Die Neunte Kunst: Unwanted Stories
Oldenburg, DE

Various Media

“The Egyptian artist Ganzeer staged hell on earth in the Edith Russ House. In its light installation, our planet is illuminated day and night by artificial satellites - a scenario that has a long lasting effect in the mind of the beholder.”

January 31st saw
The Solar Grid participate in an exhibition at the Edith-Russ-Haus for Medienkunst in Oldenburg, Germany. The exhibition, titled Unwanted Stories,and described as “an international group exhibition of contemporary art whose starting point is the graphic novel” is on show until April 2, 2018.

After my first exhibition featuring work from THE SOLAR GRID, which took place at Galerie CulturesInterface in Casablanca as part of Masnaä Festival, I decided I’d rather wait until the book is finished before putting together future THE SOLAR GRID exhibitions. This despite having received an invitation from Dominic Boyer over at Rice University in Houston to exhibit something at the University’s Solar Studios, a solar-powered artlab/exhibition space, which would be pretty damn apt, don’t you think?

But refraining from exhibiting anything THE SOLAR GRID related until the completion of the book would allow me to have more time dedicated to… well, the completion of the book. And also, would likely allow me to put together better exhibitions after having discovered all the ins and outs of the world of THE SOLAR GRID.

But an invite from Edit Molnár, co-director of the Edith-Russ Haus was hard to pass. The museum was already scheduled to be part of a massive 3-museum program on comix, or Die Neunte Kunst as they refer to it. The Stadtmuseum in Oldenburg dedicated its space to the history of comics, while the Horst Janssen Museum focused on the German comicbook scene. The Edith-Russ-Haus, however, decided to do something a little different; to curate a contemporary art exhibition with the comix-form only acting as a starting point. No way was I gonna turn my back on that.

It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to simply display original art from THE SOLAR GRID in this case. I wanted to create an installation derived from the graphic novel, but one that could only be really experienced as an exhibition within a museum. Not a video you could watch on the internet, or something meant to be in a book. It had to be spacial and experiential.

So we had this room constructed, covered in scenes from the graphic novel. One side of the room’s exterior showing the setting sun, and the children–the story’s protagonists–in a panic. On the other side, we can see that instead of a gradual shift to night, the sky becomes ablaze with the light of numerous suns. Followed by the entrance into the room, with actual blinding light flooding out of it.

Once inside the overtly lit room, you find yourself surrounded by a continuous depiction of waste, the same waste our protagonists must sift through to find things to live off.

The installation is meant to give the museum goer something of the experience of the protagonists, in a way that exists somewhere between proper representation and the abstract. 

This is the core installation-component of the exhibition. Three video screens at the other end of the space, make up a more traditional media-art component.

One screen shows a trailer I’d originally created for the book’s Kickstarter campaign. I generally don’t like the idea of screening trailers in exhibition spaces, because exhibition spaces are for showing art as opposed to promotional material. This trailer, however, feels more of an art-piece than a trailer really, given that it is told from the perspective of the protagonist several years into the future. Masterfully done by voice actress Francesca Hogan.

The second screen shows what looks like a corrupt transmission. An adaptation from an excellent reading by Dina Mousawi at The British Library for Shubbak Festival 2017. It’s a reading of the article that closes Chapter 2, an account of life on Earth by Martian journalist Holly Badchapel.

And finally, the third screen shows a silent, singular looping gif of Kameen, one of the book’s protagonists.

And there you have it. How to adapt your graphic novel into a contemporary art show. I’d like to do more of this, but only after the book is finished. What I’d really like to do is set up a tour, taking the exhibition from one gallery to the next, with a particular component added or altered for each iteration. Accompanied by a short reading, and book signing. Should be fun… and exhausting.

I guess that’s one thing to plan for… what, 2020?

Image credits (in order of appearance): Ganzeer, Ganzeer again, Edith-Russ-Haus, annekesophie, mcymru, Carmen Jaspersen/DPA for Tagesspiegel, Ganzeer (x3).

Unwanted Stories — Oldenburg, 2018