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19 Apr 2010

IRWIN: Was ist Kunst Hugo Ball at Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich

IRWIN: Was ist Kunst Hugo Ball, 2008 / 2010
(Bishop Metodij Zlatanov, Metropolitan of the Macedonian Christian Orthodox Church, with Hugo Ball)
Courtesy by Galerija Gregor Podnar, Berlin

Was ist Kunst Hugo Ball
Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich


Opening day:
20 April 2010, at 6 p.m. Duration:
from 20 April 2010 to 6 June 2010
A project by IRWIN with Bishop Metodij Zlatanov, Metropolitan of the Christian-Orthodox Church in Macedonia

Adrian Notz
+41 43 268 57 20

Cabaret Voltaire
Spiegelgasse 1
CH-8001 Zürich

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IRWIN: Was ist Kunst Hugo Ball at Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich

We are honoured to announce the presence of Bishop Metodij Zlatanov, Metropolitan of the Christian-Orthodox Church in Macedonia, at the opening of Slovenian artist collective IRWIN´s exhibition Was ist Kunst Hugo Ball. He will recite poems from his cycle Die Energie des Unaussprechbaren: Gebete für H.B. (The Energy of the Unspeakable: Prayers for H.B.), written specifically for Hugo Ball.

IRWIN has dealt with the subject of icons in their series Was ist Kunst since 1984. In direct reference to the Last Futurist Exhibition 0,10, staged in St. Petersburg in 1915, IRWIN presents the pictures of their series in similar 'Petersburg hanging' fashion as the Suprematists did, Malevich's Black Square hanging in the corner facing the entrance, the place where one would expect an icon to hang, thus turning into an icon in its own right and becoming what this painting has been for years: the essential modern icon. IRWIN used Malevich's Black Square, other Suprematist icons and other motives from the hystory of art and formulated them into a new whole. In 1995, when Was Ist Kunst was translated into icons, IRWIN selected a number of it's own formulations out of the entire Was Ist Kunst body of works and started, following the tradition of icon painting, to copy them. Images from both series are connected by specific frames that are used to homogenize the diversity of aspects.
On the occasion of the exhibition Was ist Kunst Hugo Ball IRWIN will present 'IRWIN-framed' Greek-Orthodox icons, courtesy of Visconty Fine Arts Gallery Ljubliana, in the crypt of Cabaret Voltaire.
Icons do not reconstruct reality as if someone were lookin through a window into a different world. Rather, by adhering to strict rules, their painters succeed in fixing in an image the actual presence of holiness. Icons are ritualistic tools which do not represent holiness but are the substance itself, thus giving direct access to divinity.
Their function as ritualistics tools brings icons very close to what Hug Ball tried to achieve with Dada. Dada was neither a 'style' nor a 'movement of art', but a gesture Ball thought would help him obtain mystic insights. He conceived of this notion the night he was intoning phonetic poems in the guise and voice of a bishop. On 18 June 1921 Ball wrote in his diary Flucht aus der Zeit (1927): 'When I came across the word 'Dada' Dionysius called upon me twice. D.A. - D.A.' He was not talking about Bacchus (Dionysus), but Dionysious Areopagita, a controversial mystic from the 5th century A.D. Ball had published a book about in 1923 entitled Byzantinisches Christentum.

The exhibition Was ist Kunst Hugo Ball will confront Orthodox icons with IRWIN-framed Dada works, complying with Dionysius' invocation. We will put on show the magazines Cabaret Voltaire of 1916 and Dada 4-5 of 1919, as well as the famous photograph of Hugo Ball as magical bishop dressed in a Cubist costume. Furthermore, there will be a large-scale photograph of Bishop Metodij Zlatanov, Christian-Orthodox Metropolitan of Macedonia, produced specifically for this exhibition and showing him holding in his hands an original Dada work from the Kunsthaus Zürich as if it was an icon in a procession.

IRWIN, Cabaret Voltaire and theologian Dr. Johannes Hoff from the University of Wales would like to translate into English Hugo Ball's book Byzantinisches Christentum – Drei Heiligenleben (Byzantine Christianity – Three Hagiographies), which was published by Duncker & Humboldt, Munich and Leipzig, in 1923. As indicated by the title, the book consists of three chapters each of which deals with the life of a saint: Joannes Klimax, Dionysius Areopagita and Symeon Stylites, respectively. This book is an essential part of cultural history. All the more surprising therefore that, although available in German, Swedish and Russian, it has never been translated into English.

We would like to thank Visconti Fine Arts, Ljubljana, Lazo Vujic, and the Schweizerische Literaturarchiv, Bern, for their loans.

We also would like to extend our thanks for their support to the City of Zürich, to Gallery Gregor Podnar Berlin/Ljubljana, to the Kunsthaus Zürich and to Geri Krischker, photographer.