The exhibition Lets Entertain: Kunst Macht Spass, belongs to the tradition of group shows such as Full House: Young British Art or German Open: Gegenwartskunst in Deutschland Several of the artists represented in the show have already come before the public in individual or group exhibitions; others are still at the outset of their careers. A number of them have been seen in other contexts in Wolfsburg or are represented in the permanent collection of the Museum.
The exhibition is devoted to the ubiquitous theme of the fun society and its effects on the work of contemporary artists. In an entertainment-oriented consumer society, we are surrounded by a vast range of visual stimuli; television, magazines, comics, movies, advertising, and the Internet all make their mark on our accelerated perceptions. Daily soaps, celebrity gossip, and sporting events have a news value that cultural events can rarely match. The phenomena of this event culture are the raw materials that these artists use in their work. In the catalogue, the curators of the show point out that The work has become more and more reflexive, more and more attracted by the seduction of pleasure and entertainment in popular culture, but it simultaneously deals with larger issues. The works in the exhibition move from irony or cynicism to hedonism to a certain melancholic quality. (Philippe Vergne and Olukemi Ilesanmi in conversation, catalogue, page 26.)
The Wolfsburg exhibition Let's Entertain presents 51 selected positions within the wide and highly diverse spectrum of contemporary artistic practice. It does not confine its scope to Europe and America but includes a number of less well-known artists from Asian countries, Japan in particular.
Andy Warhol (1928–87), as one of the founding fathers of Media Art, is represented by Andy Warhol's TV and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes: works that startlingly anticipate the mechanisms of present-day entertainment culture and reveal the artist as nothing less than a prophet. The visitor can also see videos by Warhol in a pavilion created by the American artist Dan Graham (born 1949): an architectural sculpture created as a display surface for the consumption of video material.
The exhibition prominently features a number of artists who have worked in the video medium over the past few years. Doug Aitken (born 1968), who is concurrently represented at the Museum by a monographic exhibition under the title of Metallic Sleep, has an additional video piece in Let's Entertain Rineke Dijkstra (born 1959), an artist from the Netherlands, best known for her photographic works, shows The Buzz Club / Mystery World - a piece about youth culture and growing up. Douglas Gordon (born 1966), two of whose video installations are in the permanent collection of the Kunstmuseum, contributes the sound installation My Mouth and Your Ear, which brings together pop songs from the year of the artist’s birth.
A central feature of the exhibition is a group of works that invite visitor participation. An installation by Peter Friedl (born 1960) is an invitation to try on cuddly animal costumes. On Dance Floor, by the Polish artist Piotr Uklanski (born 1969), which is wired for sound, you can either bop to disco rhythms or read in comfortable armchairs. Maurizio Cattelan (born 1960) invites visitors to play an outsized table soccer game; and the musician and DJ David Shea (born 1965) has provided the exhibition with a special soundtrack, which can be heard on a rented CD player as you walk around. Through the exhibition galleries runs a gold bead curtain by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957–96), which you have to pass through in order to get from one part of the show to another. It compels the visitor to make a succession of entrances, like the star of a floorshow; but with Gonzalez-Torres even the hint of glamour has its dark side. For the artist, the gold beads are equivalent to body fluids; his allusion is to the medication that is used to counter the immune deficiency of AIDS.
The medium of photography is primarily represented by the complete series of Film Stills by Cindy Sherman (born 1954), together with a number of large-format photographs by Andreas Gursky (born 1955). In her Stills, Sherman explores the role of women in the Hollywood films of the 1950s and 1960s and thus comments on the manipulation of social conventions by the media. Gursky's subject is the mass phenomena of the entertainment industry; he shows surging throngs of humanity at concerts and big rave/techno events.
Martin Kippenberger (1953–97) is represented by his Disco Bombs, glitter balls with wigs on: disturbing, ironic elements on the floors of the exhibition galleries. The visitor is always coming up against video monitors showing pieces by various artists, and is thus constantly bombarded with new visual information.
The artists selected for this exhibition have explored the ways in which the everyday structures of entertainment have penetrated our lives. Their work establishes an ambivalent response to the experiences and media strategies that emerge from this process. This multidisciplinary exhibition concentrates on pieces that reflect this social phenomenon and either respond with an attitude of critical detachment or deliberately apply the same strategies to expand the circle of conscious consumers.
An accompanying catalogue, in English, features contributions by Dike Blair, Akiko Busch, Susan G. Davis, Steve Dietz, Emma Duncan, Joshua Gamson, Olukemi Ilesanmi, Mike Kelley, Pierre Lévy, Greil Marcus, Neil Postman, Richard Shusterman, and Philippe Vergne. Also included are biographical notes on the participating artists and select bibliographies of the contributors. Individual artistic positions are fully illustrated, both in isolation and within the exhibition context. Approx. 320 pages, approx. 150 color illustrations, price approx. DM 58,- (trade edition DM 88,-).
Dance Floor, 1996
(plexiglass, lightbulbs, audio, mixed media)