Adrian Lohmüller

Katalog der 6. Berlin Biennale, 11. Juni 2010

Canalization systems for Adrian Lohmüller are the collective subconscious—the repressed without which we could never lead our lives in fragrant cleanliness on the surface. As early as Freud, the concept of repression came from hydraulics. Lohmüller returns it to its source. All the pipes and conduits that traverse squares and walls, the hidden supply systems, and drains turn buildings into social organisms with living membranes: permeable, sensual, tactile.

For Das Haus bleibt still (2010) the artist laid out an arterial web in the premises at Oranienplatz 17. On three floors water seeps from buckets into pipes, disappears in the former elevator shaft, and collects on the first floor. It is gently heated over a gas burner. A salt lick stone receives it at the end of the pipeway. It is then led over the floor to where bedding is spread out. Fabric and down slowly absorb the water, which then evaporates in the room. Salt crystals remain in the pillows, like traces of sweat from a night of love.

If Lohmüller extends the concept of the social to the material in his installations, conversely it is technical processes that get under our skin. Over and over he penetrates unfamiliar fields to produce new collective experiences. In 2007, after completing an internship at a sewage treatment plant, aided by coworkers he built his own cleaning system: Klaerwerk. With it he washed the work clothes of people in various professions, then used the dirty water to distil an individual portrait of each. Interventions like this make the various systems’ offshoots—which guarantee that the systems function in the first place—sensually perceivable and, at best, recall them to their true purpose, as in Baltimore in 2005. Here a highway divided two neighborhoods on the city outskirts. Lacking pedestrian crossings, families with buggies and strollers made a pathway over the median. The city administration erected a fence. The people tore a hole in it. Lohmüller founded the Maryland Office for Public Apology and, disguised as a construction worker, put up a sign on behalf of the city council bearing a public apology. The artist lays new conduits in the cycle of goods, people, dirt, and love.

His installation for the Berlin Biennale, on the other hand, pursues no goal beyond itself. The pipes traversing the room are somewhat disorderly and fragile. It is an absurd experimental setup involving much time and no goal, like a figure out of Beckett. Water turns to air. The building seems to breathe, self-involved, at peace with itself. And the soft bed crystallizes into a sculpture before viewers’ eyes.

Translation: Christopher Jenkin-Jones

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