Group exhibition at VUNU curated by Niki Bernath & Michal Stolarik with works by Tudor Ciurescu, Eliza Douglas, Viktor Frešo, Thilo Jenssen, Botond Keresztesi, Julian-Jakob Kneer, Tim Plamper.

Artists: Tudor Ciurescu, Eliza Douglas, Viktor Frešo, Thilo Jenssen, Botond Keresztesi, Julian-Jakob Kneer, Tim Plamper
Curated by Niki Bernath & Michal Stolarik
7 May  – 1 June, 2024
VUNU,  Bratislava

The incessant kick drum is no longer as rough as in the beginning. It is melting into softer registers, dictating the pace to a crowd of sweating bodies in the deluge of thick smoke, throbbing stroboscope and warm fuzzy lights. What was once generic, machine-like, and repetitive is becoming organic, naturally human-like, and ritualistic. The BPM forces you to continue in the given rhythm, but it is also possible to slow down, double the speed, or react spontaneously to the incoming layered sounds. And despite the common saying that “nothing good happens after 2 am,” intermittently disrupting biological rhythms and traditional structures may open up new possibilities of cognition.

The international group exhibition TEXNO presents a tapestry of materials, technological approaches, and media outputs from diverse geopolitical backgrounds. Drawing, painting, performance, and object-based art confidently navigate between the surface and space, concrete motifs and abstraction, or craft production and work with prefabricated materials. References to popular culture phenomena blend with art history, appropriated materials, and excerpts from everyday reality. Fiction incorporates the elements of reality and personal mythology is conveyed through the universal language of the time. The linear narrative of the works of art is made complex by layers of ideational and visual reconfigurations, resulting in a disquieting sense of the known and familiar, yet strange and unfamiliar.

The framework of the premiere VUNU Bratislava project cites the topical dichotomy of man vs. machine, while bringing up blurred boundary lines between the machine-made and handicraft. The materials used, as well as the visual references closely tied to industrial production bear the imprint of human intervention, reflecting current trends in contemporary art. There is an overtly present escapist environment of the club scene or rave culture, contributing conceptual and aesthetic inspiration by the music genre and its ideological foundations. The symbolic “X factor” in the exhibition’s title points to a fascination with the strange and to an innate and, above all, vital inclusion of everything that is foreign or distinct in any regard (denoted by XENO-).

Tudor Ciurescu’s (1996, Craiova, Romania, lives between Lausanne and Milan) monumentalized stylized stainless-steel sunglasses 7AM SUNDAY (2023) serve as a striking yet straightforward reference to the skillful intersection of fashion iconography, club aesthetics, and popular culture. By accentuating a seemingly trivial object, a symbolic monument emerges, reflecting the zeitgeist driven by TikTok algorithms.

In similar vein, Thilo Jenssen (1984, Daun, Germany, lives in Vienna) in Alarm (08:05 – 8:17), 2023, employs a screenshot from his personal iPhone as a notional open door into one’s privacy. What was the person doing up until now and what is expecting them in the morning? A scene familiar to many is gradually disintegrating, revealing the peeling layers of car paint hidden beneath the UV print.

The Snare Man (2024) by Viktor Frešo (1974, Bratislava, Slovakia) brings in a fusion of a simple gesture drawing and a ready-made, referencing the author’s music activities. A bizarre combination of abstracts from Frešo’s repertoire of applied approaches and motifs offers – via pure forms and visual percussiveness (pun intended) – an imaginative situation accompanied by an imaginary silent giggle.
The collage painting Techno Tribal (2021) by Botond Keresztesi (1987, Târgu Mureș Romania, lives in Budapest) embodies a blend of absurd techno-surrealism filled with illogical combinations of archetypes and symbolic elements. On the border between figurative painting and still life, he reveals various sources of inspiration from art history or ancient cultures, and through the details of industrial machines or car body shells he progresses all the way to an electronic cigarette mutating into the form of a drill.

Julian-Jakob Kneer (1992, Basel, Switzerland, lives between Berlin and Basel) builds upon the line of visual appropriation with a selection from his series titled BASTARDS (2023). A layered collage featuring three iconic film posters on a silver mirror presents a mixture of ideologies intertwined with the narratives of the films (Party Monster, 2003, A Clockwork Orange, 1971, Idioterne, 1998). The visual interweaving of pop culture references disrupts the black-and-white binaries between good and bad, right and inappropriate.

In RAVE 001 (2024) by Tim Plamper (1982, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, lives in Berlin) we follow Charon, the ferryman from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, as he transports the souls to the underworld. Through an excerpt from the monumental opus, the author emphasises the symbolism of decay transforming into rebirth, or the motif of a breakaway that can be perceived on both a physical and psychological level. The narrative of the dramatic scene unfolding on a subtle format undergoes a change with the introduction of a simple gesture alluding to the escapism within the club (under)world.

In a recording of Everything Dies (2023), a performance originally created at Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Eliza Douglas (1984, New York, USA, lives between Berlin and New York) presents several acts featuring stratified pop culture references, BDSM motifs, visual signs of music subcultures, and inspiration from horror practices and clichés. By way of singing, minimalist gestures, staged set pieces, and a slow pace, she explores the topic of death rooted in a dramatic ritualistic party setting.

Text: Michal Stolárik