Playing with proportions and scales, the show consistently follows the motto of the eponymous X-Games: Higher, faster, further! Since 1995, the annual mega-event has been providing event-hungry TV and live audiences with extreme sports, daredevil stunts, artificial snow and cool role models in both summer and winter, through whose veins rockstar energy seems to flow! The group exhibition approaches this phenomenon of late capitalist consumer society and its destructive consequences through various artistic practices – as reproduction, as commentary, as intervention.
„Soon we will have to dwell in the ruins of the world we know. But until then, let‘s celebrate, let‘s feel, let‘s speed up, let‘s try out at what speed you can drive progress to the wall!“ could be the current state diagnosis of a society that behaves as if it had only one economy and many planets and not the other way around. In the manner of an adventure park visit, visitors can play table tennis, ice skate and listen to concerts every Sunday. It would all be a great thrill if the works did not keep breaking the sad reflection of better times.
Bolted audience tiers, removed from the lake stage of the annual festival, the highlight of regional high culture, give the spectators their seats. The rigid seats define and direct posture and gaze, allowing nothing but the curators‘ predetermined perspective of the table tennis arena, the entrance hall with several large-format paintings by Kathrin Isabell Rhomberg, Paul Mittler and Kevin Klamminger and on a lettering in Arabic characters by Manuel Menghin that formerly formed the word „security“. Distorted and deformed like the original meaning, the word now shows an illegible neologism whose meaning can only be grasped in its past. A reference to the multi-layered meaning of this word – abstractly as a maxim of society – concretely as a reference to the miserable treatment of the suffering workers of the Men‘s World Cup in Qatar.
We have a 580-horsepower racing car, built with loving attention to detail by Benjamin Kremmel over the last eight years, parked in the large exhibition hall. The bolide, equipped with an engine and equipment that would make it stand its ground on any racetrack, stands still. Like a Totem of Progress, ready for worship, never for functional use on the street – it would lose its saintly status there. The insignia of consumer society relate to each other
throughout the exhibition in the form of various artistic positions. Dressed in costumes by Ebony Tylah, Dj Katharsis aka Maria Lisa Huber aka „Elektra“ performs as an ambiguous reminiscence: on the one hand, a homage to the factory hall in which the exhibition takes place and in which decay has been reigning for quite some time. On the other hand, a reference to the fate of the Greek princess, trapped in her own identity, from which she is only able to free herself by sheer force.
Omnipresent is the question of the meaning of the fetish. All the exhibited objects wrestle with their form and function, put familiar visual habits to the test, and confront visitors with society‘s overall passion for brands (Lukas Weithas), prizes (Riki Werdenigg), performance, habits (Alexander Stark), glory, and the willingness to engage in the circus daily. Tonja Steppacher documents their traces both acoustically and visually. Microphones under the ice surface as well as a wildlife camera in the exhibition space permanently record movements and play back the presence of other visitors. A sound carpet of the collective emerges, whose sounds are consequences of the actions of individuals.
Gianna Henrichs has developed a merchandise series especially for the exhibition, through which the boundaries between visitors and exhibition dramaturgy become blurred. The fanshirts and asseccoires as well as the oversized scarf by Selina Reiterer are advertising and artwork in one. The visitors‘ view of the exhibition is thus mirrored without being asked, the emulation of one‘s own idols and the desire of the fan community are broken in the context of value formation. What community do these garish green shirts swear by if there is no team?
An oversized chandelier hovers above Lucas Schmid‘s ice-skating rink, which can be skated on with Ebony Tylah‘s individually designed skates. To set oneself in motion, to skate, to turn, to slither one‘s way to an identity, can serve as a metaphor for the wobbly, uncertain walk across the thin ice that we know as life. Lisa Wintermantel‘s work points to the fact that this often shows itself to be unforgiving. The uprooted branches and twigs, spiked with thorns rather out of desperation than conviction, hang around disoriented like teenagers of Generation Z in their children‘s rooms during the pandemic too grown up not to feel the pain, too young to be able to blame themselves for their failure. “Last X-Games” is not a pestimistic view of an uncertain future. It is a diagnosis of the present. Life in the ruins of capitalism is not one we should expect in the years to come, but one we are already in the very midst of.
Group exhibition: LAST X-GAMES: A hedonistic, opulent exhibition in the midst of and against the insignia of overdue late capitalism.
Exhibition duration: 27.11.2022 till 25.12.2022
Address and contract:
Brielgasse 27, 6900 Bregenz
Anne Zühlke is art historian, curator and publisher. Her Interest lies in the field of archives and concepts of history making within Fine Arts.