...you can't rely on the joke as the only mode of social relation!

ALEXI KUKULJEVIC: March 14th - April 27th 2014

“Kukuljevic had already shown philosophical tendencies as a child” (2014)

Kunsthalle Leipzig is proud to present the work of Alexi Kukuljevic. Rooted in sculpture, his practice traverses a host of themes focused around the problem of the "self's" enigmatic status as a habit that can only be observed in its material effects, its attitudes, its likes and dislikes, in the slow accretion of its identifications. Playing with the notion of "subject matter" as the literal objectification of the subject, the artist treats the "self" as a "thing" amongst things that can only be grasped evasively, through distortion, failure, violence, alienation and abstraction. His expansive engagement with a wide range of media is an on-going experiment with the composition and decomposition of the self whose status is never quite clear, like a joke delivered so dead-pan that its own status as a joke seems to be in question. In the words of the artist:

The different materials and media that I work with compose a complex web of references that hint at without defining a distinct sensibility, an attitude, or set of tastes, giving form to a vacant or lifeless substance, a subject that is there, but somehow absent, occupying a neutral zone between the animate and the inanimate. This has shaped my interest in what Oswald Wiener has termed rituals of dissolution and the figures that enact them: the dandy, the misanthrope, the Hochstapler, the nihilist. My sculpture and more generally my artistic practice addresses how a subject can begin to articulate itself as a form in the process of dissolution.

Review of the show , by Anne van Leeuwen

“The immanent temporal object and its mode of disappearance", 16mm film still, 2013

"Ah, if only I had brought a cigar with me! This would have established my identity". Charles Dickens

Not everybody has a taste for cigars. They encroach on the palate, saturate the tongue, invade the olfactory sense; for some they even induce migraines. Their smoke lingers like a dense fog, penetrating each corner of the room with its obdurate presence.

Trapped between index and middle finger, a cigar traces a delicate line, its stump more unseemly. However, if held with poise, a cigar is a simple and elegant machine, much like a crowbar, that provides the mind with the material impetus for prying off an impression of the soul, as one peels off a latex mold. Latex is as indispensable a tool for the phrenologist as the camera for the for the criminologist, or the photogram for the sculptor, so aptly does it captures the surface indiscretions, the bumps and fissures in the skull that the phrenologist’s finger must trace. The cigar plays a similar roll for the self-observer. “Even the invisible man becomes visible,” as Guillermo Cabrera Infante writes, “in the mist of the cigar.” In its plume of smoke, one can discern the inner recesses of the unconsciousness. The cigar, then, does not just serve, as Freud put it, “as protection and a weapon in the combat of life,” attributing to the cigar “a great intensification of [his] capacity to work and a facilitation of [his] self-control”; it provides the mind with a vital interruption, a hiatus that slows the machinations of its object down, while accelerating its operation like a scene shot in slow-motion. Once ignited the cigar smoker must submit to its logic, the meandering pace of its dissolution, the slowness of its burn, its desire to extinguish itself.

Each cigar is a snapshot of the soul’s decomposition. By freeing the cigar leaf of its fermented substance, the smoker releases a plastic vision: a white cloud whose billowing form focuses the mind on life’s dissipative march. A cigar is indeed a futility rite. It is the accoutrement for those who malinger, who do nothing while appearing to do something, the patron saint of contemplative souls interested in the hollow of the mouth cavity, the primacy of spit, the human’s need to harm itself, and the weapon of choice for those who want to have their head in the clouds. The cloud as Hubert Damisch reminds us is the source of so many of the deviations that perspective can never set straight.

In this haze, one sees one’s self more clearly. One has what Konrad Bayer calls the sixth sense. The thickness of its smoke can no doubt be oppressive like a cloak that pinches at the neck. But for those with eyes that can weather its sting and who remain fond of the cigar’s droll menace, devoting themselves to the indeterminate figure of its ash, one might glimpse in its vitola something of what one calls art.

“you can’t rely on the joke as the only mode of social relation!” (2014), Exhibition Poster, 42 x 59 cm, Edition of 100; copyright Kunsthalle-Leipzig


“A torn Vitola” (2014), Photogram, 5 x 7 in;

“Trading Places” (2014), installation view; copyright Kunsthalle-Leipzig

“even misanthropes grow weary…” (2014), copyright Kunsthalle-Leipzig