Staged by Ersan Mondtag

Till 18 February 2018
MMK 2, Frankfurt

It’s dark. In the glow of the spotlights that illuminate the artworks, a black and yellow synthetic surface shimmers. The walls, floor, and ceiling – everything is covered in a smooth, plastic film. It continues in the centre of the room, taking the shape of an enormous, blow-up worm. For the exhibition I AM A PROBLEM, director and set designer Ersan Mondtag has created a dark, yet tantalizing parallel universe. In his spectacular staging of the MMK 2’s exhibition spaces, Mondtag has set in motion a dialogue between works from the museum’s collection, making them the protagonists of the narrative.

‘In the past years, the MMK has increasingly supported artistic disciplines beyond the field of fine art, for example fashion and choreography. I AM A PROBLEM is the first exhibition developed in cooperation with a theatre director. Staged by Ersan Mondtag, the exhibition deliberately shifts the focus to the realm between art and theatre,’ says Peter Gorschlüter, acting director of the MMK and curator of the exhibition.

Ersan Mondtag’s interdisciplinary work spans dance, music, performance, and installation. His productions unfold as associative chains of images and sounds, in which humankind – with its longings, emotional troughs, and passions – always takes centre stage. Mondtag’s interdisciplinary practice has numerous links to recent art history, making it perfectly suited – predestined, even – for a museum show. Thanks to his exuberant and vigorously debated productions, Mondtag is considered one of the most-watched young directors in the German-speaking world.

‘For this exhibition, I have completely redefined space in the MMK 2. I have created a narrative, an elaborate biography, for the space itself, by loading it with texts, with which the site speaks. It’s not an intervention that can be likened to ripping down walls; I hope it goes deeper than that. To a certain extent, I have reset the room to zero and overpainted it with a character, an atmosphere, a plot,’ says Ersan Mondtag of his handling of the architecture in the MMK 2’s TaunusTurm.

In a time of grotesque self-improvement and the constant pressure to succeed, the exhibition I AM A PROBLEM displays an array of identity types prevalent in contemporary society. The works selected from the MMK’s collection thereby confront visitors with the highs and lows of human existence. Mondtag has transformed the MMK 2 from a gallery space into a walk-on stage. As the title already suggests, the exhibition also thematizes the dark secret behind the ideology of self-improvement: many of the exhibited artworks examine the concept of the body as mere material, as a dynamic organism, which also happens to be a destructible object.

The point of departure for Mondtag’s staging is a legend about Maria Callas (1923–1977). In order to achieve her dream body, the world-famous opera singer is said to have swallowed a tapeworm in a gulp of champagne. As the story has it, with the help of the parasite she lost a staggering 50 kilograms within a short period of time. Callas’s uncompromising endeavour to mould her appearance after her ideal image forms one of the exhibition’s primary themes. The downside of her efforts – the dissolution of her body – forms the other.

A stylized, oversized tapeworm, made by the artist group Plastique Fantastique, takes visitors on a journey into the inner Maria Callas. On dark paths and along vermicular curves, the audience encounters border-crossers and doppelgängers, quiet rebels, failed existences, and bodies that have fallen prey to relentless self-improvement.

The works included range from Andy Warhol’s Kellogg’s Cornflakes Box to Rosemarie Trockel’s Frau ohne Unterleib and Markus Sixay’s ankle-deep confetti installation I am prepared for you, right up to a selection of the MMK’s most recent acquisitions, such as Will Benedict’s music video I AM A PROBLEM (T.O.D.D.). With an alien creature playing the main role, Benedict’s video – which has inspired the exhibition title – oscillates between offering a grotesque exaggeration and a grave diagnosis for the present time. Benedict’s work not only demonstrates some of the global crises of the 21st century; it simultaneously imagines a future in which humans see themselves faced with rival life forms, like aliens, avatars, and cyborgs.

Ersan Mondtag has traced gestures of resistance – sometimes timid, sometimes refractory – throughout the works selected from the MMK’s collection to become the modern anti-heroes of his narrative. Using texts from the author Thomaspeter Goergen – read by ensemble members of Hamburg’s renowned Thalia Theatre – Mondtag gives the artworks a voice and transforms them into performers of their own longings and fears. Their frequently conflicting dialogues revolve around existential topics inherent to human nature, like the transformative potential of identity, the striving for perfection, and the transience of organic material. Mondtag’s production reveals how corporeal metamorphoses can become symbols for private and societal disintegration. The search for perfection leads to extreme forms of aggression, fanaticism, and violence.

Featured artists:
Kader Attia, Vanessa Beecroft, Will Benedict, Bernhard Johannes Blume, Shannon Bool, Miriam Cahn, John De Andrea, Marlene Dumas, Robert Gober, Douglas Gordon, Ilja Clemens Hendel, Georg Herold, Martin Honert, Jonathan Horowitz, On Kawara, Teresa Margolles, Barry Le Va, Bruce McLean, Aernout Mik, Lutz Mommartz, Bruce Nauman, Steven Parrino, Arnulf Rainer, Bettina Rheims, Thomas Ruff, Taryn Simon, Dayanita Singh, Markus Sixay, Jack Smith, Elaine Sturtevant, Jürgen Teller, Oliviero Toscani, Rosemarie Trockel, Andy Warhol and a commissioned work from Plastique Fantastique

The exhibition is made possible by Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain

The exhibition is funded by Kulturamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

Events programme accompanying the exhibition

MMK Sunset
With the new after-work event series, the MMK 2 invites guests to an incomparable evening with cocktails in Elaine’s Deli, a DJ, go-go dancers, a short tour of the exhibition, and a journey into the inner life of the world-famous opera singer Maria Callas.
Every second Wednesday of the month, 6–11 p.m.
Dates: 11 October / 8 November / 13 December / 10 January / 14 February
€8 admission

MMK Talks
The event series MMK Talks will continue its thematic exploration of Art and Body into the second half of 2017. Artists, directors, filmmakers, and curators will discuss aspects of and questions regarding self-improvement and the deconstruction of the human body, as well as identity concepts in subcultures and contemporary art. Speakers will also explore the sensory acquisition of knowledge through the body and its social implications.
Thursday, 2 November, 7 p.m.: Ersan Mondtag in conversation with director Susanne Kennedy
Thursday, 14 December, 7 p.m.: Artist Will Benedict in conversation with filmmaker Leilah Weinraub
The MMK Talks are supported by the Deutsche Bank Stiftung.
Both talks will take place in the MMK 2. Admission free.

MMK school-holiday workshop: In the wrong film?
Transforming the exhibition in the MMK 2 into a film set, participants in the holiday workshop will develop ideas for their own storyboards. They will have the opportunity to create short films using the diverse equipment of the Deutsches Filmmuseum, including an animation table, bluescreen and pixilation effects. In absurd encounters, far-fetched dialogues and improbable meetings, young adults and artworks alike can emerge as film protagonists.
10–13 October 11 a.m.–4 p.m., MMK 2/Deutsches Filmmuseum
For teens ages 12 and up
€80, discount with the Frankfurt Pass, pre-registration necessary
In association with the Deutsches Filmmuseum

Guided tour: Through the exhibition with ... Ersan Mondtag
In a series of guided tours, experts from various disciplines and institutions will have a look at the exhibitions currently on view at the MMK.
On a walk with visitors through the exhibition I AM A PROBLEM, Ersan Mondtag will discuss its directorial concept as well as the room and sound design.
17 January, 6:30 p.m.
Included with admission, max. 25 participants, reserve a place by calling 069/ 212 40691

Film series
In association with the Deutsches Filmmuseum, a series of films selected by Ersan Mondtag will be screened throughout the duration of the exhibition. More information at www.mmk-frankfurt.de

Taunustor 1
60310 Frankfurt am Main

Telephone +49 69 212 73165
Fax +49 69 212 37882
E-Mail: mmk@stadt-frankfurt.de

MMK 2 Hours:
Tuesday–Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Wednesday: 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Closed Monday

Robert Gober: Untitled, 1991-1993, Courtesy Robert Gober, Foto: Axel Schneider
Bettina Rheims: Karen Mulder with a very small Chanel bra, 1996, Courtesy Bettina Rheims, Photo: Axel Schneider

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