Past Friday saw the opening of John Bock’s first solo exhibition at the Sprüth Magers gallery in Mitte – it’s called Knick-Falte in der Schädeldecke (though you probably shouldn’t even try to translate this title, I’ll still give it a try: folding line in the skullcap), presenting three groups of work from between 2010 and 2014.
This might be already commonplace in contemporary art, but Bock’s work is not confined to one medium. And although he works with film, installations, sculptures, performances, lectures, and drawings, his thumbprint is instantly recognizable. His subject is best described as a grotesque chaos, a macabre playfulness that is usually suppressed to maintain “our linguistic conventions, art-historical verities, and social orders” – as the press text puts it.
While Bock’s art can sometimes be shocking (see the above picture of an installation that is only visible when you open the white curtains of a hospital bed), it always lacks the necessary realism to make it disgustingly traumatizing (remember the cut-off arm in Paul McCarthy’s WGG?). Instead the results are more humorous due to the theatrical elements.
The main room of the gallery hosts a new installation called Unzone Eierloch (entirely untranslatable), in which a film with the same name is projected amidst a number of installations and sculptures referring to the film. The press text calls it an “experimental film, horror film, road movie, rom-com, gangster film, sci-fi film, trash film and criminal drama” simultaneously. This redundancy-ridden string of references already says a lot about the difficulty of pinning down Bock’s work – there’s no way to “fully get it”, which not entirely coincidentally also makes it a lot easier to “just enjoy” as long as you can let go of the urge to rationalize it. Though Bock’s art plays with a lot of references and can rightfully be called immersive, I doubt it’ll make viewers “reconsider the terms and ideas upon which he has uncritically established the foundations of his life” (again, the press-text, written in inscrutable I.A.E.), but it is an exhibition that will make you laugh (sometimes), shiver (more often) and, overall, confused.
John Bock’s Knick-Falte in der Schädeldecke is on view until April 12th.