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Monday 21 February 2011

Zhivago Duncan @ CFA Berlin

Review by Jaga N.A. Argentum

In his first solo exhibition, Dick Flash’s Souvenirs of Thought, Zhivago Duncan invites us to accompany him and his protagonist, Dick Flash, on a multi-media journey through a series of large-scale paintings and dioramas, commenting on classical philosophy and contemporary socio-economic issues. This exhibition featuring works such as, Pretentious Crap, is not as serious as it might sound.

Flash, Duncan’s fictional protagonists, is the sole survivor of an environmental catastrophe that has wiped out the rest of mankind. He beings to explore his desolate planet and experiences several stages of discovery on his odyssey through a post-apocalyptic landscape. With the rest of humanity gone and with his memory taking the same route, Duncan, assuming an Übermensch persona re-writes the history and religion of humanity through mechanical constructions that allude to mankind’s previous, albeit temporal, domination over nature and the wild.

On his re-exploration of the globe, Flash transforms artefacts that miraculously survived into memorabilia of a lost mankind. Finding their way onto forgotten railroads and merry-go-rounds, these sculptural assemblages comment on the folly of the idea of art in a frozen, apocalyptic world.

While creating his memorabilia, Flash appears to experience flashbacks which lead to the slow restoration of his memory. Flash, who has begun to consider himself as the supreme deity, reflects on a wasteful live and ponders the words of those he came across in his past. Phrases such as; Men Do What They Want, Boys Do What They Can and I Shit On Civilisation By Wearing Chanel Lipstick form the canvas for the largest painting in this mammoth show.

Dick Flash’s Souvenirs of Thought is a mammoth show that lays bare Berlin-based Duncan’s talents as a multi-media artist. Duncan’s images are as messy and manic as the culture they represent; using a variety of mediums such as wallpaper, pencil and printed material from anatomical study books, Duncan comments on the tragedy inherent in the concept of an apocalyptic end to humanity.

Inspired by street art, celebrity culture, reality TV and pop party-culture, the work on display at CFA draws you in and spits you out, leaving you to call into question whether Flash has actually become the deity of his new world, or whether he has gone insane. While the centrally presented diorama of this show is entitled Pretentious Crap, an obvious comment on the problematic nature of the role of sculpture within the parameters of this narrative, that does not feel like the right classification of his exhibition. Rather a must-see for those who like to ponder the temporality of humanity, the consequences of our over-consumption, and the harsh reality of life in a world where we all vanish and fade.

The exhibition continues until March 12 2011. For more information and opening hours please visit www.cfa-berlin.com

Courtesy of CFA Berlin

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