press release

Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho
陰府 (Shady Mansion)
Kunstverein Freiburg
September 14 – October 28, 2018

Press Meeting
Friday, September 14, 2018, 10 am

Friday, September 14, 2018, 7 pm

"Shady mansion" is a Chinese term for hell. For their exhibition of that title at the Kunstverein, Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho construct a subterranean park for an unlivable future.

The structure of their exhibition is based on The Lowline, a proposed New York City project that would make spectacular use of solar technology in order to funnel sunlight underground to support plant life. Complementary to the High Line, a public park on a disused train track in the West of Manhattan, the Lowline has been proposed to be built at the site of a long-abandoned subterranean trolley car station in the Lower East Side. Like the High Line, it is an attraction catering to tourists and novelty-seeking consumers that would contribute to the acceleration of gentrification in a historically minority and lower-income neighborhood.

In fact, a one-and-half-billion-dollar real estate development is currently under construction in the immediate vicinity of the Lowline's would-be site, which will accommodate a mixture of new residential, retail, office, and entertainment spaces. The land being developed was once populated by 1,800 mostly Puerto Rican families residing in low-cost tenement buildings, who were displaced by the city in 1967 with the promise that they would be able to return to affordable housing. Fifty years later, the government offered this land to developers, who plan to make half of their residential units “affordable,” though these will be nearly impossible to obtain through a city-wide lottery application process and will in fact be unaffordable to the average neighborhood resident. Rather, the development's broader and more important role is to aid in reimagining the neighborhood as a new frontier for speculative investment, a dynamic that, in the words of ethnographer Anna Tsing, harkens back to “the South Sea bubble and every gold rush in history” with all of the colonialist dimensions that this implies. Also part of this reimagining are the planned high-rise buildings in the nearby waterfront area between the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge, known as Two Bridges. In virtual renderings of the future waterfront skyline as dreamed by developers, these towers jut out like glassy spears among the public housing projects and tenement buildings that surround them.

Drawing from these speculative visions, Lien & Camacho transform the Kunstverein's exhibition hall into their own DIY rendition of The Lowline. Light is directed downwards into the darkened hall via rudimentary constructions that mimic the parabolic reflectors and light-transporting tubes of The Lowline’s high-tech design. The light falls upon tree sculptures, which represent five high-rise condominium towers that may soon occupy the Two Bridges waterfront. The sculptures have been modeled after Chinese money trees, ritual objects that date back to the Eastern Han Dynasty and are intended to provide the deceased with financial support for their journey into the afterlife. In a further layering of references, Lien & Camacho set their trees into ceramic bases adorned with raccoon dogs. The artists have taken these figures from the popular Japanese anime film Pom Poko, which chronicles a group of shape-shifting raccoon dogs as they collectively attempt to resist the destruction of their habitat by urbanization. Meanwhile, in another play on the distinction between the built and the natural, the branches of the tree sculptures make use of materials gleaned from the Black Forest areas around Freiburg, using them to depict speculative scenarios involving the investors, stakeholders and survivors of the Lower East Side, all set within a hellish near future.

The exhibition sketches a situation in which the progressive marketization of spaces for existing extends into the afterlife. In transferring the underground park from New York City to Freiburg, Lien & Camacho ask how these ideas might discourse with the desires of the “Green City”. Freiburg is globally well known as a center for green technology research, but also for the lab-like implementation of sustainable urban development concepts in areas such as Vauban and Rieselfeld. At the same time, the growing lack of affordable housing is the city’s most pressing social problem. While working on the exhibition, Lien & Camacho spent six weeks in Freiburg. They met different agents of the "Green City” and visited some of its key sites, such as the Frauenhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems and the Rolf Disch Solar Architecture studio. Insights gathered from these meetings and visits have been integrated into the conceptualization of the exhibition.

Further connecting the artists’ concerns to a local context, a symposium organized by Bertold Albrecht, entitled Right to the City, will be held at the Kunstverein on September 28, 2018, at 6pm. Against the backdrop of Henri Lefebvre’s theories, it will discuss what cooperative forms of urban living and public participation could look like. The focus will be on housing policy and the lack of affordable housing in Freiburg. A specific impetus for the event is the imminent “revaluation” of the housing district around the old and new Wiehrebahnhof, against which the initiative Wiehre-für-alle has formed. The speakers at the symposium will be Bertold Albrecht (initative Wiehre-für-alle, Mobile Akademie), Heinrich Dietz (Kunstverein Freiburg), Stefan Rost (Mietshäusersyndikat), Frauke Stablo (initiative Wiehre-für-alle) and Klaus Theweleit (author). The discussion will be moderated by Jürgen Reuß (author).

The transcontextualization and layering of references and discourses are important operations in the practice of Lien & Camacho. In their exhibition at the Kunstverein, they use these operations to posit sustainability and development as competing claims on the future, examining how these notions are fueled by varied enactments of speculation and imagination, which often have life-or-death consequences.

This is Lien & Camacho’s first institutional solo exhibition in Germany. As part of the accompanying program, they will have a public conversation with writer and curator Harry Burke on September 15, 2018, at 2pm.

Amy Lien ( 1987, USA) and Enzo Camacho ( 1985, Philippines) studied at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA and at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg. Since 2009, they have been collaborating mainly between New York, Berlin and Southeast Asia.

Selected solo exhibitions (s) and group exhibitions (g):

2018: Her split body is a crack in our community, Hessel Museum of Art (Bard College), Annandale-on-Hudson, USA (s); Mother Holding Taobao Child, 47 Canal, New York (s); 2017: Produktion. Made in Germany Drei, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover (g); Site Visit, Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg (g); The New Normal, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (g); People, Money, Ghosts (Movement as Metaphor), Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok (g); 2016: Manananggal has appeared in Berlin, various locations, Berlin (s); Urban Aspiration, The Physics Room, Christchurch, New Zealand (g); 2015: “ RR ZZ ”, Gluck50, Milan (g); Whose Subject am I?, Kunstverein Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf (g); 2014: LEAK LIGHT TIME HEAT, 47 Canal, New York (s); Who do you love?, Mathew Gallery, Berlin (s); Lynda, Robert, Amy, Enzo und die Anderen, Künstlerhaus Bremen, Bremen (G); 2012: Queer Manila, Manila Contemporary, Makati, Philippines (g); 2011: Café by the Ruins, 47 Canal, New York (s) 2009: Teleology, Happy Ending (collaboration with Michael Sanchez), Green Papaya Art Projects, Quezon City, Philippines (s).


Opening Night

Fri., September 14, 2018, 7 pm
Introduction: Heinrich Dietz, director

Accompanying Program

Sat., September 15, 2018, 2 pm
Public Conversation with Harry Burke, Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho

Thu., September 20, 2018, 7 pm
Guided Tour with curator Heinrich Dietz

Fri., September 28, 2018, 6 pm
Right to the City
Symposium with Bertold Albrecht, Heinrich Dietz, Jürgen Reuß, Stefan Rost, Frauke Stablo, Klaus Theweleit

Sun., September 30, 2018, 2 – 4 pm
Children’s Workshop (registration is required)

Thu., October 18, 2018, 7 pm
Guided Tour