Trophäen/ Trophies is a performance project by WHITE MARKET, a performance label founded in 2009 by artists Claudia Kappenberg (London UK) and Dorothea Seror (Munich, Germany).
WHITE MARKET was set up to investigate, through performance practice, the distribution of value within the art institution, exploring performance as merchandise, the body as material and gesture as form. WHITE MARKET was chosen as the name for the initiative, to both foreground contemporary Art as a market, and to build on and reference the performance group Black Market International, whose name implies that performance can take place outside of, and independent from, the established art institutions.
Based on the premise, that performance art today is shaped by and valued through the art institutions Kappenberg and Seror set out to develop a performance practice that would directly play on art as a form of market and performatively deploy all manor of market strategies whilst subverting the credibility of the procedures. To explore and challenge the mechanisms of the market economy WM acts at the crossroads between art and the everyday and the artist’s body operates as the interface between different systems and values, displacing and subverting familiar activities and shifting their contexts. In this methodology one system is displaced by another. In turn the interventions invite different kinds of experiences which also add new values to the art market.
The collaboration constitutes an extension of Kappenberg’s research into the role of transient performed actions and durational interventions within a capitalist framework that is determined by the production of productivity and the accumulation of wealth. The performance work proposes a use of uselessness, that is a deliberate performance of minor or useless acts, to make space for alternative modes of experience and alternative economic thinking and to reconsider notions such as excess, waste, loss and redundancy.
Trophäen/ Trophies (Munich 2010/ Darmstadt 2011) was conceived for a small gallery space housed in the former gents toilets of a large international fruit market in the centre of Munich, Germany. Given the rituals of the location MW decided to also open a market stall with the intention to mimic the procedures of the international trade. This would allow different aspects of the market economy to bleed across, and fuse with, the making and performing of art.
The performers gathered rejected plush toys which were freely available in large numbers, to facilitate market-stall activities. Passers-by were invited to take part in a process, by which discarded plush toys were selected, beheaded and mounted as trophies. As in a fairground stall these were used for games such as throwing rings or playing darts. As prizes visitors received traditional market paper bags filled with plush toy relics such as skins or cotton filling, all stamped and signed by WM. To conclude the artists auctioned the toy trophies themselves, whereby visitors could either witness the event or engage in trading themselves. By mimicking different aspects of the market economy The WM project disturbed one system by creating another. Discarded objects were performatively subjected to a series of processes and transformed into a new set of things that had value and status according to the logic of the art market.
The event was part of an initiative for the regeneration of the market halls by the Realitätsbüros in collaboration with the Experimental-Raum Galerie von Roit (Hoya|München) and the Galerie la (Berlin). Supported by: Grossmarkthalle Munich and Kulturreferat Munich.
A second installment of Trophäen/ Trophies was commissioned by Vogelfrei 9 and took place in and around the hunting museum of Jagdschloss Kranichstein (Darmstadt, Germany) in 2011. In this context the intervention compared and contrasted the mechanisms of the industrial economy and the art market with the tradition of hunting. The original deer hunt in Kranichstein had not been a gentle affair and the transformation of plush animals into trophies at the White Market stall performed comparable acts.
In preparation for the exhibition Ms White and Ms Market issued a call for the collection of discarded plush animals and the citizens of Darmstadt brought hundreds of them in all sizes and colours. At the stall visitors were invited to join a game, either playing darts aiming for stretched out skins of former plush toys or throwing rings over toy animal heads. A win would enable the visitor to select one of the collected toy animals and to hand it to the artists, who would sever the head and mount it on wooden slats and invite the prize winner to add his or her signature. The artists also skinned the animals as in a professional hunter’s fashion and nailed the skins to the dart board. Sets of trophies were taken into the castle and placed amongst the rows of antlers in the museum for the duration of the art exhibition. To conclude the intervention the artists auctioned the toy trophies thus engaging audiences in determining the value of their art objects. As in the first instalment of Trophäen /Trophies in Munich the discarded objects were transformed into a new set of things while the display of the individually signed toy trophies in amongst the dear antlers of the museum also disturbed the order of the hunting museum and caused much debate between the visitors and museum patrons alike.
Trophäen/ Trophies combines a number of strategies, such as the collection and re-use of discarded objects, the mimicking of fairground games and hunting rituals as well as museum-like exhibition formats and auctions, to reveal and critique a systemic and skewed determination of values within the art institution and the culture at large, both of which are fixated on and revolve around objects as markers of worth and promise of wealth. WM has developed a performance strategy which adopts, displaces and subverts the traditional exchange mechanisms in order to foreground the question of value as such. Interventions address the visitor in a direct manor in order to facilitate an individual experience and personal involvement in that which is under critique.
Performances also reinstate the artist’s agency and her gestures as values in their own right, to promote Art as a vestige and a legitimate space for experience, as well as for loss, leisure or excess, within a wider contemporary economic context. With this premise WM comes close to the performance practice as advanced by Black Market, but does not assume such a space. Rather, WM directly addresses and plays with the constraining factors such as institutional powers, economic pressures and cultural conventions that dominate everyday life.
Further information on Trophäen/ Trophies
WHITE MARKET Market Stall at the Klohäuschen Munich
Liquidation of the WHITE MARKET Stall at the Klohäuschen, Munich
Trophäen / Trophies, Jagdschloss Kranichstein, Darmstadt
Rainer Hein, Kunstbiennale "Vogelfrei", Jäger und Sammler im alten Park
FAZ, Frankfurter Allgemeine, 03/07/2011
Astrid Ludwig, "Kopflose Plüschhasen", Frankfurter Rundschau, 17. Juni 2011
Bettina Bergstedt, "Gekauft, geliebt und aussortiert", Darmstädter Echo, 5. August 2011
Hessentip, broadcast on 17th June 2011, 6.50pm
Hr2_kultur, commentary by Alf Haubitz, 21st June 2011