Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Opens Florian Germann. The Poltergeist Experimental Group (PEG) Applied Spirituality and Physical Spirit Manifestation

The Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst presents Florian Germann. The Poltergeist Experimental Group (PEG) Applied Spirituality and Physical Spirit Manifestation, on view November 19, 2011 – January 15, 2012.

Florian Germann The Poltergeist Experimental Group (PEG) Applied Spirituality and Physical Spirit Manifestation, Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst

In his wide-ranging cycles of works, each of which is devoted to a unifying thematic narrative, the Swiss artist Florian Germann (b. 1978; lives and works in Zurich) creates complex systems of reference, playing with the role of the artist-researcher as he approaches fields as diverse as culture, science, and nature. Most of his works look like hybrids between physical instruments and modernist sculptures, suggesting experimental arrangements whose overarching meaning emerges only gradually. Germann’s works often set out from historic figures and mythological and fantastic motifs he subjects to a revisionary rewriting, interweaving factual and fictional aspects. For his first solo exhibition at an institution, Germann has created an extensive new cycle of works; to be publicly displayed for the first time at the migros museum für gegenwartskunst, it is based on his study of “apparitions” and their physical substance, the so-called ectoplasm.

As the title implies, Germann’s cycle The Poltergeist Experimental Group (PEG) Applied Spirituality and Physical Spirit is the creation of an anonymous collective that investigates the phenomenon known as a “poltergeist.” The term is used to describe knocking sounds, electric disturbances, movements of objects that cannot be traced to an immediate physical cause. The two American parapsychologists Joseph Gaither Pratt and William G. Roll have argued that poltergeist phenomena primarily occur in the presence of the pubescent and people with paranormal gifts, and described these manifestations as a “recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis.” The poltergeist, in other words, is not a “real spirit” but rather a mental projection, a discharge of energy that can take the form of a “psychokinetic effect” in teenagers and others. In Germann’s cycle—which, the artist insists, is incomplete in the sense that he intends to revisit the issues involved—this paranormal phenomenon marks the center from which he draws a variety of connections and feedback loops that extend, for instance, to the rituals practiced in the boy scout movement (such as the nocturnal baptism ceremonies), but also to the symbolic quality of organ pipes, which, when grouped to form a musical instrument, can occupy a central position in the life of the community, leading the assembly through the liturgy (their sounds can entrance an entire group of people), and can thus be read as a token of spirituality. At the same time, the organ pipes, made of a metal alloy of lead and tin that is highly malleable even at low heat, reflect Germann’s interest both in the nature and qualities of materials and in physical processes and the transformation of energies. The central importance the engagement with phenomena of this sort has for the artist’s production is also evident in the tactile qualities of his works as well as the fact that they often pass through a process (of activation) in the form of “actions” legible to the beholder only in the residual traces they leave on the objects and sculptures. Parts of the cycle of works The Poltergeist Experimental Group (PEG) Applied Spirituality and Physical Spirit on display at the migros museum für gegenwartskunst have likewise undergone such “activation,” which Germann performed in several on-site actions during the installation of the show and on its opening night.

It would be overly simplistic to call Germann’s approach, which takes up literary, filmic, and historical as well as scientific figures, motifs, and fields of knowledge, mere “sampling”: the artist is particularly interested in the interstitial domains such associations open up. Nor can we describe Germann’s method as an intertextual procedure that serves to bring out what is already present “in” and “between” the texts. Perhaps we may approach Germann’s art by seeing his cycles of works as a productive method that combines themes and motifs, bringing out parallels and lines that were heretofore invisible, and interweaves factual and fictional motifs to create a new whole that aims to generate “cognitive gains.”

The exhibition is curated by Raphael Gygax. – www.migrosmuseum.ch

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