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Norbert Bisky.

Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius LITHUANIA November 17, 2006--January 7, 2007

"Total Care," around 20 recent large-to-medium-sized oil paintings by Berlin-based Norbert Bisky, presents rather traditional-looking Arcadian tableaux of blonde Nordic types (mostly modeled after Bisky's boyfriend) prancing around in military, sporty, or nursery rhyme settings. Schatzinsel--Last Exit (Treasure Island--Last Exit, 2006) shows a troupe of young guys at the beach, one of which is merrily sucking the big toe of a severed, bloody leg. The naval vessel parked offshore and mysterious navigation device stuck in the sand suggests they might be war-torn soldiers on leave. Rollschicht--Kunstler bei der Arbeit (Endless Shift--Artist at Work, 2006), perhaps the show's standout work, is a vast cosmic montage of juvenilia--barfing, spitting, wanking, pissing, tagging, latrine duty, etc. Quite apropos Goya's Saturn Devouring His Children (1819) is Sundenbock (Scapegoat, 2005), depicting a youthful Santa Claus eating a handful of diminutive boys off a knife like peas. The Gulliver theme continues in Wehrt euch (Resist, 2005), in which a young scalawag gets attacked by a tiny track-and-field team, the sky filled with blazing toy planes. And my personal favorite, Riecher (Smeller, 2006), has the title protagonist buried up to his waist in aromatic, multicolored sneakers.

In a CAC catalogue interview, the former student of Georg Baselitz describes himself--astoundingly--as "not a realist," citing as evidence his Polaroid-based painting practice, its unfinished quality (his canvases indeed have a rough-and-ready, splattered appearance), overtones of Soviet Cold War propaganda (born 1970 in Leipzig, Bisky grew up in the German Democratic Republic), dedication to outsider art (he cites Henry Darger and Alex Katz as primary influences), and complete and utter childishness ("I come from a world where everybody wanted to control you. In a way, my paintings are like children.") And however tempting it might be to toss his roundabout cum shots and sporting/military fetishes into the queer/"lost boy" camp, labeling him a provocateur or "conceptualist" (his preferred title), they nonetheless seem too invested or overcompensated to body tackle such "ideologically infested, pseudo-heroic realms of 'paradise' or 'erotic Knabendammerungen' [twilight of the boys]."

As catalogue essayist Oliver Koener von Gustorf goes on to say, Bisky's "weightless alien planet, whose youthful inhabitants really love themselves to the point of devouring each other, and (...) where body fluids and streams of thick ectoplasm are spilled on the surface [represents the] battlefields of a fatherless society, on which everybody is at war with everybody else." Michel Foucault once described this Utopia Lost--when seen through the mirror of those sacred or forbidden places especially reserved for banished sons and daughters ("adolescents, menstruating or pregnant women, the elderly, etc.")--as a sort of "crisis heterotopia," whose remnants include such institutions as boarding schools, military service, the honeymoon trip, and retirement homes. Bisky's summer-camp bivouacs against (Stalinist, neo-Nazi, "queer") utopias are probably part of the same drill. "Either their role is to create a space of illusion that exposes every real space (...) as still more illusory (...,) or contrarily to create one that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well-arranged as ours is messy, ill-constructed, and confused" ("Of Other Spaces," 1967). Foucault describes the latter as a "heterotopia of compensation," noting how in the colonial past Christianity insinuated itself into the very geography and architecture of the New World as the "X" marking the spot of secular progress. However, while the most recent ideology views all of us as closet Christians, Foucault's utopias (hetero or otherwise) would probably prove too catholic for Bisky's tastes.
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Title Annotation:art exhibition
Author:Bernard, Stuart
Geographic Code:4EXLT
Date:May 1, 2007
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