Maybe Techno Doesn’t Suck? Cosima von Bonin and Moritz von Oswald, The Juxtaposition of Nothings at Friedrich Petzel
This show reminds me of the time I danced for hours at a club in Cologne, caught part of an arthouse film next door, and then somehow ended up at a bar where a bunch of people I didn’t know were drinking like it was the end of the earth. Ok, so that never happened. But I feel like Cosima von Bonin’s current show, The Juxtaposition of Nothings at Friedrich Petzel is a close approximation of that experience.
Von Bonin has always balanced her killer soft sculptures and fabric wall pieces with a deep investment in context and place-making. At Petzel, in collaboration with musician Moritz von Oswald, the focus is less on individual works and more on a sort of behind the stage/back alley voyeuristic adventure where the spectators are exhausted and drunk with cultural consumption. A puppy lies limp, arms laid out flat, staring at a video on loop. A floppy eared pimp-like bunny character with an eye patch appears to have found a friend in a bright red dog. Even the light post is out for a smoke, as this show is at once chuckle-worthy and noir.
Viewers accustomed to the almost clinical reimagining of minimalist form in Von Bonin’s previous work might be put off by the glut of audio and video equipment on display here. But the sound is sharp and deployed with precision. Each tightly contained audio zone adds a different layer to the show as pulsating dance beats blend into more spaced out jams. Moving around the gallery, you become part of the orchestration, as most of the animal sculptures are either on a sound stage, absorbing a video, or emitting a sound track of their own.
The back room seems to unwind from the activity of the main gallery like a club that lets out into the street at the end of the night. Sophisticated cardboard sculptures of a mailbox, café signage and a street lamp hang on the wall. A slumped over bloodied bird sits alone on a bleacher—here, the alienation of today’s technological self-absorption sets in. While this theme isn’t terribly new (think Kraftwerk, Radiohead, or Kanye), von Bonin and von Oswald play the space between the handmade and the machined perfectly. While a lot of technological collaborations seem to blast off with an über-corny futuristic vision, the artists here spare us the space travel allusions. The characters in this little drama are too busy livin’ to know that they don’t have a future anyway.