Ken Okiishi “Screen Presence” at Museum Ludwig

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Arts Foundation of of North Rhine-Westphalia has paired up 25 international artists with 25 art museums in the region. The artists have been asked to interact with the galleries’ permanent collections in order to produce exclusive works that will be shown alongside the originals that inspired them.

On Tuesday night New York artist Ken Okiishi spoke about the installation “Screen Presence” that he has produced in collaboration with Museum Ludwig for the 25/25/25 project.

Inspired by two specific works from the Ludwig’s permanent collection: Yves Klein’s “Blau-Abkommen” and Günther Uecker’s nail relief “weiß-weiß”, Okiishi’s installation consists of four LED monitors that have been carefully positioned at three specific points around the museum. The first monitor rests directly opposite “weiß-weiß” and like a twisted twin sister the flat-screen displays a full-size image of Uecker’s original, the surface of which is disturbed by the real-life nails that have been stuck side-down onto it.

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Whilst this first monitor plays with our perception the second questions our outlook. Positioned in the Haubrich collection opposite a portrait of the collector, it displays a video image of the first monitor, the appearance of which is distorted by the light-refracting translucent oil paint that Okiishi has brushed onto its surface. The reflective paint and careful positioning of the monitor cleverly interact with the surrounding collection and several of the works appear mirrored as a backdrop on the screen’s surface.

The final part of the installation consists of two monitors placed next to one another. Positioned in a room that overlooks the Rhine the two screens are inspired by Yves Klein’s “Blau-Abkommen”, whilst one captures the frantic and ever-changing trajectory of several museum artworks across its flickering screen, the other displays a tranquil Klein blue.

“Screen Presence” is more than just a clever comment on the interface-obsessed interaction of our age. Okiishi’s use of flat-screens as canvases creates a skilful contradiction: whilst physically distancing the viewer from the original work it simultaneously encourages engagement. By displaying the works of Uecker and Klein as if they were on iPad screens, modern-day audiences are forced to reconsider the way in which they have become accustomed to viewing art.

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“Screen Presence “ will be on display at Museum Ludwig until February.

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Museum Ludwig: Ludwig Goes Pop

Founded in 1976 The Ludwig Museum is Cologne’s answer to The Tate Modern or MoMa. Not only is it the city’s largest contemporary art gallery but it houses one of the world’s most extensive Pop Art collections. Resting at the foot of Cologne’s iconic cathedral or ‘Dom’ the museum’s prominent location makes it impossible to miss. Yet it wasn’t until I found myself with nothing to do on a a rainy Monday that I finally walked through its illustrious doors.

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Last week the museum celebrated the opening of a new exhibition: ‘Ludwig goes Pop’ an exclusive display of Peter and Irene Lud­wig’s very own Pop Art collection that will be running until January next year. The museum was named after the Ludwigs for a reason and whilst normally a private collection would not be substantial enough to give an overview of an entire art movement, theirs, is an exception to the rule.

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The breadth of collection is such that the show has been divided into no less than eleven sections. From ‘Con-sumption is cool’ to ‘Stars and Starlets’ visitors are treated to an in-depth and accessible study of everything and anything Pop Art. From Warhol’s most iconic work to a more obscure Paolozzi sculpture, nothing has been left out.

Physically and conceptually the exhibition is flawless although personally I realised that I don’t much like Pop Art. Whilst being surrounded by brash aesthetics and crass colours made me want to get the hell out of there, this is probably the precise reaction that the Pop Artists wished to provoke from their audience in the first place.

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