artist / participant
John Bock is a modern-day Renaissance artist, incor-porating both the mad scientist running amok in his laboratory and the insightful artist who turns the world upside down, creating it anew. The result is an enjoyable as well as compelling exchange of spheres of knowledge. Best known for his outré performances in which he playfully and vigorously compounds all artistic media with his chemistry set, Bock creates distinctive, surreal universes of found and homemade objects which he rearranges and renders ab-surd. He spices the session with a verbose lecture mimicking scien-tific cant and undermining it with amusing plays on words. In recent years art world denizens have flocked from far and near for a glimpse of the Bockian universe. Now the Danes are given the opportunity to see one of his brand new projects at ARKEN Museum of Modern Art.
World premiere at ARKEN Bock had his international breakthrough at last year’s Documenta 11 exhibition in Kassel, his works numbering among the most spec-tacular and praised ones. They comprised a series of performances and lectures executed in his homemade installations, one of which was a gigantic bubble bath romp with a group of actors. Subsequently Bock has edited recordings of seven of his Documenta performances for video. Now these videos are shown for the first time at ARKEN: a unique opportunity for a collected viewing of his performances. At ARKEN moving images and bizarre objects cluttering a room of creative, potent chaos will create a visual bombardment of the senses. Bock sets up a total installation with the videos blown up on transparent canvases. Around the moving images Bock places the absurd and deformed objects used and modified at Documenta. Thus, he says, his works mutate and take different forms.
European museum collaboration ARKEN’s John Bock exhibition is part of a greater European collabo-ration between museums, supported by EU’s Culture 2000 pro-gramme. Under the heading ARTE ALL’ ARTE Rinascimento Nascimento – Art, Industry, Landscape five European museums each exhibit a contemporary artist who carries on the tradition from the Renaissance.
The Bockian world order In very few years John Bock has become a star on the firmament of contemporary art. Aesthetically challenging and a conceptual icono-clast, Bock is also, and emphatically so, entertaining – for insiders as well as those who are less familiar with contemporary art.
Make no mistake! This is not entertainment for entertainment’s sake: there is method in the madness. With his imaginative performances Bock attempts to mediate between different aspects of life, breaking habits of mind and proposing alternative, fresh solutions and connections.
The setting for Bock’s performances is often a homemade total in-stallation built from sundry materials. He adopts the role of both lecturing scientist and creative artist, connecting highly diverse re-alities: mutated fashion creations and everyday objects and junk are combined with mathematical formulae and aspects of human emo-tional life.
After one of Bock’s performances the stage hardly resembles a work of art in the classical sense; rather the toothpaste tubes, paint buck-ets, foam, etc recall the abandoned battlefield of a nursery school. The remains, however, are not to be regarded as a completed, artis-tic object. To John Bock the construction of objects is the means, not the ends of art. The actual goal is the process: presenting a mode of thought that collects and reclassifies elements which influence and colour our daily lives – and which the artist tries to make sense of for us. Consequently being present at Bock’s performances is not imperative to the understanding of his works. The entire spectacle is always filmed and subsequently shown – and therefore integrated – in the remaining installation, allowing us to get an idea of where Bock wants to take us with his art: to a world where everything has lost its fixed meaning and thus has the potential to assume any, unknown character.
Bock’s works are found in the junction between performance, video and installation. In the disordered, surreal universe of his design he is the maverick who leads the way through chaos and points out unpredictable and wondrous connections with his lectures. You can accept them or reject them as absurd nonsense; the point is to pre-sent alternatives to traditional thought.
Despite the chaotic expression Bock’s inspiration often derives from science. A former student of economy he is familiar with the lingo of science – a language traditionally synonymous with truth and authority. Bock questions this status by using scientific language to prove paradoxical conclusions. To quote an example he has lectured on the chemistry of love, mathematical formulae on a blackboard supposedly explaining the interaction between emotions and actions in affairs of love.
Born in Gribbohm, Germany in 1965, John Bock lives and works in Berlin. His first brush with fame was at the first Berlin Biennial in 1998, followed by his participation at Harald Szeemann’s Venice Bi-ennial where he presented a total installation and gave a series of ‘lectures.’ His great international breakthrough came at Documenta 11 in Kassel in 2002.
The link between past and present
ARKEN’s John Bock exhibition is part of a greater European collabo-ration between museums, initiated by the organisation arte continua via the project ARTE ALL’ARTE Rinascimento Nascimento which was established in 1996 by Maurizio Rigillo, Lorenzo Fiaschi and Mario Cristiani. The aim of the project is to illuminate contemporary art’s connection to the artistic tradition and mentality of the past; to illustrate how art today as then is a means for understanding the times in which we find ourselves. This objective reflects ARKEN’s fundamental outlook, making it an interesting project for the museum to participate in. Emphasising contemporary art, the collaboration is part and parcel of ARKEN’s field of operation.
In keeping with ARTE ALL’ARTE’s aim the project’s overall focus is on those features of contemporary art which rethink and renew tra-dition. It is also the intent of the project to stimulate and bring out the exchange between industry, science and art. ARKEN chose to ex-hibit John Bock as part of the collaboration because he both re-thinks and renews tradition in interesting ways. He adopts the role of a kind of modern-day Renaissance artist, a virtual Leonardo da Vinci who includes and explains a plethora of scientific fields. The jocular Bock not only plays the part of the artist but also of mathe-matician, engineer, musician, poet, man of letters, etc.
However the form is different from the Renaissance: several of Bock’s lectures and works mimic science’s processes and dispositions but he does not adhere to the conventional standards of scientific argumentation. His lectures are entertaining, and the works appear chaotic and absurd. The point is not to be found in the completed result, however, but in the process: crossing subject boundaries and merging them in a new – and usually absurd and entertaining – way.
Today this method is being met with great interest – and not just in art but in spheres of science and industry. People are talking about the synergy effects achieved when subject boundaries are crossed or erased. Thus it is both interesting and important to find links to the cross disciplinary modi operandi of the Renaissance artists in order to learn from them. John Bock is promising: his MO harks back to the Renaissance but also points to the future.
In addition to ARKEN and Associazione Arte Continua (San Gimignano, I) participating institutions are Het Domein Museum (Sittard, NL), Palais de Tokyo (Paris, F), S.M.A.K. (Gent, B) and Museo Leonardiano di Vinci (Vinci, I). Under the heading ARTE ALL’ARTE Rinascimento Nascimento – Art, Industry, Landscape (ART TO ART Rebirth Birth – Art, Industry, Landscape) each of the five museums presents its own approach to the link be-tween past and present.
The collaborative effort is supported by EU’s Culture 2000 pro-gramme. The content of this project does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Community, nor does it involve any re-sponsibility on the part of the European Community. Pressetext
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John Bock - Klynken i knæk
Installation speziell für Arken mit Videos der Documenta Performances
Kollaboration: Arken Museum, Kuratorin Alessandra Pace und John Bock