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'The Grime and the Schmutz' by Béla Feldberg at Jo-Anne, Frankfurt am Main

Leaves pile up. Small, abandoned photo prints lie in the tumult with bottle caps and other remains. Paint-encrusted hoses wind around corners, making the floor an uneasy terrain. Cold neon light sequentially shines on or past the objects, from a small tower a red light gleams, as well as behind the last wall of the room, closing off a red-burning space. The Grime and The Schmutz is the title of Béla Feldberg's solo exhibition, in which he creates a dystopian image of a city. 

Crossing the doorway to the exhibition space, one finds themself in this scenery: Feldberg's works are one, a vast sculptural installation. The original space has been alienated in terms of its form. At the head of the exhibition space, the artist has built in a ceiling-high wall via sheetrock, in it a printed window, a ventilation shaft, hoses. Many of the small and larger photographs placed in the installation are made by Feldberg himself; they are interspersed with historical views and excerpts from mangas. A perforated sheet printed with a view of a building is attached to the window; it creates the impression of a mirror reflection, as if houses were actually reflected in the viewer's back. The texture of the perforated foil, however, maintains this artificial illusion as such and makes it impressively clear what Feldberg is pursuing in the entire installation - all of this is a simulation, a world in which other worlds are mirrored, where microcosm and macrocosm run into each other. The fault lines between realistic and fictional simulation can be found everywhere as a repeating motif: on the recessed wall, which is like an exterior wall in terms of material and proportions, hangs a picture frame with imposing views of the city; instead of the supposed exterior wall with its window revealing an interior, it opens the gaze towards a glowing red space in which old bottles, leaves and dirt lie. Dry blossoms protrude from one of the bottles.

The installed hoses and cables all converge in the installation located in the centre. Beginning on a tapering plinth with a tiny open door revealing foliage, one of the hoses and the glowing red light, there are acetone transfer prints on the centerpiece. Without knowledge of this specific technique, they appear like crude pencil drawings. They show excerpts from the post-apocalyptic manga Akira. Dystopian fictions and post-apocalyptic science fiction narratives behave like two-sided burning glasses: on the one hand, they are prescient caricatures about our contemporary society and refer to cultural-historical motifs; on the other hand, they provide material for the architectural present (Blade Runner was and is the model for many new high-rise buildings). Feldberg places the rough prints on the plinths as precisely those foreshadowings of a hyper-technical, turbo-capitalist world. A small building is placed on the centerpiece, where all the tubes come together - where the headquarter of the mastermind is drawn in film and comics as grim and impossible to reach, the artist caricatures the installation’s alluded headquarter into a small, almost absurdly cute model. A glimpse of the sparse interior can be caught through the tiny windows with traces of dirt underneath. Feldberg reworks all the used materials as if they were actually dirty, as if they actually had the purpose the purpose of construction material, as if they existed in these constellations in reality. They are convenient building materials that evoke associations with politically and socially neglected suburbs.   

Exposed structures of room corners with absurdly low pigeon spikes, the skeleton of a door frame with a picture frame made out of painter's materials hanging on it, lighting design, hoses, dust, dirt. Béla Feldberg takes up classic motifs of the dystopian genre in order to alienate them and allow a socio-critical view of them and our distant present. At the same time, he negotiates his understanding of material and its handling, which is always sculptural: found objects are used just as much as purchased, alienated material as photographs and images produced in-house. The Grime and The Schmutz is the mapping of a city, the drawing of a dystopian sense of time, the reflection of hierarchies and the social self.

— Seda Pesen


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