In her latest exhibition ‘Traction Flesh-Hold’ at Exgirlfriend, post-human Omsk Social Club (alter-ego of Penny Rafferty) shifts a gallery space seamlessly from white cube to stage to ego-death-platform and back again.
Unlike the previous work I have seen of Omsk Social Club, there are no performers, but bare walls and a near-empty floor instead. As people fill the sparse, glass-fronted gallery, it becomes clear who the performers are. We find ourselves at the centre of the piece, a 3-metre-high freestanding arch awkwardly framing us, an expanse of social yet dissociative space. The structure balances at unsettling angles, constructed purely with wood and painted in muted tones which are lit by soft pink fluorescent lights. It slices and divides the space, creating a splitting tension in the room and between the people lingering on either side of it. Eyes awkwardly meet through the arch, and dart away again. Bass hums quietly over a speaker, intermittently accompanied by the soft voice of (presumably) Omsk Social Club herself, an eerie sound collaboration with Berlin-based sound artist Vonverhille. As is signature in her work, subtlety is key: the hallway is lit with a yellow-green glow, two doorways leading there casting colour fields adding to the confusion and questions that the show poses just by outlining space. They highlight the extremity of the space in-between.
The accompanying text written by Karim Crippa details characters whose shoes you could fill-”You understand the wink at Baldessari, (Luciano, not John) in this show, but you refuse to acknowledge it because you dislike Baldessari (both of them)”. Acting as choreographer and gallery guide, Crippa instructs you to play a role, or five, under the name of Andrea/s. Most of the characters are familiar. Crippa’s text interrupts the reverie of meta-abstraction pervasive in the gallery and acts as a reminder of the humanity living inside the flesh suits occupying it. You find yourself inadvertently in a Real Game Play, under the varying absurd entities of Crippa’s imagining, although somehow you know these characters exist in real time at any one of the gallery openings tonight. Crippa includes an excerpt of a note scrawled during the ‘Traction Flesh-Hold’ conception: “Gossip is the new mindfulness.”
A wall note penned in liquid chalk on floating perspex is a chart of earth, fire, air and water. Various combinations of elements, “Fire x Digital = 4chan. Air x Emotional = sonic linguistics.” The piece reads as intuitive logic, a contradiction: It’s not a
￼coincidence that the perspex is transparent, as Omsk Social Club invites you to analyse nothingness as our state of existence, drifting between IRL and URL.
‘Traction Flesh-Hold’ is a palpable force somewhere in between a mind-fuck and a heady dose of ketamine, an unsettling place where dissociation takes a physical form. Omsk Social Club entertains the difficult with ease and a polished aesthetic. I’m reminded of the accompanying text to the current group show at Gr_und, ‘Core Remission’, curated by Rafferty, “Be it a colour field or a re-verb, the process of abstraction is ultimately an extension of the customary room with a view, a suicide of the now, a stage-death that just stood up for the encore.” Our room is one with a green view and it’s pulsing; the encore would seem to be right now. Whenever you begin to feel comfortable, you find another element of the space designed to stop you from reaching any sense of solid reality. The delivery is unapologetically obtuse and severe, the instructions are in the subtext; you don’t need to understand relational aesthetics to become a conduit to the (anti)social experience created by them.
Text by Naomi Bisley
￼Drifting in Digital Purgatory with Omsk Social Club Text by Naomi Bisley
OmsK Social Club
14.10.2017 - 04.11.2017
Holsteinische Straße 18
Berlin (Steglitz) , 12161