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Mixed media installation and performance, 2017

curated by Eva Wruck

The spatial installation waves deals with Europe, whereby various facets of Europe appear: Europe as a mythical figure, whose abduction Ovid tells of in the Metamorphoses, Europe as a union of countries, as a political and cultural institution, Europe as a continent and as a quasi-national identification factor for its inhabitants. The subject matter is no coincidence, as the question of Europe's legitimacy and function has been raised in the recent past with the attempts at separation by England and Catalonia.


In the work of U5, not only migration movements and orientation difficulties play a role, but also globalization and the loss of individuality, as well as the problem of an appropriate, catchy representation of Europe. While America has 'stars and stripes' and the White House, Europe's parliament in Strasbourg, for example, hardly conjures up an image. Even if the comparison between the USA and Europe is not entirely accurate due to their different structures, it does highlight the problem: Europe seems to lack immediately plausible offers of identification. The installation opens up problem areas, all of which fan out different aspects of the field of tension between individuality and collectivism: dual identification (national and European), public, virtual and private space, globalization represented by consumption and cultural individuality. In this way, waves also addresses the fundamental theme of the artists' collective, which deals with precisely these aspects.


The installation is structured by eight tents, separated from each other by blue curtains and furnished with cushions and devotional objects of various kinds: Orchids, incense sticks and other offerings derived from Buddhism can be found here alongside surgical instruments, miracle trees and tokens, to name just a few elements. Each tent is decorated with a symbol taken from the I Ching, an ancient Chinese oracle that can give advice and instructions, but can also open up philosophical and political insights. I Ching is also known as the 'Book of Changes' and accordingly, movement, change and chance play a central role here. In the installation, U5 combine Far Eastern traditions and elements with the theme of Europe, so that the former colonial policy also appears on the horizon as the beginning of globalization, as it were. In all its disorientation and processuality, Europe's future seems to be questioned by means of the I Ching, but without resulting in predictions or interpretations.

The situation oscillates between revealing and concealing, fluctuating between private and public. Associations of military hospitals, refugee shelters and voting booths come to mind, places that are all characterized by an interplay of private and public space. The increasing interweaving of these two types of space, which is being promoted by the virtualization and digitalization of the living environment, is taken up here thematically and in other elements of the installation. At the end of the tent aisle, for example, there is a wall made of transparent plastic bottles filled with water, whose labels have been replaced with fragments of words.

The field of tension unfolds between the material presence of the bottle wall and the immateriality of the virtual space to which the words refer. In addition, there are white books in front of the tents and at the entrance to the installation, which have been covered with text fragments from spam mails and refer to both the anonymity and the (material and content-related) insubstantiality of large parts of the Internet.


Globalization and the loss of individuality with a tendency towards arbitrariness is taken up by U5 using the example of consumption. Instead of the yellow stars of Europe, the blue curtains display the wave-like distorted, yellow logo of the omnipresent coffee house chain Starbucks, while the colors refer not only to Europe, but also to the international furniture giant IKEA, thus seeming to suggest Europe and globalized consumption as interchangeable concepts. Is Europe more than a brand whose (political) power can be equated with economic power? Is Europe a one-dimensional construct that is particularly geared towards economic optimization and therefore functions in a similar way to a global company such as Starbucks or IKEA? It is possible that the difficulty many Europeans have in finding their bearings, be it in terms of party politics or identity politics, arises above all from the impossibility (and perhaps also the lack of necessity) of uniting cultures that have developed over centuries under a new concept. Who needs Europe and why, one might ask. In this respect, Europe is a similar phenomenon of excessive demands as globalization, which pursues the goal of a worldwide identity based on consumption.

The opening of the exhibition was organized performatively by U5 in collaboration with musician Vivien Wang. While Wang electronically distorted Beethoven's op. 111 so that the music remained only as a trace, U5 lay in the tents wearing masks and dressed upside down.

(Text: Eva Wruck)

Waves was developed in 2017 in collaboration with Vivian Wang (sound) for the exhibition at Kunstverein Bochum and was curated by Eva Wruck.

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