Hello Darkness, 2002, installation mixed media
Death and the maiden – Olaf Breuning: Hello Darkness
There is a gaping hole in the wall of the gallery and rubble lies scattered about. A trail of destruction guides visitors into a foggy room with music and distorted voices. Blinded by rotating spotlights, they follow the light-tunnel and finally come upon a group of figures.
A life-sized sex doll is still holding the axe in her hand, with which she has violently hacked her way into the interior. She is lying in a coffin and is having a dialogue with death, which is also life-sized, a skeleton.
Swinging an axe like his figure and far removed from the minimalist art of denial and scepticism, Olaf Breuning also makes his way through the most diverse formal languages, quotidian and spectacular, but always highly topical. He pulls all the stops. He uses stateof-the-art technology, works with shock effects from the entertainment industry and, if possible, always tries to go to the extreme. Maximally overloaded with meaning and absolutely drenched in symbolism, the installation "Hello Darkness" tells not just one story, but countless stories, stacked up on top of each other, implicitly alluded to, contradictory stories. The axe, coffin and earth tell of horror and action films. Fog machine and strobe light are familiar from clubs and pop concerts, current symbols of a society committed to fun. The plastic skeleton, which is used in the healthcare system takes up the topic of death and the body. It sings to the melody of the ring of a mobile telephone, which in turn is itself an estranged sound. The latex sex doll corresponds to the state of the art in the porno industry. Vis-à-vis the skeleton it opens up the entire gamut of life and death, love and hate, naivety and decadence. With this confrontation of the skeleton and sex doll, "Hello Darkness" can also be read as a contemporary formulation of perhaps the best-known motif from medieval dances of death: Death and the Maiden. Against this background, the characteristic trait of Breuning´s installation stands out particularly clearly. Not only the figures, but everything here is a citation – the objects, the ceremonious, sombre atmosphere, even the memento mori from the baroque period here becomes a pseudo-religious message. But precisely because the installation consists only of citations, it allows us to experience how what is ostensibly pseudo has long since become reality, whereas conversely, our ideas of what is genuine have been degraded to a myth. If tongue-in-cheek citations are made here, this is not merely alienation technique, but contemporary realism. Welcome to Olaf Breuning´s universe of artificial realities and cited artificialities, of real figures of art and the living dead.
Andreas Pfister, Zurich, 23 January 2003