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Solitude I, II & BLEACH II

Mixed media sculptures and performance, 2016

Visitors of the exhibition enter the completely fogged space through a curtain of transparent plastic, as seen in butcher shops or workshops. For the visitors it is impossible to perceive the dimensions of the space. A monitor hanging from the ceiling in the center of the space is visible. It repeatedly displays a film of a volcanic eruption of mount Bromo on Java, Indonesia in January 2016. It also shows videos of characters completely dressed in white appearing bored, typing on cell phones in a fictitious space, as well as videos taken during the BLEACH performance.


When entering the space, the participant can see silhouettes of three characters standing not far from the monitor wearing solely white clothes, a surgical mask, surgical gloves and long white hair covering their faces. The two on both sides are holding a container of protein powder (dietary supplement). The character in the middle awaits the visitors with outflung arms, hands open, palms up. The character’s right arm is marked with the word 'all', the left arm is marked with 'nothing'. In each palm, the character offers to the participant a transparent 3 x 1,5 cm token. As there are no clear instructions, participants can only guess that they are invited to take one of the tokens, choosing between 'all' or 'nothing'. Each token contains an URL linking to the page http:// and an individual code. Every time a participant takes a token, a new token is placed into the palm. Participants can stay in the space as long as they want to. There is no limit of visitors to the space. When entering the code to the oracle page a personal oracle appears.

Fog is eerie. If it produces a whiteout, it’s frightening. The horizon has vanished; earth and sky can no longer be distinguished. Everything looks faded, equally bright, ground, space, ceiling. No contrasts, no shadows. Just one vast emptiness. That can be life-threatening in the mountains; in the white cube of a museum, whiteout challenges perception. There are no visual holds. The mind moves into top gear. No clues, no orientation. A video can be distinguished – of Mount Bromo erupting. A confusion of thoughts. Where are we? What’s the point? How to escape this oppressive situation? The installation and the performance BLEACH taking place within it expose viewers to a precarious experience. When we finally escape the unremitting white, we necessarily walk into darkness. Having left natural space behind, we find ourselves in an art space again. In it, a glass tower stands on bone-like supports. Things seen dangling from the ceiling on a sculptural disk are more or less vital to survival: salt solution, dried food. No holds are barred in the video projected onto the floor: open brain surgery, while live streaming on three smartphones shows what the artist group U5 are filming. You may see them in Asia climbing a volcano and gazing into the Earth’s interior. They investigate its riddles – and those of the brain. U5’s artists are on the road as a group with no individual signature but with a shared handwriting – and they have been for ten years. If you end up in a whiteout, the rule is: stop and stay together. If you’re alone, you are confronted with yourself. There’s no telling if the fog will lift. But it does in the performance BLEACH – in a surprising way.

(Exhibition text by Peter Schneider)

For the exhibition Beyond Every Mountain Is Another Mountain U5 developed three art works: Solitude I, Solitude II and BLEACH II:

Beyond Every Mountain Is Another Mountain, 2016
Helmhaus, Zürich, Switzerland
Group Show

curated by Huang Mei, Simon Maurer, Li Zhenhua, Daniel Morgenthaler, Primo Mazzoni, Michael Vonplon

with works by 9mouth, Luciano Castelli, Gregory Hari, Hu Jieming, Hu Weiyi, Chantal Kaufmann, Tan Ping, Tian Xiaolei, U5

Solitude I, 2016
120 x 120 x 150 cm
acrylic glass, 3 iPhones, microsurgical instruments, humidifier, projector, artificial hair, 3D-prints (PLA), salt solution, cannabis, vaporizer, dietary supplement, mixed media

Solitude II, 2016
80 x 65 x 280
3D-prints (PLA), acrylic glass 

BLEACH II, 2016 
dimensions variable 
video, performance, fog

Solitude I and II are two parts of one work, they refer to each other. Like other works by U5, Solitude I and II lead into a bizarre world; in this case it is the world of body modification and its (supposed) optimization. What naturally belongs to the human body and how can the body be worked on using such abstruse means as 'nipple whitener', something that is an integral part of countless cosmetics blogs? Brightly colored tufts of artificial hair hang down from the Plexiglas window and, together with fragrances emanating from a humidifier, add to the artificiality. Surgical instruments and a video projected onto the floor of a neurosurgical intervention into a brain open up the possibility space for manipulations of the body even further. At the same time, the scope of these body modifications is put at a distance in the reduced and floatingly light form of the object Solitude I - especially when presented in the clean ambience of the White Cube, which naturally contributes to the anonymous impression of the installation. With the impression of the impersonal, Solitude I then also goes beyond the purely body-related modification and external representation of modern humans. 

The question is raised not only how humans present himself, but also where. Where does reality take place, where is the living world? This aspect becomes visible through the images of the live stream on the smartphones, which also dangle down from the Plexiglas pane. The human being is present here only as an artificial surrogate, in fragments and virtual images on the cell phone display.

Solitude II takes up the aspects evoked by Solitude I as a sculpture made of 3-D prints and Plexiglas panes. 3-D prints can be described as a radically artificial way of saying goodbye to all the objects of everyday life and the body previously perceived as real and natural, in favor of a digitally generated variant made of plastics. Solitude II takes this to the extreme with the white bone-like elements that stand between the Plexiglas panes and anthropomorphize the object. Associations with the spine also open up due to the staggered structure of discs and bone shapes. Solitude II alludes to something natural with all the means of artificiality, but stands before the viewer as a highly artificial object. With the LED treadmill resting on one of the discs, another aspect of the blurring of naturalness and artificiality is raised.


'Trust' can be read there in red letters. In the context of Solitude I and the anthropomorphizing structure of Solitude II, this exposition of the word 'trust' can also be understood as a question. Trust in what, one would like to ask, what does this term refer to? In the field of tension between virtuality and reality, between authenticity and artificiality of life, trust is a concept of utmost sensitivity and relevance. What can be believed, what is real, which points of reference are offered and enable a person to be located in the (virtual and real) world?


(Text: Eva Wruck)

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