and volunteering.

‘Pilotenkueche is a cool chance to re-engage with art’, he says. ‘I am trying to find a new sense for art making: I really struggle with the why at the moment.’ He is currently looking for ways to create art which help empower himself and other people.

With the effects of the climate crisis being more vigorously and immediately noticeable than ever, Tom’s most recent practice is largely focusing on the interconnectedness between the anthropogenic destruction of the planet, the existing global power structures and the entrenched elitism of our national institutions, and correlatively on the way cultures are shaped and altered by these entities. 

Earlier this year, Tom held a 45 minute-long lecture in The Hague, generating a long overdue debate around the matter. The artist argued that the gallery world helps sustain the status quo: ‘It’s designed to stop us from thinking outside the box, to put us in our place, and it is run by elites who want to keep things the same. It is actually stopping us from taking any actions on climate change.’ 

The lecture thematised the growing use of fossil fuels in the 18th and 19th century, and the environmental, societal and cultural changes that came with it. It spurred the development of colonialism and the propagation of exploitative working ethics, culminating in an immoral extractivist system that is still in place today.

With the leading economies still nestled in the colonialist mindset of the past, they continue to exert their dominance and expropriate the world’s poorest nations of their natural resources. Tom highlights that the idea of superiority, of territorial and cultural hegemony over other humans, stems from the radical rationalist thought of the Enlightenment Era, the concept of man’s sublime position above flora and fauna finds itself manifested in the bible. 

Despite the destructive ramifications of energy extraction through fossil fuels, the artworld gained phenomenally from it and this has altered the course of art history. The invention of the steamship made travel and trade easier and faster and gave artists the opportunity to access the unknown. Paul Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, his paintings from that time made him famous and became a vital influence for Symbolist and Expressionist art. Emil Nolde painted in New Guinea, Van Gogh developed his love for Japanese prints, Picasso’s African Period greatly informed his cubist work. Tom’s attempt to find a holistic understanding of these complexities in their entirety, is evident throughout his most recent practice: connecting all the dots on a diagram, a written performance on the wall. 

With his practice emphasising on performative art, Tom is currently developing ideas for a performance for the Pilotenkueche Exhibition at Kunstkraftwerk. He is creating a paper maché flower, which will be used as a prop. Props, masks and costumes find frequent usage in Tom’s performances and videos. They act as tools, as connecting points between him and the idea, never as character- defining elements that determine the narrative. 

‘Circle of Life’, one of Tom’s more recent works, is a slowly progressing, organically moving piece in which Tom playfully engages with seemingly random objects like oranges, a basketball and several domestic items like a tablecloth, a CD-player and a juicer. These objects evoke connotations to mundane phenomena: breakfast TV, school outings, shopping channels. Tom’s interaction with them bespeaks a humorous, zeitgeisty language. Yet, Tom’s work is a far cry from being a mockery. Instead, it is a testimony of Tom’s dissatisfaction, a protest transmitted with an almost tragic, clownlike seriousness, a demonstration revealing to us our derelictions in a time of drastic change.

written by Fiona Irene Graf


See Tom’s work in the upcoming exhibitions

HUNGRY DUNGEON FRIENDS

vernissage: 
Saturday 17 August 
7PM-10PM

Performances:
Isaac Magner and Agathe Barre
Antonia Wetzel
Tom Austin
Simon Schäfer

Saturday 24 August
Performances:
Isaac Magner and Agathe Barre
Antonia Wetzel
Tom Austin

open: 
Sunday 18 August – Sunday 1 September 
10AM-6PM (closed Mondays)
location:
Kunstkraftwerk
Saalfelder Str. 8
04179 Leipzig

GRATEFUL PARK

vernissage: 
Friday 20 September
7PM-11PM
open: 
Saturday 21 September – Monday 23 September
1PM-5PM 
location:
PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program
Franz-Flemming-Straße 9

Artist spotlight: Hélène Planquelle

“Artists have to ask themselves: Does my art matter in respect of my death? Does it change something? Does it speak to somebody? Does it make a difference?.” Questions like these are the guiding precepts by which Hélène Planquelle works. Heavily influenced by her humanities studies, Hélène’s practice centres upon philosophical principles concerning subjects like social interaction and responsibility for the other.

The Constitutive Other, a term coined by Hegel but later revisited and revised by the 20th century philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas, stands in immediate relation to Hélène’s visual concept. The phenomenological notion of the ‘Other’ is concerned with the identification of the Self through the distinction from another human being – the ‘Other’ becoming a bedrock analogue of the Self –  as well as with the moral liability towards the ‘Other’ in a face-to-face encounter. 

Lévinas also spoke of Original Violence, a term which describes the idea of violence being created during our first contact with another person. “Before you are encountering another person, you are living in your own bubble of self-centered reality. It de-centers you and forces you to take another human being into account in your life, you can’t just dismiss the reality of this other person’s existence,” Hélène expounds.


Hélène’s meticulous, almost photorealistic drawings and oil paintings are a manifestation of her fascination with these matters. Her works often depict two people in direct, physical interaction: they grab, strangle, carry each other, are entangled and intimate, tender and violent. They tell us of the indiscernible, underlying power struggles within a relationship. 

Recently, Hélène has began to work on a new series of paintings called “Where Is Your Brother?.” in which she investigates the concomitance of nurturing love and resentment or even hatred within fraternal relations. Here, the idea of brotherliness is to be understood in a broader sense: it describes the care and responsibility we carry towards the ones that are close to us, our neighbours, our fellows in misery. 

Hélène draws inspiration from the famous biblical story of Cain and Abel. The first offspring of Adam and Eve and the first tale of the first fratricide in the Christian history of creation, Cain murdered his brother Abel out of jealousy. Religious context is evident throughout Hélène’s pictorial language. Deliberately dramatic and staged, her drawings and paintings conjure up comparisons to famous religious Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculptures. Her often undraped figures pose in submissiveness, they enact their inner yearning, their ecstasy and agony. Strong sexual references run through her entire body of work. 

Although ever so delicately executed, Hélène’s drawings and paintings also convey a rawness, brutality even. “They relate to the basic theories of attachment.” Hélène explains. They act as an echo of our most primal experiences, of the initial event of being torn apart from the origin: the womb of the mother. The involvement with this painful, almost cruel process of leaving the nurturing and protecting maternal body, to becoming a separate entity forced into unattached existence, is reflected in Hélène’s imagery. The arising narratives tell us of life, in its most intense forms.

written by Fiona Irene Graf

images supplied by the artist


See Hélène’s work in the upcoming exhibitions

HUNGRY DUNGEON FRIENDS

vernissage: 
Saturday 17 August 
7PM-10PM
open: 
Sunday 18 August – Sunday 1 September 
10AM-6PM (closed Mondays)
location:
Kunstkraftwerk
Saalfelder Str. 8
04179 Leipzig

GRATEFUL PARK

vernissage: 
Friday 20 September
7PM-11PM
open: 
Saturday 21 September – Monday 23 September
1PM-5PM 
location:
PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program
Franz-Flemming-Straße 9

Artist Spotlight: Adam Tuch

Adam Tuch likes to play with the invisible. Revolving around the intangible, his multi-faceted practice is concerned with our perception of space and sound, in regards to contemporary society’s increasing coalescence with modern technology and its dependence on it. Adam’s work centers on the communication between man and machine. He focuses on the threshold between intimate interaction and functional utilisation of new digital means. 

The Boston-based artist is interested in the increasingly blurred boundaries between reality and simulation and their constant reciprocation to the point of total indistinguishability between original and fake, of the genuine and the imitation becoming mutually dependent on one another. With his often entirely digital works, Adam is aiming to explore our emotional and corporeal understanding of both physical and virtual spaces. His practice concentrates particularly on the impalpable concept of public space and its ever shifting definition. 

Central to Adam’s work is the intention to create conditions which enable the viewer to actively engage with the technological means employed. The direct interaction with the computer transforms the viewer’s role from passive spectator to active contributor. This forces them to reconceive their function in respect to the machine. Simultaneously, the situation generated allows the audience to have an intuitive, almost mindless interplay with the computer.

On his website hellllllo.info, Adam invites the visitor to correspond with an animated character through an algorithmic online chat. Since the answers are automated, the conversation between the online-character and the visitor turns into an absurd, almost tragic miscommunication, a dead end. This is emphasised by the haphazard sound effects and random screenshots that flare up during the chat. The provoked situation draws on our growing urge to connect with others through digital means, and the inevitable, intricate complications that come with it.

Diverging from his classical music and jazz background, Adam released his entirely electronic album called ‘Screen Shot 2018’ last year. Although occasionally melodic, the twelve tracks, consist of distorted voice snippets, linguistic exercises and shrill gaming sounds, and range somewhere between children’s TV character, rave party and horror soundscape. They have an almost nightmarish infantility to them. He pushed the further with nonsensical titles such as ‘erRorErrOrerroReRorrerROreRRoRErrOr’, ‘I*v’ and ‘%’, With Adammmmmmmmmmmm, his musical persona, Adam explores the idea of artificial realities, his sounds luring the listener into a non-existent cyber space. 


Currently, Adam has started to grow algae in his studio space at Pilotenkueche. “I want to use it as a means to represent environmental space,” he says as he expounds his plan to juxtapose the algae with a digital image of an underwater world shown on a submerged iPhone. He has also recently started researching brand logos, their embeddedness in our consumption-oriented culture and the almost religious reverence they are attributed with in present day society. Adam’s practice is incessantly concerned with the way we identify with the products we buy and concurrently let these things define us. It is hyperaware of the fact that everything we surround ourselves with plays a pivotal role in the way we perceive, evaluate and determine objects and spaces. 

Fast-moving technological advancements allows us to regenerate the idea of material reality and bodily presence as we are no longer confined to locating ourselves in a single space. Instead we are now able to exist in multiple spaces at the same time. The attempt to capture the essence of this idea, of us being able to simultaneously experience different forms of reality, lies in the heart of Adam’s complex work. 

written by Fiona Irene Graf


See Adam’s work in the upcoming exhibitions

HUNGRY DUNGEON FRIENDS

vernissage: 
Saturday 17 August 
7PM-10PM
open: 
Sunday 18 August – Sunday 1 September 
10AM-6PM (closed Mondays)
location:
Kunstkraftwerk
Saalfelder Str. 8
04179 Leipzig

GRATEFUL PARK

vernissage: 
Friday 20 September
7PM-11PM
open: 
Saturday 21 September – Monday 23 September
1PM-5PM 
location:
PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program
Franz-Flemming-Straße 9