Imagine what it would be like to step into someone else’s mind – to find yourself submerged within the physical manifestations of their memories, truths and dreams? It is this exact feeling that is elicited when stepping across the threshold of the sterile gallery space into the curious world that is Friedrich Kunath’s exhibition at the White Cube in London.
Scent is the first unexpected sensorial experience encountered the moment your feet touch the wine-colored carpet. Involuntarily, as scent so fervently does, the smell of the incense that burns in the corner triggers memories of a bygone era. A curiosity that takes me back in time to those imperturbable teenage days hanging out in your friend’s parent’s basement, a generation re-enacting a previous decade so nostalgically defined by peace, love and happiness.
This is, according to the exhibition title, ‘The most beautiful world in the world’ – Kunath’s own attempt to create a improbable utopian world within a white cube space. But this utopian world is a personal one – not a collective idealism. A whimsically constructed place of illogically excavated findings – a space of hazy memories.
Next, the auditory sense is awakened as soothing sounds fill the room – melodic overtures overwritten by the sound of crashing waves and chirping birds, interrupted by the record skipping, scratching and voices speaking out. But it is all just an illusion – the records scattered throughout the room simply props in the play, as is everything that fills this obscure place.
In one corner a Henry Moore-like reclining figure is eccentrically merged with a model train that runs in a circle round and through it. Perhaps a peculiar fusion of childhood memories – a beloved toy and an earlier encounter with the Father of Modern British Sculpture. A banana-man has stepped down off his plinth to cross the gallery space and greet you at the entrance. A man leans on a speaker covered in onion-printed paper, with a bird perched on his Pinocchio-like nose, and a chair with a giraffe balancing on his head.
These strange scenes feel like snippets of lost and forgotten time, plucked from the neural space in which they float and poignantly reconstructed here. They are slivers of lives and eras that are somewhere between life, imagination, memory and dream. Like the nebulous quality of memory as time passes on, truth cannot be separated from fiction. Recollections are not reliable, nor true – the burgundy family car so vividly burned into my childhood memory, never existed, but is likely tidbits of memory combined with a vivid imagination and years of reinforcement to create something that was never really there.
Like my burgundy car, these scents, sounds and sights are retrieved from Kunath’s memory and mixed together here in a synthesis of post-production to create something that now crosses over into the realm of the real.
The lesson learned here, if we adhere to Kunath’s claims, is that the most beautiful world in the world is that which you construct within your own mind.