Awst & Walther: The Conversation

29 May - 3 July 2010

<b>Awst and Walther</b>, detail of <i>Das süße Leben</i> (The Sweet Life), 2010
Awst and Walther, detail of Das süße Leben (The Sweet Life), 2010

G39 welcomes collaborative couple Manon Awst and Benjamin Walther to exhibit a collection of new and recent works. This exhibition started as a conversation about their own personal relationship and how it becomes manifest within their work. There is a privacy to this work made on a very public platform. As an observer of this public / private dialogue a reference was made to Francis Ford Coppola’s film ‘The Conversation’ (1974) where a paranoid and personally secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered. Within this show the curator, artists and audience are all offered the position of observer or initiator of this conversation.

On the preview evening the artists positioned a stage, Untitled (2010) outside the gallery window. The stage was lit from inside by a theatre spotlight. The stage has no performer and therefore no audience, only witnesses to potential performers and audiences. The safe relationship of performer-to-audience has been removed from theatre into a public space with the potential for oratory and the often inevitable pillorying.

Elsewhere a small overlooked image is projected in which Awst moves, undresses, interacts within a blank white performative space. Do Something (2009) is hurried, almost comical, and apparently self-directed – except an unheard and unseen Walther is giving instructions for Awst to perform. What are his motivations that lead his partner into a series of bizarre actions? Untitled and Do Something come together following the preview: the stage is relocated inside but the spotlight continues to direct its beam outside, indicating the stage’s removal. Do Something is concealed behind the up-ended stage and the dysfunctional dialogue becomes even more private.

Stealing the show is a magnificent grape chandelier, Das süße Leben (The Sweet Life, 2010). Normally a chandelier’s crystal pendants refract and magnify a single point of light, but here the light is largely concealed, albeit by something as beautiful as crystal. The glorious grape bounty leads to inevitable entropy and what was once fresh and vivid becomes an abject show of decay. This bold statement is at odds with the idea of dialogue, which is an evolving and growing process; this conversation is fully formed with only the potential to disintegrate.

Finally Untitled (Body Bag) (2010) presents us with a grey wet form, hauled fresh and raw from some dark place. Resembling a pair of dismembered torsos entwined in a last embrace, this final declaration marks the endgame of the conversation, answered only by a series of whispered replies in Archive of Beginnings (No. 6, 12, 15, 22) (2006 – ongoing). These framed fragments give the merest hints of action and activity: a newspaper article, a small drawing, a hazy photocopy and a small black and white photograph. Following the awfulness and tension of Untitled (Body Bag) we are left to ponder the relationships between these objects, the significance (or lack of) that they have to both the artists and us.

At various points within this show there are invitations by the artists to witness or engage, to observe or participate. Some of the dialogues are forever closed to us and will never be revealed and others are completely open. When we are on the outside of a duality it is difficult to know with any certainty the finer details that constitute the whole, there is inevitable guesswork and supposition on our part. But the conversation is something that draws us in to attempt some understanding.

This show was curated by
  • Michael Cousin
    • <b>Awst and Walther</b>, detail of <i>Das süße Leben</i> (The Sweet Life), 2010
    • <b>Awst and Walther</b>, <i>Untitled (Body Bag) </i>, 2010
    • <b>Awst and Walther</b>, <i>Untitled (Body Bag) </i>, 2010
    • <b>Awst and Walther</b>, <i>Das süße Leben</i> (The Sweet Life), 2010
    • <b>Awst and Walther</b>, <i>Untitled</i>, 2010
    • <b>Awst and Walther</b>, <i>Do Something</i>, (2009)
    • <b>Awst and Walther</b>, <i>Untitled</i>, 2010
    • <b>Awst and Walther</b>, <i>Archive of Beginnings</i> (No. 6, 12, 15, 22), 2006 – ongoing