The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers: 2.4 Kirsten Pieroth

December 02, 2008 to January 03, 2009

German artist Kirsten Pieroth's practice often centers on the corruption of everyday items, creating a tension between the literal and abstract readings of these objects as signifiers of particular historical and cultural moments. For Dead Ant (2005), the artist squashed an ant in a Penguin edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes written by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1891, essentially leaving evidence of an ant murder on the mystery novel. In a poetic play on form and function, in Untitled (2007) Pieroth shredded a broom into a pile of dust on the floor. Another work, Money Box (2007) consists of a miniature clay safe that had been fired in the only remaining German kiln still producing old-fashioned ceramic safes designed to withstand fire. The accompanying video documents the process of firing something so that it may withstand fire. Drawing on a subtle method of appropriation, Pieroth's alteration and displacement of common objects not only underscores the frailty of such structures but also comments on the seemingly artificial construction of our world.

by Jens Hoffmann

The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote of a rational understanding of the world as purposeless and blind. In his opinion ideas should be assessed not in terms of logic but in terms of their benefit to humanity. Without dismissing reason itself, Schopenhauer argued that it is an irrational force that sits at the heart of existence.

Examining the uniqueness of the human experience through art, many of the works by German artist Kirsten Pieroth deal with a similar rejection of overly rational structures and concepts. The artist could perhaps be described as a conceptual irrationalist, as she often starts with a seemingly logical point of departure only to turn it around to create highly absurd works of art. Pieroth does not understand irrationality as something negative but rather views it as a possibility to question reason and logic. Here she perhaps connects with some art movements of the early 20th-century such as Dada or the Surrealists. Andre Breton, for example, argued for a rejection of a rational understanding of the world, which he viewed as responsible for the many social problems of his time. Irrationality in this case was seen as a tool to counter excessive reason.

In contrast to most other artists in this exhibition series, Pieroth requested that the text in this booklet, produced to accompany her presentation at the Wattis Institute, neither talks about past works, nor about pieces in the exhibition. Rather, she chose to present the documentation of one of her recent works that has not been presented to the public.

Untitled (Trophy), 2008, was a performance piece made for the exhibition Yes, No & Other Options, which was part of Art Sheffield 08. The artist hired a bicycle courier to deliver a wooden box from Manchester to Sheffield. This journey is approximately 44 miles and crosses the Pennines, a scenic rural mountain area. The route the courier took involved a drive along the so-called Snake Pass, a very steep and tortuous road that requires a lot of effort and energy to master as a cyclist. Upon his arrival in Sheffield the bike messenger was awarded with the wooden box that he had just transported, which contained a metal bicycle pump. The pump was given to him as a trophy for having mastered the difficult trip and was engraved with his name, the route and the date as well as the name of his company. Along the way, the courier's journey was documented by a professional sports photographer.

As in many of her other works, Pieroth employs the strategy of displacement to achieve her goal. In this instance, the courier is taken out of his natural surroundings, the urban environment of Manchester, and relocated to a road in the English countryside where his job's objective of being a fast messenger of parcels and letters is suddenly no longer applicable. To give him the bicycle pump that he had just delivered as a trophy makes his trip seem even more absurd, as it culminated with him as the protagonist in the creation of a work of art that had nothing to do with delivering an urgent package.