Klaus Weber: NONUMENTS
Duration of the exhibition: 01.12.19 – 16.02.20, 24 / 7
Berlin-based artist Klaus Weber works in a variety of media, and channels many disciplines of specialist knowledge: from engineer to anthropologist, from bee-keeper to anatomist. His ongoing explorations of natural, technological and socio-political forces, look to investigate our relationships with the environments we live in. By poking at the rational veneer of everyday life — sometimes subtly, sometimes with catastrophic metaphorical consequences — Weber delivers an untamable, anarchic humour.
In his exhibition at the Volksbühne pavilion, Weber critically engages with monuments and memorials to bring into question society’s deepest belief systems. Traditional monuments – typically bound to ideas of national identity – depict heroic narratives and glorious victories. Everyday human failings, doubts and imperfections hardly feature. NONUMENTS is the name Weber uses to describe his contrarian proposals for public monuments. They are contemporary memento mori that reflect on late capitalist culture with an edgy, uncomfortable wit.
The exhibition includes several sculptures, some are models for yet-to-be realised public monuments or temporary interventions. “Snowman” for example: Atop an over-elaborate neoclassically styled pedestal, where one might expect to see an illustrious commander carved in stone, there is a snowman with a cigarette in its mouth and a bottle top for a hat, posed without pretence, like an irreverent anti-hero. This eternal snowman couldn’t care less about the threat of melting. The thick frost around the exterior of its copper body is maintained by the constant circulation of refrigerated spirits in its interior cavity. Weber’s sculptures often exhibit such cyclical processes.
“Burning Insurance” is a small-scale model of an insurance company headquarters in Berlin Wittenbergplatz, perpetually and quietly burning without expansion. Adopting the format of the diorama – a miniature dramatic scene common in the nineteenth century – unsophisticated lighting and a smoke machine give the crude illusion of a raging fire. In similarly deadpan dramatic mode, “Fountain Bus” depicts an ominously deserted roadside scene where a single storey commuter bus has apparently veered off the road, becoming stranded on top of an overturned fire hydrant. As it fills with a torrent of water, the bus is transformed into a farcical water feature, endlessly filling and tipping, filling and tipping. These two NONUMENTS are sculptural closed-circuits, maintaining states of endless, perilous, equilibrium.
“Brick Shoes” is a pair of classic black leather slip-on shoes, evoking an “Old World gentleman” or aspirational businessman, bound with cement to two bricks. As an image they recall a cliché comic book prank, or perhaps something more sinister — apparently the Italian mafia would set a murder victim’s feet in cement so that their body would sink to the bottom of a river. Whatever conclusions we draw, the owner of the shoes is nowhere to be seen.