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Haus am Waldsee

Public Institution
Bjørn Melhus – Live Action Hero (13.1.2011)
Captain, 2005; Photo: Katrin Thomas; © Bjørn Melhus / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010
Captain, 2005; Photo: Katrin Thomas; © Bjørn Melhus / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010
  Since 1987 Bjørn Melhus (b. 1966) has lived and worked in Berlin. On the international stage, he is one of the best-known video artists from Germany. Scholarships and stipends have taken the artist, who also holds a Norwegian passport, to the US and other parts of the world. His works are almost exclusively conceived, shot and produced in the city on the Spree.

“Live Action Hero” presents the entire body of work – from 1991 to 2011. All thirteen video installations in the show are displayed for the first time at a Berlin art institution.

On display are his earlier pieces relating the dream factory that is Hollywood through to his images of traumatised war veterans – who are idolised in the media since the war in Vietnam but in reality these broken personalities have little chance of returning to their social networks back home. Action movies attract an audience of millions. In real life, soldiers returning from battle find it hard to shake off the haunting nightmares of their experiences of war. Melhus addresses in his most recent pieces this situation which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thrown into sharp relief in Germany, too.

The exhibition title stems from recent projects such as “Deadly Storms” (2008), “Murphy” (2008), “Hecho in Mexico” (2009) and “Heimspiel: The Haunting” (in progress, 2011), in which Melhus is deeply concerned with the subject-matter of traumatised war veterans.

Ever since Neil Postman's efforts, the phenomenon of society's medialisation has been analysed in terms of the intrusion of television, film and video-clip as substitutes for communication and experience. The human being has been transformed into a passive consumer of mass-produced media fare. The distinctions between entertainment, dream, trauma and information become increasingly blurred. Ready-made sound-bite meanings are being served up around the clock. Experiencing the real world seems to have become

Melhus builds his own fables and stories from fragments taken from the world of motion pictures assembled by association into collages of sound and image. In doing so, he consistently plays all the roles himself and underlays them with a soundtrack of famous, mostly deceased movie stars. Since “Zauberglas” (magic glass, 1991) or “Again and Again” (1998), his core concerns are questions of personal identity, where we come from and where we go to and the boundary between oneself and the media world. The exhibition “Live Action Hero” is evidence for that while covering his entire œuvre so far, a period of twenty years.

The exhibition will also include a movie theatre which will screen four films from Melhus„ cinematographic work since 1995. Further works such as "Murphy" or “Heimspiel: The Haunting” are partly staged or presented in large projections so that the viewer will enjoy staying in the rooms for a long time.

Standing on the shoulders of such giants as Nam June Paik and Bruce Nauman, Melhus questions in words and pictures the relation between mass media and their contemporaries in the early years of the 21st century. Through his films, he succeeds in supplying his own answers. He remains a conscious part of the media world while at the same time analysing, deciphering and re-encoding it in has own narrative. Thus Melhus is never just a critical observer but always an actor responsible for his actions. The artist plays a game of duplicity that exemplifies the younger media generation. Like no other artist, he brings the absurdity of television and cinema into focus and observes their effect on his generational fellows.
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