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PINK GADGETS: BOOK REVIEW OF OLAF NICOLAI'S 'ENJOY /SURVIVE'



"This sort of thinking leads me on to think about what kind of soundtrack would I want to go with this sense of wonderment . It can all seem extravagant and strange - like astronauts playing golf on the moon - but it gives me the possibility of a kind of self-respect that otherwise I'm not sure I'd be capable of. We eat to soundtracks, and drive to them. Fuck to them. Shop to them. We do everything to them. When we drive its like we want to have our own 2D ambient moviedrome sequence -the pre-recorded tape/CD makes sure we have some sort of control over the streaming 3D reality beyond the windscreen which is made more real because it is like TV even though of course it isn't as real as TV, being 3D out there."

By Richard Marshall

COPYRIGHT © 2003, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Well, we've just got to get on with it. Gadgets are one way. They come over pure and simple, in a definite, blindingly obvious and revealed state, in hotel rooms - that's where I always notice them best anyway. Of course, there are so many more gadgets at home, but their domestic situ works as a cover story for them much of the time. With me. But in hotels they shine out, they are decrypted from the 3-D space of home into the artificial 2-D of the room-service, short term stay, vocational or travelling-salesman-endlessness space. I guess it's also to do with the repetitiveness of hotels. They're generic. And its where you think about all the rooms having the same devices out of a similar, overlapping utilitarian need rubbing shoulders with an autistic sense of luxury, all meticulous and obsessive in a way, orderly, clean and with hyper-real spatial distributions working at a sub-liminal level inside the spaces very own recurring colour schemes. So we are able to continue, without God, but with lots of shampoo, - from cosmos to cosmetics, - we continue because there is still beauty and still a metaphysical yearning but all done within the terms of bedside lamps, TV remotes, heating appliances, double-glazed sash windows, self-adhesive adhesive coloured spots etc etc And metaphysical yearning leads onto a sense of wonderment - on a good day.

This sort of thinking leads me on to think about what kind of soundtrack would I want to go with this sense of wonderment . It can all seem extravagant and strange - like astronauts playing golf on the moon - but it gives me the possibility of a kind of self-respect that otherwise I'm not sure I'd be capable of. We eat to soundtracks, and drive to them. Fuck to them. Shop to them. We do everything to them. When we drive its like we want to have our own 2D ambient moviedrome sequence -the pre-recorded tape/CD makes sure we have some sort of control over the streaming 3D reality beyond the windscreen which is made more real because it is like TV even though of course it isn't as real as TV, being 3D out there.

But then we work at it so we can relate to it in a human way. Which is emotional. And kind of tragic. Because of the knowingness of this. The gap between doing this and believing it. It's the same kind of thing that people talk about when they suggest that by disconnecting sex from love we've inadvertently switched our belief system switch switched down to zero/one. Whereas before we worked at about eight. So all this shagging and no belief anymore - leading to more shagging just to try and forget. Vicious circle. Same with gadgets. All those things to use and we don't believe in any of them. Gadgets are just a proliferation. If there was only one egg-timer in the whole world then it wouldn't be a gadget. You see the logic?

I think pink is the new colour of tragic. And silver. I think it would be great to do Wagner - the whole Ring Cycle say, but any really Germanic heavy stuff really, where the predominant colour-scheme was pink and silver. And there'd be powder blue skies and clouds like candy floss overhead as well. And flowers in very bright primary colours. Gotterdammerung - and Brunnhilde would be Japanese and sing 'Fuhl' meine Brust auch,/wie sie entbrennt;/helles Feuer/das Herz mir erfasst…' (Feel my breast, too/how it is burning; bright flames/seize my heart…') in a love-sick business suit of Pantone-colours wearing hand-crafted white sneakers and we'd be all weeping along with her, wondering about all the things we really want, which would include all the grand things - love, desire, moral goodness, a God who tells our story we're dead - plus espresso coffee. And what to do with these great cravings?

Sometimes we look at our parents, or maybe the parents of our parents - wondering if they were better than us because they had a belief in stuff, they had faith. But it's so not true. So many of them seem to be just as pissed as we are, just as lost and wondering. This insight is a sign of my mature years. I think parents feeling lost and wondering and all that is not just possible, but probable and definitely honourable. I even know people whose parents were yuppies in the eighties. They come across as free because there's nothing prearranged for them. They can make it all up. Although that must be very hard too. As hard as having it all there waiting for you. Waiting in that gloomy way which means you have to break away from it. Anyway, whether you have to break free from too much garbage, or else you're having to make your own garbage, there's a sense of - are they going to make it? Are we going to make it? You wonder if they'll survive. Will we? Does anyone?

Well, everyone survives, but can you enjoy it is the question I suppose. Olaf Nicolai's thinking about those sneakers of Brunnhilde and those pinks and the music - not Wagner but a machine aged Eno version of Wagnerian sex and death longing . But with 'decaf mocha chocolate' and simple things too, half life whisperings of Zadie Smith ( who wrote the text for the book), listen in - 'someone better looking than you,' 'someone stroking the back of your neck which is like having the TV on', 'furniture and Japanese wall prints that will change what's in the marrow of you,' 'surely any right minded 21st century person wants to get sushi whenever, wherever,' 'father has the hots for the big-haired one in Friends,' 'fame is just a matter of 'more people knowing you.'

Fame turns people into gadgets. The proliferation thing again. You see? And fame turns the famous into gadgets too - the proliferation of consciousness and self-consciousness. All those people having their version of the famous pin-up. See? The blurb is accurate. Olaf Nicolai 'Berlin based artist, born in 1962, focuses on the perfect combination of high art, pop and visual design. The book is based on the artist's first exhibition at the Migros Museum for contemporary Art in Zurich, but this is no means a classic, documentational catalogue: designed by Norm ( The Things, Swiss Graphic Design) and unique in its printing and biding techniques the distinctive division by structuring design elements, colour schemes, paper types and sizes results not in a "readable" book but a new, exquisite work of art, a medial counterpart to parts of the exhibition.' It's the sort of art you'd read Douglas Coupland to. The CD, by electronic band 'To Rococo Rot', is the sound of pink and silver getting lost along the way.

The book is an anti-gadget. God in a mono-theistic Judaeo-Christian setting is an anti gadget. It makes you think about the difference between façade and substance, about statements like ' we're all theme parks now' and the difference September 11th makes to cultural gadgets, say, films, on the one hand, and books on the other. e.g. 'Men In Black 2' had to refilm the closing sequence and erase the towers whereas page 11 of Douglas Coupland's 'Shampoo Planet' hasn't erased the 1990's Manhattan skyline.




ABOUT OLAF NICOLAI

1962 Born/ fount in Halle/Saale
1983-88 Study of the Germanistik/ studies in German LANGUAGE and Literature
1992 Thesis over the Poetik of the "Viennese group"/ thesis about the poetics OF the "Vienna Group"

And works/lives and lives works in Berlin.

Prices and scholarships/grants and Residencies
Selection/Selection

2002 Art price of the city wolf castle
1998 P.S.1 scholarship, New York
1996 Botho Graef art price of the city Jena
Scholarship mansion Massimo, Rome (stay 1998)
1993 Scholarship of the study donation of the German people at the study center for art and science, Venice

Single exhibitions and projects/solo Exhibitions and Projects
Selection/Selection

2002 "Baegert, Judd, Pantone", gallery Eigen+Art, Berlin
"the flame of the revolution, lying", urban museum, wolf castle
2001 Enjoy/Survive/Enjoy ", Migros museum for present art, Zurich
"Favorites", gallery for contemporary art, Leipzig
2000 "Pantone barrier, instrumented" and "Odds and Ends (editions 1994-2000)", art association Bonn
"fading in, fading, fading away", Westfaeli art association, cathedral out
1999 "labyrinth", gallery for Zeitgenoessiche art, Leipzig
1998 Western Front/Vancouver
"landscape metaphysisch + concretely", art association Ulm
"Ambiente", museum boy art Frankfurt/Oder
1997 "projector", together with Carsten Nicolai, urban art museum donating house Reutlingen
"Nature is A workshop", Galeria SKUC, Ljubljana
1995 "cut sample", Institut for modern art, Nuernberg
1994 "collecting tank view", Lindenau - Museum old person castle

Exhibition participation/Group Exhibitions
Selection/Selection

2002 BREAK, Gwangju Biennale, South Korea
13th Biennale OF Sydney. Internationally Festival OF Contemporary kind
2001 49. Biennale of Venice
"Squatters", postage
2000 "What if - Kind on the verge OF architecture and Design ", Moderna Museet, Stockholm
"Le Jardin", Académie de France à Rome mansion Medici, Rome
1999 "Natural Reality", Ludwig forum for international art, Aachen
"art in the city III", art gallery Bregenz
"Peace", migros museum, Zurich
"Children OF Berlin", PS1 museum, New York
1998 "landscape. The trace of the Sublimen ", arts center to Kiel
"être nature", Fondation Cartier, Paris
Berlin biennale, Berlin
1997 documenta X, Kassel
1996 "Model/Salon, Clocktower Gallery", P.S.1 museum, New York
1994 "world moral", arts center Basel

Bibliografie/Bibliography
Selection/Selection

Liebs, Holger, "House Style". In: frieze , London, January/February 2002, 84-87.

Bar, Raimar, "need after need?". In: Art bulletin , Zurich, April 2001, 18-23.

Fricke, Harald, "Olaf Nicolai". In: Kind forum internationally magazines , New York, buzzer 2001, 195.

Wenzel, January, "SUBJECT/CProduct". Interview with Olaf Nicolai. In: spector , Heft1/Maerz 2001, 60-67.

"Olaf Nicolai: Enjoy/Survive. Survive/Enjoy ", Berlin: The shapes publishing house, 2002 (exhib.cat., Migros museum for present art, Zurich).

"Olaf Nicolai. 30 colors ", Cologne: Salon publishing house, 2000 (exhib.cat. published on the occasion OF the exhibition "pantone barrier, instrumented", Bonn art association, October 11 - November 26, 2000).

Gaensheimer, Susanne/Westfaeli art association cathedral (eds.), "Olaf Nicolai. ... out fading in, fading, fading away... ", (exhib.cat. Westfaeli art association, cathedral, December 8, 2000 - January 28, 2001), cathedral 2000.

Nicolai, Olaf, "show case", Nuernberg: Publishing house for modern art, 1999.

Nicolai, Olaf. In: Art forum international , Bd. 146, 1999, 200 FF.

Giant, Ute, "after nature". In: Hans Werner Schmidt/Ute giant (eds.), landscape. The trace of the Sublimen/Landscape. The trace OF the Sublime, Bielefeld: Kerber publishing house, 1998, 47-53 (exhib.cat., arts center to Kiel; Art area Innsbruck; Esbjerg art museum, Denmark).

Nicolai, Olaf, "Landschaft/Interieur". In: Politics Poetics. The book to documenta the X , Ostfildern: Cantz publishing house, 1997, 658-660.

Fluegge, Matthias, "plant - Konstrukt". In: Oetker, Brigitte/cutter, Christiane (eds.), implementing. Art in the Leipziger fair, Cologne: Oktagon publishing house, 1997, 149-156.

Theewen, Gerhard, "material assets cabinet and fair". Discussion with Olaf Nicolai. In: Gerhard Theewen (OD), _ Exhibition/presentation, Cologne: Salon publishing house, 1997.

Nicolai, Olaf, "collecting tank view", Amsterdam and Dresden: Publishing house of the art, 1994.

biography compiled by Annette stone (collection Essl)



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