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JESSE ARON GREEN: ÄRZTLICHE ZIMMERGYMNASTIK

An installation with lecture performance
September 11 to October 10, 2010

Guest curator: Doreen Mende

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September 11 to 12, 2010
Video installation on the 1st Floor of HALLE 14

September 11, 2010
4 p.m.: Lecture performance with Jesse Aron Green at the Schrebergarten (allotment garden) No. 9 + 10, opposite of the main entrance of the Leipzig Cotton Spinning Mill
5 p.m.: Talk with Jesse Aron Green in the visitor centre of HALLE 14

"Ärztliche Zimmergymnastik" (2008), by the US artist Jesse Aron Green, takes as its point of departure a best-selling book of the same name. Written by the Leipzig physician Dr. D. G. Moritz Schreber, the book's subtitle aptly describes its contents as a "system of hygienic exercises for home use, to be practiced anywhere without apparatus or assistance by young and old of either sex, for the preservation of health and general activity." The installation was presented at the 2010 Whitney Biennial in New York, and at Tate Modern in London. The installation at Halle 14 in the Leipzig Cotton Spinning Mill will be supplemented by a reading by the artist in the neighboring allotment garden, a site which has absorbed the historical traces of Schreber’s domain.

Published in 1855, Schreber's book is a harbinger of Western Modernity. It seems to prepare the mind and body for the later industrialization of both labour and leisure through corporal restraint and punishment. Schreber's conception of public health also included his thoughts about "healthy libido release," which he thought must be regulated to accord to societal norms. This classification of human subjectivity and sexuality resulted in categories like "normal" and "abnormal," which entail an ideological imperative. Informed by Minimalism, Structuralism in film, and Conceptual Art, Jesse Aron Green's work negotiates these categories by way of references to seminal and contrasting bodies of thought in Western Modernity, which blossomed in the early parts of the 20th century: reform movements based in physical culture, and psychoanalysis, both of which are denoted in Ärztliche Zimmergymnastik in association with classifications of sexuality and societal disasters, such as war and Colonialism. As the work illustrates, Western standards have long-reaching effects on a global scale, and reveal both the societal conditioning upon individuals, as well as the enlightening power of the concept of the individual.

Built at the end of the 19th Century, the Leipzig Cotton Spinning Mill is a prototypical example of a master-plan in industrial development, invented to improve as well as to regulate and calibrate labour, urban housing and leisure. One can imagine a worker in the production halls of the Spinning Mill following his "system of hygienic exercises" before or after work. Yet Jesse Aron Green's work demonstrates neither subjugation nor resistance to a system. The performers in the large-scale, high-definition video installation break out of the fixed grid on which they enact their exercises, in order to re-enter and leave it again. The conceptual strategies of artists like Sol LeWitt can be seen in the video, as Green has organized the space using quadratic sculptures on the floor that serve as individual stages for each performer. The organization continues in the space of the installation, wherein cubic sculptures serve as seats, and seem to build a relation between the viewer and the performers on screen.

Green considers neither Schreber's book nor Sol LeWitt’s conceptual minimalism from the perspective of a historian. He confronts himself and his viewers with societal norms of the past, which might extend into the present. In particular, the site of the Leipzig Cotton Spinning Mill is a manifestation of societal and ideological structures in the form of industrial-architecture. Although the Spinning Mill does not produce cotton anymore, the installation of Ärztliche Zimmergymnastik at HALLE 14 is a reminder of our internalized, continuous alliance with industrialized and cultural norms, and its reverberation into the current state of Capitalism.

(text by Doreen Mende, August 2010)

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