Before moving to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts, Jan Zöller graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe. His paintings and installation work focuses on the energy that Losing My Virginity seeks to capture. Fire plays a central role for Zöller, and symbolizes the flame he imagines within his audience and himself – a passion, an excess of energy. His youthful spirit is obstinate: the selective knowledge he took on board during his studies pales in comparison with his personal
development in the same period, which stemmed from an interest in a broad cross-section of subcultures.
The artist’s maxim is “Never get bored!” Zöller ascribes great importance to shared experiences within his circle of friends. They manifest themselves in the form of a generationally determined, hyper-specific aesthetic that is observable throughout his work: a bold, vivid visual language. Zöller’s work in Losing My Virginity comprises new paintings and an installation in which an iron bar proclaims “Youth was never boring”. Is that true? Definitely. In the future, too? Yes, if youth stays imaginative – which is of course implicit in both the established notion and the self-conception of youthfulness. This original, irreverent spirit features prominently in Zöller’s color paintings but finds its clearest expression in his works incorporating text, in which he pronounces his ambitions as a pizzeria owner and declares his love for the A4 format. The latter is due to the fact that his drawings in this format can be hung anywhere, especially in his hometown of Karlsruhe, where the walls of the bourgeois townhouses are small. Whether for the record or as a punchline, he adds: “You can buy one if you like.”
Die Römischen Votzen is a collective formed around the artists Giulietta Ockenfuß and Sonja Yakovleva, who write and perform provocative, lo-fi rap songs. They address social inequalities, are inflammatory, and reflect an anti-authoritarian desire for self-determination. Their song “Frigido”, for example, is about the controversy surrounding unisex toilets. Their refreshingly rational approach: people are uptight and no one is interested in your genitals. The duo’s visual art also unravels social, gender, and sexual stereotypes. Among their work featured in Losing My Virginity, Ockenfuß and Yakovleva have created a work that depicts a barsetka – a small men’s leather bag for carrying valuables – on Tiffany glass.
After studying at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Giulietta Ockenfuß temporarily turned away from painting and shifted the focus of her work towards anti institutional actionism. This ambivalent relationship to objects resulted in more transient works, such as her performances with Die Römischen Votzen. Her return to painting partly found its expression on the bonnets of cars; their former function evoking associations with speed, power, and dynamism – subjects that, seen from a standpoint of redistribution, particularly interested Ockenfuß. Her figurative paintings seek to restructure our understanding of history and ask whose stories are being told and passed on. By reorganizing historically entrenched and binary ideas of gender and sexuality, her vibrant painterly narratives offer both insight and humor.
Sonja Yakovleva’s work questions the ideology behind material value and social inequality. Located on the boundary between art and handicraft, she shows paper cuttings of alternative realities that often depict female protagonists. The inspiration for her latest work, on show at the exhibition, was a scandal at a university: as
became known in 2013, a professor at a music college in Munich had been giving so-called “private lessons” at his home, or more accurately in his bedroom, along with his porn collection and complicit girlfriend. This abuse took place under the pretense of creativity, as the professor in question was writing an opera based on the writings of Franz Kafka at the time. Yakovleva playfully approaches the scandal with a macabre yet liberating humor. Yakovleva stresses that her choice of material is often considered more feminine than it should be – in reality, it is rare that handicraft is dominated by women. Yet in terms of content, her work is full of revealing observations of patriarchal structures and heteronormative power relations.
Text by Bianca Heuser
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