press release

25.06.2023 – 10.09.2023

NILS ALIX-TABELING But who is Ulrike Mandrake?

In his multimedia performances and installations Nils Alix-Tabeling (*1991 in Paris) moves on the threshold between fiction and reality. His works quote from science fiction, fashion, historical objects and furniture, shamanism and drag – critically reflecting the history of institutional violence against female and queer bodies.

But who is Ulrike Mandrake? reconsiders the legacy of 1970s terrorism. The title evokes the name of a fictional character and suggests a semantic connection between the journalist and RAF terrorist Ulrike Meinhof (1934-1976) and the poisonous medicinal and ritual plant mandrake, which visually resembles human figures. It also refers to the human longing to penetrate to a supposed root of evil through scientific understanding. With an extensive new group of works as well as a performance, the artist navigates between the times, worlds, ambivalences and wounds that this topic opens up.

Nils Alix-Tabeling studied fine arts at the Academy La Cambre, Brussels and at the Royal College of Art, London. His works have been shown internationally, including at Palazzo Bollani, Venice (2022), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2019) and Kunstraum, London (2019). The Kunstverein presents his first institutional exhibition in Germany.



Language: German and English
Performer: Laura Schuller and Louis Sé
Duration: about 40 minutes

The performance by Nils Alix-Tabeling is an operetta based on a dialogue between a sleep paralysis demon and a female figure whose biographical and character traits partly recall those of the journalist Ulrike Meinhof, the politician Rosa Luxemburg and the writer Unica Zürn. In the performance, during solitary confinement, the female figure transforms into a plant and becomes Ulrike Mandrake:
If I were an herb myself I would be a rhyzome of nettles, Hawthorne, and brambles. I would choose to spread my roots in a military complex. Covering the land with spikes, tearing at the legs of soldier, making each of them experience at least a sample of the pain that they bring to the world. I would cover each tank and missile launcher with wooden whips, slowly biting my way through the metal with acidic sap. Filling the canon with leaves and branches until they blew themselves over and over again! I would leave not one single weapon intact in the world, I would turn them all to bright pilars of orange rust, held together by spiky Hawthorne. In their place berries will feed the world. I would be the last and only weapon of mass destruction, a green beam of spores and seeds tearing the world into submission, and peace…