Review: Roman Liška, “Research ‘N Motion”

DUVE Gallery, Berlin.

Research ‘N Motion was the self-describing title of Roman Liška’s first solo show atDUVE. Liška is a young painter, fresh from graduate school, who uses mixed media collages, comprising abstract printed media and textured surfaces, to critique art world economies. In lieu of a press release, a letter-headed handout simply stated, ‘This exhibition is a painting.’ However, no formal paintings were displayed. Instead, three modular walls were built with off-centre pivots, each fitted with a handle for moving the wall around and a window cut out, acting as a framing device. Each time a wall was spun and adjusted in the space, a new architectural and visual configuration was produced. The walls were cheaply decorated with retro-futuristic club-style décor: the walls at either end had one side découpaged with an abstract black and white, halftone design; the middle wall had one side grotesquely textured like a frosted ‘ugly cake’ and spray-painted a garish neon yellow.

Notably the gallery was also fully lined with the same stylized, black and white prints on the skirting boards, framing the interior as a performative space. Liška uses the modular design format to create a process orientated towards ‘experiential painting’, with the potential for continuous variation. The architecture also acted as the set design for a series of weekly curated events that took place throughout the duration of the show – either as special evening events (streamed live on the gallery’s website) or during gallery open hours where one could also find the artist himself, available for friendly conversation and a personalized introduction to the exhibition.

Liška is interested in the cooperative effort of artistic and cultural production, and the show functioned like a pop-up project space built on the foundations of a supportive network of friends and collaborators. Fortunately, he has an eye for interesting people – like designer David Rudnick, who was commissioned to produce the show’s limited edition invites which consisted of a red, liquid-filled, plastic pouch (questionably reminiscent of a blood bag), with a poem about art, Judaism and Berlin’s infamous Berghain nightclub printed on the back. For the opening event, Liška invited musician Born In Flamez to perform. Then, for the first week of the show, the gallery was turned into the workshop of the design company starstyling (Katja Schlegel and Kai Seifried). The following weeks included: presentations from the Martinique project space ‘espace d’art contemporain 14ºN 61ºW’; an installation by artist Gesa Troch; a presentation by choreographer Peter Pleyer; music by Lina Lapelyte; interdisciplinary works by Nina Wakeford and photographs by Lisanne Schulze, who documented artists’ contributions, memorializing each event in the gallery on the modular walls’ remaining blank sides. A short description by participating artist Troch sums up the experimental atmosphere of the exhibition, stating that the focus was on ‘giving privilege to the process over the result.’

Albeit exciting for its aspiring energy, Liška’s guiding focus was unclear. Though the framing device of the walls was visually successful, there seemed to be a naïveté in the nebulous curatorial vision wherein the contributing artists’ social connections to Liška were the primary reason for their participation, above and beyond content and concept. Instead of creating an institutional critique, he created a mini-institution of his own. In such a transient city, where brand-based pop-up shops and start-up projects are the weekly norm, it was difficult to differentiate what sets apart this time-limited, ‘community based’ art project.

First published in Frieze d/e Issue 12, December 2013 – February 2014.
http://frieze-magazin.de/archiv/kritik/roman-lishka/

arielle bier