Steppenwolf – oder das Geräusch des urbanen Raums or the sound of urban space

27 June–26 July 2009
Opening: 26 June 2009


NGBK, Oranienstraße 25


Rineke Dijkstra, Ronald Gerber, Christian Jankowski, Nicolas Kantuser, Reynold Reynolds

Project group RealismusStudio

Christin Lahr, Simon Marschke, Mara Traumane, Frank Wagner, Susanne Weiß

The exhibition Steppenwolf or the sound of urban space centres on vulnerability, loneliness and misanthropy in 21st century society. The exhibition juxtaposes five works – four video installations and one two-part photographic work. They all present staged and accentuated versions of the everyday and deal with very marked personalities.

The exhibition’s title “Steppenwolf” leads to direct associations with Hermann Hesse’s work of the same name: to his unsettled main character, to his changes in narrative perspective and to his critique of culture and civilization. Appearing in 1927 the novel was a response reflecting the phenomena of the modern industrialized society of the 1920s and defended, perhaps for the last time, the alternative model of romantic potential and Bohemian life. What do today’s reflections look like?
Today, Steppenwolf stands for a prevailing trend towards self-discovery and existentialism as well as for the corresponding stereotype. As a term “Steppenwolf” has proved capable of trivialized use as the name of a heavy metal band, of theatre groups, a mountain bike manufacturer and an outdoor gear supplier precisely because it can serve to advertise individualism, a sense of self-will and counter-culture.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from filmmaker Nicolas Kantuser’s eponymous short film from the year 2007, whose main character is shown becoming increasingly alienated from his friends and acquaintances because of his unconditional ideas about life.
The complex relationship which exists between the individual and society as well as the uncovering of the resulting personality structures has frequently been the subject of artistic examination. The exhibition deploys a range of narrative perspectives to develop a variety of different images of personality.
The studies address social existence, its brittleness, suffering from society, acceptance of injuries, acceptance of suffering and acting out.
Another aspect driving the selection of works was the stylisation of social action and cliché, as well as how this is used as a contemporary artistic strategy to say something about the current state of civilisation.

Nicolas Kantuser’s short film “Steppenwolf” (2007) takes the discontented isolationism of Harry Haller, the central figure in Hermann Hesse’s novel “Der Steppenwolf”, as the starting point for a contemporary study of misanthropy in the metropolis.

Rineke Dijkstra’s two part photographic work from the year 2003 “Evgenya, Induction Center Tel Hashomer, Israel March 6, 2003” and “Evgenya, North Court Base Pikud, Tzafon, Israel, December 9, 2003” deals with the changes undergone by a young woman completing service in the Israeli military, and tells more about what we read into the sequence of images seen than it does about what can be read from the portraits themselves.

In his video work “Spiegelpyramide” (2009) artist Ronald Gerber himself acts out the roles of three characters, each of whom is in their own way seeking to formulate rational, emotional and esoteric ideals for themselves and for their conscious b.
“Six Apartments” (2007) is a two channel audio/video installation in which Reynold Reynolds presents rooms together with their inhabitants, characterized by advancing levels of decay and morbidity. Kito Nedo, author of the essay on the exhibition, speaks of “separation, freezing and isolation of the observed characters”.

In his video installation “Angels of Revenge” (2006) Christian Jankowski shows average individuals taking pleasure in fantasizing about murder and revenge using effects borrowed from genre of horror and splatter films.

A brochure accompanying the exhibition contains an essay by writer and journalist Kito Nedo. ISBN: 978-3-938515-29-7

Press commentary

Berliner Zeitung, 23.07.2009 (o.A.)
“In der Ausstellung ‘Steppenwolf - oder das Geräusch des urbanen Raums’ werden vier Videoinstallationen und eine zweiteilige Fotoarbeit von fünf Künstlern gegenübergestellt. Der Ausstellungstitel nimmt Bezug auf den gleichnamigen Roman von Hermann Hesse: ein Abgesang romantischer Lebensvorstellung beim Anbruch der modernen Industriegesellschaft.”