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29 Mar 2011

BERNADETTE CORPORATION at Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna

Galerie Meyer Kainer


Duration: Apr 6 - May 7, 2011 Opening hours Gallery: Tue-Fri 12am-7pm, Sat 11am-4pm Opening hours Boltenstern.Raum: Tue-Fri 3pm-7pm, Sat 11am-4pm

Renate Kainer

Galerie Meyer Kainer
Eschenbachgasse 9
1010 Vienna

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The Tale: Some travellers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. The villagers are unwilling to share any of their food with them. The travellers fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travellers answer that they are making 'stone soup', which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor. The villager does not mind parting with just a little bit of carrot to help them out, so it gets added to the soup. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious pot of soup is enjoyed by all.

The collective: Bernadette Corporations is a floating 'collective' whose principals members are Bernadette Van-Huy, John Kelsey, Jim Fletcher, and Antek Walczak.
„Since beginning their work together in 1994, Bernadette Corporation has produced several issues of Made in USA, a fashion and cultural magazine; Get Rid of Yourself, a feature-length documentary centered around the anti-globalization riots; Reena Spaulings, a collectively written novel about a twenty-something protagonist whose modeling debut in an underwear shoot is disrupted by a natural disaster; as well as occasional writings and videos. Adopting their name as 'the perfect alibi for not having to fix an identity' at a moment when branding was the buzzword in fashion, Bernadette Corporation has always looked to the fashion world as a template or mirror of the cultural industry at large.' (Chris Kraus)

The making-of: For the exhibition Stone Soup Bernadette Corporation commissioned a photo shoot from photographer Alex Antitch in the style of a typical ad campaign for luxury jewelry. Wearing nothing but 18k gold and silver jewelry loaned from Judith Ripka, the model was posed against a seamless backdrop, on a chair, and on a moving blanket in a photo studio setup.
Bernadette Corporation's nude images are processed in a variety of ways:
First the image is retouched to perfect the body image by a professional and by an amateur (by Bernadette Corporation).
The images are also formatted as 'model cards' (including body measurements, shoe size, eye color, etc) and vinyl banners (a technique common to outdoor advertising), and sometimes combined with scanned potato prints (a craft art form, sometimes associated with children's fun), interrupting the smooth, campaign-like transmission and repetition of fashion ad images.
There is a contrast between the potato as simple food, associated with poverty and the exclusiveness of the model-photos.
Potato prints are cheap and Digital services per contra are expensive, but there is a similarity as well: The word retouching appears similar to the way a potato print is made (touching a surface to make an imprint).

Other Show Elements: Videos on flat screen TV monitors present a sequence of 'Happy Slap' videos: Young people film each other slapping or kicking unsuspecting members of the public, or each other. They text these mini-films to their friends, and before long they are being watched by schoolchildren. A trend down the UK.
It was an extension of traditional schoolchildren's propensity towards adolescent violence into the realm of the social image and its shared, networked, communication. It also coincided with reality TV.
Just like the association between retouching and the imprint of a potato, one can make associations between the top-down flow and democratization of the social reality TV image (Happy Slaps) in the hands of the public and as well the ever strengthening influence of the fashion image in everyday life.
So what we have here is a kind of poor appropriation of the media image, an impoverishment of sorts of that realm.
At the same time we have the indications of a change of an ethical question: 'What can be done to a body?' It's as if we're speaking about the body from a peripheral position and a fundamental immateriality. The body is something to be modified (violently and idealistically) in terms of an image.

The artist's gesture: between the control and management of digital information and the regressive, repetitive stamping of potatoes. Potato prints are scanned and reorganized in a design program as narrow and step-oriented as the influence of image-making in general.
But then, there is the potato as a poor trace and his decisive historical role on populations around the world.
Bernadette Corporation's thinking is deeply political, but unlike 'political' art, Bernadette's projects seek to capture the present and amplify it. Their work – whether in video, visual images, print media – is always inherently materialist and formal.

DURATION: APR 6 - MAY 7, 2011