Disappearing in Art


Photo: Manuel Nagel

Considering the plentyness of Installations, Performances, Pictures and Concepts – it seems almoste impossible to introduce into all this and all the variations, developed since the first Camouflash edition in October 2007 in the Patio Art Centre in Lodz. However Art-Practice (to say it with an expresion by Pierre Bourdieu) aquiers commentaries (as the German philosopher and sociologist Arnold Gehlen has observed already in the 1960th). It seems that also for the todays verinssage there was a need for some ritual words after the introducing performance. Interpretations and reflections may exonerate the event from all the contingency that is in fact the very basis of it.
We can start from the shrewd title, which means both the Hiding and covering and its opposition, the lightning flash that reveals and uncovers all reality without mercy. Both aspects are a central element within all human action: Man wanted to masquerade himself (like the philosopher Helmuth Plessner pointed out) and at the same time he tries to express his thinking and felling. Insofar all human beings are „insondable“. Today’s Arts reflects this more clearly then ever before. To take an example, Charly Citron shows this in a series of photographs, in which the protagonist is presented as a marionette that finds in this “surreal artificiality” his ambiguous identity - an insecurity from which also famous or ‘public’ people and stars are not expected, like Olga Bergmann shows. The polish curator Mariusz Soltysik compared flash with this „ultimate short yet spectacular explosion“, that is followed “by the collapse of a massive star“. For the contemporary mass-culture he draws as a parallel phenomenon that “flash is the one and only opportunity to step out of obscurity before disappearing and being absorbed by the mass”. That might be linked with the diagnosis of the social illness of materialism and consumerism in modern western societies: than flash also referrers to a short lived desire (Anna Macleod).
But this differentiation between individual authenticity and alienated mass might be already a wrong opposition: Today we consider rather a melting together of all dimensions of culture. The propagated dissolving of exclusivity and elitist claim of the fine Arts, seem to give way to recombination’s of different symbolic systems in arts, architecture or in literature. In this process that is often perceived as a cultural democratization it appears as if the deep rift between high-culture for the “educated” and the aesthetic every-day-life products for the “ignorant” is really surmounted. But the tension between this cultural spheres is less dissolved by synthesis or by „reconciliation" but by processes of trivialization. This aspect has to be also reflected by contemporary-arts, who aims to be critical an produce often a sacralization of ‘trivial’ things.
Another interleaving exists between the endless possibilities of consumerism and the (also intellectual) feeling of contingency. Omnipresent becomes the impression that all things could be completely different, and that everything that is thought ore done implies the non-realized possibilities. The absorption of Mountains in the Video by Sara Pfrommer is like an illustration of this principle. This seems to be contradicted by a arising fascination on the category of space – probably a point of reference within the motives of escape and the search for “Geborgenheit” in the works of Higuchi und Kaihatsu.
Anja Tabitha Rudolph added to this considerations another dimension of the projects title: She spoke about the “Disappearing in the Arts”. On the first sight this remembers on all the post-structuralise and post-modern theories and discourses about several variations of “the end”. And disappearing reminds on the famous last sentence of Michel Foucaults “The Order of Things” that as one future possibility man might vanish like a face in the sand on the beach. But as we know today, the epoch of a proclamation of „post-times“ has become history itself. Today, perhaps not the catastrophes – like in the works of Suzy Surek and Erika Knerr – is expactable but the endless stream of events without real innovations. This is a time of syncretism of collages and all the allusions of the hybrid.
Quickly some people spoke like Hegel about the „End of Art“ (or like the german art-historian Hans Belting about the end of art-history). And the critical remakes of the curators of the here presented exhibition seem to be in some aspects similar to those predictions. Since renaissance times, paintings in concordance with the emerging modern sciences opened the reality. And in the epoch of the classical modernity at least the principles of the production of pictures and the processes of perception were represented. Today however in an age of simulacrums (to speak with Jean Baudrillard, a philosopher who has inspired a lot of artists presented here) one could think, pictures (including art-pictures) became more and more medias of concealing. This suggestion is countered by Bernd Imminger attempts towards a materialization of things. There is a fear that optical stimulations could become indistinguishable and inure. And in fact this is a problem especially for performances, installations and video-art (even though they are always accompanied by the fascination of vivid moved Pictures as the Japanese garden of the Reinigungsgesellschaft, the ceremonial reading poem by Janusz Baldyga or the subtile “Language of Roots” by Suzy Sureck). Soltysik put it in the following way: „The contemporary is rather pictural in nature, idea has been marginalized […] pictures in our lives induces a sense of being lost or immunizes us against them by creating and augmenting tried reception of such pictures which consequently makes them neutral (e.g. another murder every evening).” This is also true for other spheres of culture, like religion and art. We may live in an situation not without critique, but – In contrast to the intentions of the artists in this exhibition – with a pseudo-reconciliation of critical attitudes and a glade acceptance of the status quo. That is strictly against the normative motto of Theodor W. Adorno that there is now true live in false conditions (Adorno). Is this the message of the interview film with Grit Ruhland about the “little world improvement” with an self-centred view on an social and natural environment in continuous change?
Art – that is the leading idea of this exhibition – should be more than a contribution to luxury consumption. Because of this Camouflash tries to encourage a critique after the end of the ubiquitary culture of criticism: „After 1968 perhaps faster than ever before, culture became governed by the market-forces: supply and demand.“ It is a long way from the West-Berlin “Comune I” emphasis to Gabriele Horndasch’s black people arrest.
That may show the social illness of materialism and consumerism in western societies, which makes “flash” also a symbol of the short lived desire. But critical reflection in arts, in philosophy and social sciences and in public debates should be an antitoxin against this.


The group UNOACTU, in cooperation with the Patio Art Centre Lodz, has been working on planning and realizing the exhibition CAMOUFLASH – DISAPPEARING IN ART since November 2007.  From the 30th of August until the 14th of September 2008, more than 50 positions of modern contemporary art will be exhibited in the building „Prager Spitze“ (across from Dresden's central train station).

CAMOUFLASH began as a artists' conference by the same name that was led by the polish artist and curator Marius Soltysik, in Lodz. The aim of the conference was for the artists create their art according to a given topic. The topic was schizophrenia of modern humanity: the dichotomy of being camouflaged yet also standing out within society.
Soltysiks approach was adopted by UNOACTU and was conceptually as well as thematically broadened with the subtitle DISAPPEARING IN ART.  The concept is based on Baudrillard's theories and was compared with the works of other philsophers who shared similar ideas. In order to create an exhibition based on these philosophical findings, the curators looked specifically for artists whose work dealt with these topics. The location of the exhibition was likewise a consious decision: right next to the shopping mall, the location instantly underscores the themes of the exhibition. It's relevence is shown in the extreme.

The curator team was able to garner the interest of artists from around the world: Japan, the USA, Australia, India and several european countries. They were also able to set up an intensive exhchange between German and Polish artists. Indeed many of these artists will be present for the opening of the exhibition on the 29th of August 2008. A special event of the evening will be the performance from the American artist Katherine Behar, on the Prager Strasse. This will begin an hour before the official opening at 8 pm.

A selection of the artworks - roughly half of the exhibition - will be presented at the MEDIATIONS Biennale in Poznan (

The project was supported by the Kulturstiftung Sachsen, The Institute of Foreign Relations and the Department of Cultural and Monument Conservation in Dresden. We thank them all.

Without the help of numerous friends, external colleagues and partners, the realization of th exhibition would not have been possible. We also thank them for their generous support.