Der pinkelnde Tod or what the dead do at Kunstverein Bielefeld / Bielefeld

Der pinkelnde Tod or what the dead do / Curated by Oriane Durand

Lewis Hammond, Rosa Joly, Özgür Kar, Ana Mendieta, Phung-Tien Phan,Benoît Piéron, Raphaela Vogel, Apichatpong WeerasethakulSebastian Wiegand

Kunstverein Bielefeld
Welle 61
33602 Bielefeld
 photo: Fred Dott

Tod am Wasser(Der pinkelnde Tod),in Eng: Death by the Water(Pissing Death),is the title of an 1881painting by the Leipzig-born artist Max Klinger. It shows a skeleton, standing on the bank of a river, peeing in to the water. With this grotesque scene, Klingeron the one hand demystifies the omnipresent threat of the Grim Reaper, and on the other, he depicts him as functioning being. This art historical reference in the exhibition titleDer pinkelndeTod or what the dead doprovidea starting point for reflection on the relationship of the living to deathtoloss and to mourning in Western society. Kunstverein Bielefeld is pleased to present a selection of works by Lewis Hammond, Rosa Joly, Özgür Kar, Ana Mendieta, Phung-Tien Phan, Benoît Piéron, Raphaela Vogel, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Sebastian Wiegand, who each explore this theme in personal, philosophical, spiritual and political ways.

The Covid-19 health crisis has revealed a collective panic about the fragility of the human body, not to mention death. This reaction has made clear how uncomfortable the subject is, another seem to befew alternative means or rituals, other than mourning, to accompany the feeling of emptiness that the death ofa loved one can leave behind. With this idea, Belgian sociologist of science and psychologist Vinciane Despret introduces her book Au bonheur des morts (Our GratefulDead,2015).From the end of the 19thcentury, the secular and official view prevailed in the West that death only gives way to nothingness. Where there was closeness before, now there is nothing. As a result, mourning, in its simplified Freudian interpretation, has seemingly become the only way to deal with death. Mourning, "the author explains, instructs the living to sever ties with the deceased.

But do we really want to cut our connection to the dead? Do we want to grieve? And above all, do we have a choice? Sometimes the dead haunt us in our dreams, visiting us, leaving signs or even asking us to do things for them. In Beloved(1987),American author Toni Morrison’ sharrowing novel about the history of slavery in America, one of the deceased characters even comes back in the flesh. Whether this story is metaphorical or not, it nevertheless shows the weightthe presencewith which the dead stand in our lives. In their afterlife, they can be very active. Of course, one may smirk about all this and rationalize it away. Nevertheless, the dead do not cease to manifest themselves. Thus, Despret also emphasizes that "the dead are only really dead when you stop talking to them, that is, when you stop caring for them.

Because of their new existenceor better: their new mode of existence”the dead demand a place in the life of the livingRoland Barthes’ Journal de Deuil (Mourning Diary in Englishoffers one interpretation of what it might mean to give space to someone who has died. Over a period of two years following his mothers death, the French author collected the impressions of his daily grief. The pages of the book, which always remind him of his mother, become a place where she continues to subsist. Through his words, Barthes gives her an enriched posthumous being.

Thus, the exhibition Der pinkelnde Tod or what the dead do arises from this urgency to give death a place in life, a place that brings life closer to death and where these two states do not appear in binary opposition. Through memories, sacralized objects, rituals and the works’ emphasis on the invisible and the unspeakable, death becomes this ever-changing entity, a source of fluidity between the exterior and the interior, the before and the after, the other and the self. Perhaps a way to re-enchant death.