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olaf breuning

Woman and Dead

27 IV - 03 VI 2007

Tele-Imagination
 
Olaf Breuning’s works can be interpreted as an expression of the imagination of a child, one that passionately watches television. This is what visions of someone whose image of the world is made up of an assemblage of tacky materializations of pictorial culture might look like. At the other hand, however, the works seem to contain something that suggests their fabulous inspiration, from the times before television. This impression they give results from a combination of features that rarely come up together: a naïve approach and eclecticism of shots, images and motifs. This accounts for such photographs as those showing a village in Ghana where people make snowman- or ice cream-shaped coffins, or those displaying the statues of Easter Island adorned with rabbit ears. They wouldn’t come into being, had it not been for postcards, cartoons, and, first of all, adventure and nature films and advertising – in a nutshell: the layers of pictorial images stored in the contemporary mind. These masses are explored without hidden meanings or an over-conscious approach.
 
There is something irresistibly funny in the scenes arranged by Breuning for his works. Olaf is not an ironist, though, and there is a difference between a sense of humour and irony. Irony assumes emotional involvement, humour can do without it, it assumes detachment. The world is seen through the lens, familiarized through the screen, its elements can be freely rearranged. Irony implies lack of acceptance for the existing state of affairs with concurrent helplessness. Breuning’s works reveal another strategy, their creator is not a warrior, he enjoys himself.
 
Typical of these works is the fact that the themes, scenes and motifs originating in various fields are put together as they would be on a TV screen. Serious matters are coupled with petty ones, scientific programmes with entertainment, news with advertisements – and everything becomes like anything else, mutually cancelling validity, producing a kaleidoscopic world where aesthetic impressions are more important than truth. In the same way, in Breuning’s works, the “truth” of the picture is interrupted by the absurd and hilarious message.
 
Breuning’s exhibition belongs to the cycle Transculture. The cycle is dedicated to identity issues in contemporary world, with special regard to Europe, in the times of tumultuous transformations entailed in entering a new phase of modernity. The transformations result in, first of all, the mixing of cultural models with a simultaneous attempt to return to the concept of “pure” culture. Breuning’s exhibition can be interpreted in this context as showing the effects of globalization as seen by a Western European person who has an unlimited access to communication means and can easily move around the world. This interpretation is supported by the fact that Breuning has experiences common among artists nowadays, i.e. a nomadic way of life and creation of works depending on the place of exhibition. Lately, for instance, he has been producing photographs in the USA and Switzerland, and sculptures in Japan. All this overlaps with his experience of being an emigrant in the multiethnic metropolis of New York.
 
The exhibition shows that today’s culture undergoes the process of hybridization. Culture provides us with ways of spending free time, to some extent aspiring to the position of entertainment. Olaf’s works very much match this description, the world in his photographs and films is amusing and colourful, and more suitable to be analyzed by an anthropologist, an ethnographer, a sociologist, or perhaps a media expert, than by an art critic. People are presented as tribes, contemporary “primitive beings” – Vikings, jungle or cave people;  groups united by a common passion or hobby are featured here, too, e.g. knights or tennis players. Each group has their own, very modern accessories, for instance snowboards. These pictures thus seem to reflect a sociological approach, they show groups of people brought together by their occupation or their leisure activities, as well as members of subcultures, in this way also echoing the positivist photography by aiming to portray certain “types” or social groups.
 
The exhibition at Bunkier is going to include works referring to travelling and spending the time off – on holiday, on a journey. The pictures may make the impression that they have been taken on such occasions. This theme is present in the film Home, showing stunning sequences of journeys and crazy adventures in various places on the Earth; by the way, the man who is going through them on one screen, is commenting on them on another. Even the title seems to steer the interpretation of the film towards “fluidity,” lack of the materiality of homes in contemporary world, but also towards the longing for security in the unstable times of second modernity.
 
Meanwhile, we have to remember that contemporary colonization of the poor by the rich is executed via tourist business. The exhibition can be interpreted as a warning against the easiness and thoughtlessness of travelling, which is by all means related to economic and social conditions in the world.
 
The sculpture Woman and Dead gives its title to the show. It relates to naïve art with its magic understanding of the relationship between image and reality. The work looks like a trophy from a journey, even a journey to Poland. First of all, though, Olaf Breuning creates stories enclosed in pictures, drawings, sculptures and films. In this way, the interpretation of his work will remain open all the time. Let it be so in this exhibition, too.

Magdalena Ujma [Translated by Monika Ujma]

^ Olaf Breuning's exhibition, photo Marek Gardulski

^ Olaf Breuning's exhibition, photo Marek Gardulski

^ Olaf Breuning's exhibition, photo Marek Gardulski

^ Olaf Breuning's exhibition, photo Marek Gardulski

^ Olaf Breuning's exhibition, photo Marek Gardulski

^ Olaf Breuning's exhibition, photo Marek Gardulski

Exhibition Supported by:

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Olaf Breuning

27 IV 2007

from the cycle: Interpretations more

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Olaf Breuning

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