JTT presents The Fool at Sea, Anna Sophie Berger’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.
Berger, who is based in Vienna and New York, embraces a diverse range media to engage with issues related to the cycle of production, distribution, and consumption. Where previous work addressed these issues through food, images and clothing, this exhibition focuses on ways in which a municipality can produce and distribute public spaces for its citizens to consume. The exhibition’s title implies that there is a fool at large, and relates to Berger’s recurrent use of a jester figure in her work. Historically the jester is a figure who is able to transcend hierarchical structures and speak truthfully to those in power on behalf of their community, but in doing so risks death. On view are new sculptures, photographs, found objects, and site-specific interventions, each featuring useful items stripped of their utilitarian value and modi ed for interests that seem at once playful and diabolical.
On the north wall of the gallery Berger has silk-screened the NYC Parks and Recreation logo to the upper corners of the gallery walls, mirroring the way it is painted on handball courts throughout the city and on signs that designate city park space. Titled sick leave, the leaf logo here is deteriorating. In a city like New York where public space is constantly threatened by private interest, this logo serves as a marker for the fragility of shared space. Like many of the works on view in The Fool at Sea, the leaves imply that the balance between a functioning state and its constituents has been disturbed.
Two steel boxes attached to chains and filled with plastic toy eyes rest on the gallery floor. Titled left and right these are Berger’s recreations of coal boxes similar to those at the Isar River in Munich, designed for the disposal of coal after grilling in a public space. Their recent implementation followed a green space restoration initiative in the city. As Berger writes about her interest in these structures: “What makes a clean city? A functioning administration or people that love tidiness? This intricate design springs from a desire to keep a public commons proper. I am interested in care – who can afford such care and what comes with it.” In Berger’s version of these coal boxes, they are filled with a display of hundreds of the same cheap plastic eyes, the kind that end up on beloved stuffed animals.
Tucked away in the back room of the gallery is The Mule. For this piece, Berger has custom-made slipcases for the existing gallery conference table and chairs out of cheap, polyester satin in bright yellows, pinks, greens and pale blues – colors associated with the traditional costume of the harlequin. The piece serves as an intervention on the “back room,” a space in the gallery reserved for commerce and sales meetings, and typically off limits to the public.
Anna-Sophie Berger (b. 1989, Vienna AT), was awarded the Ars Viva Prize in Germany in 2017 and the first Kapsch Contemporary Art Prize in Austria in 2016. Her work is currently on view at S.M.A.K in Ghent and the Contemporary Art Center in Vilinus, Lithuania. Recent solo exhibitions include the mumok in Vienna, Galerie Emanuel Layr in Rome, Studio for Propositional Cinema in Düsseldorf, and the Kunsthaus Bregenz. Berger’s work was also recently on view at the Kunstverein in Munich, The Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, the 4th Ural Industrial Biennial in Russia, and the Salzburger Kunstverein.