Berlin based artist Johannes Paul Raether (born in 1977) creates unlikely characters that have taken on lives of their own and multiple identities. The characters move in time through several appearances in various settings. Raether collects, edits and organizes text material according to how the characters carry out their missions. Each character has their own set of skin colour, material, fabric and performative objects.
Raether approaches the form of solo exhibition with a critical question of how certain elements of stage such as props, light and methods of theatricality relate to an exhibition installation and a program. He describes making an exhibition as “producing a sequence of situations rather than an arrangement of objects.”
For the solo project at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart Raether will engage with two of his recent characters: Transformella, who first appeared in 2010, and Protektorama from 2011. During the exhibition context the two characters become “one of her sisters.”
Protektorama is a the world-healing witch, a smurf-like figure with a cheat sheet, a little ritual case and a ceremonial wand. She occupies a world healing forest, a dark anti-capitalistic cult spot that resembles an arena – or possibly an exercise machine – and also functions as a smartphone-film-studio. The witch declares Marx a sorcerer, a Kinder surprise egg transforms into a Voodoo doll, while the film maker Maya Deren is witness to a journey through the history of markets, money and the value-form. The abstract principles of the capitalist relations of production have slipped into the dead products like Japanese spirits – into all things and beings. They circle the globe in mega-commodity streams while the world-healing witch attacks this ghostly and irrational empire with her rather anti-climatic and ineffective counter-spell.
Her older sister Transformella calls herself ‘Queen of Debris,’ blown backwards into the future of reproduction. She appears on the scene wearing a coat made from baby-strollers, a latex suit and a 3D printer that is self-printing. In a tour de force lecture, involving rubber, milk and latex-lotion, she illuminates the complex issues around industrial human reproduction, the self-replication of machines, liberal eugenics and the collective imaginations that frame trans-human capitalism. She resumes with a proposal on how to surpass the limitations of the traditional family model by surrogate pregnancy and genetic engineering to extract the emancipatory moments of a capitalist technological progress.
The show is based around transformation: the status of objects in the exhibition space changes according to their status of being used as a performance object, a prop or a sculpture. The installation changes according to the setting the character needs, the status of live performance or documents of performing and how the artist himself transforms into fragments of reality of the two different characters.
Photography: Bernhard Kahrmann