Magazine article Artforum International

Cosima Von Bonin: Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien

Magazine article Artforum International

Cosima Von Bonin: Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien

Article excerpt

Cosima von Bonin


Was there a critical entry point into Cosima von Bonin's reference-laden retrospective, or have we reached a historical condition in which the "handmade readymade"--a couture item especially manufactured for the museological context that also refers to the stream of mass-produced commodities--is all we have at our disposal? The exhibition's title, "Hippies Use the Side Door. The Year 2014 Has Lost the Plot," offered a heavy-handed hint. Since, for a time, only the side doors to the museum were open, anyone who accessed the building during this period was automatically branded a hippie--presumably implying that today's first-world neoliberal bohemian assumes the stylized posture of a commoditized counterculture that exists only as a canned narrative or a lifestyle choice.

The exhibition itself was a remarkable Crystal Palace of gimmicks and diversions accompanied by occasional tinges of melancholy. All four floors of the museum were filled to the gills with von Bonin's output from the early 1990s to the present, a vast repertoire of two-dimensional works ("paintings" and "fabric-based pictures") as well as small objects, plush toys, short films, videos, photo-based pieces, sound equipment, and cardboard replicas of previous works ("dummies"). Most prominent in this compendium was von Bonin's use of premium materials for the fabrication of doleful characters, imperfect merchandise, and impossible situations--for instance, a lethargic hermit crab splayed on a beach chair, an Yves Saint Laurent shopping bag displayed on a gingham tablecloth, and Formula 1 tires crowded on a tiny balcony.

These defeated props, impotent fetish objects, and resplendent signifiers of infantile regression populated intersecting installations frequently accompanied by a sound track of rather generic techno music. For the mass-produced hippie, contemporary life is organized around a logic of accumulation; yet no matter how large or prestigious the trove one amasses, objects and experiences ultimately only frustrate.

And then there are those other hippies, the ones whose work was exhibited on the ground floor alongside von Bonin's: the friends, colleagues, and collaborators who contributed to the mythic hedonism of the Cologne art scene of the 1980s and '90s. …

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