GLOBAL SOUP - JULIAN ROSEFELDT
In order to obtain the material for Global Soap (2001), Julian Rosefeldt approached the offices of the Goethe Institut around the world and asked them to record soap operas from their respective national television channels. With the video tapes they provided, Rosefeldt constructed a moving picture archive of the stereotypes of soaps. The gestures, expressions and language of characters were condensed into sequences of multi-national, multi-cultural archetypes that conflated the diverse with the unified and the â€˜otherâ€™ with the mainstream. Intertwined or emphatic fingers, furrowed brows, clasped breasts and heads in hands transcended cultural boundaries to be subsumed into a global language of stereotypical emotional shorthand. In the soap opera everyday life merges with a fantasy world. The illusion is played out in reality as it contributes to the process of establishing cultural meaning.
Conversely in Rosefeldtâ€™s later work Asylum (2002), reality is represented as illusion. In this nine-screen installation a different but highly theatrical action unfolds on each screen in the form of absurd pointless rigmarole. It highlights the purposelessness of human activity, but the title of the work and the categorisation of the characters into gender and racially distinct groups give Asylum a poignancy and specificity that a statement about the ultimate absurdity of human endeavour would lack.
In these tableaux groups of men and women are cast as players in scenes of incredible banality. They are trapped in unusual and exotic locations that are never clearly identified but which are confined and confining, where the characters perform an endless round of tasks that seem to have no lasting purpose â€“ actions that could be described as prosaic were they not imbued with a poetic significance that Rosefeldtâ€™s eye has brought to their representation.
TELEVISION IN THE FORM OF A PILL: JULIAN ROSEFELDT'S IMAGE ATLAS
Sometimes a face from a soap opera can look like a painting by Caravaggio: in his work, Julian Rosefeldt, born in 1965, archives and analyzes television series and news programs and combines them to form a universal language. In his photographs of the Oktoberfest, the artist depicted daily rituals as local folklore, while his new film "Asylum" is a commentary on the media clichÃ©s surrounding foreigners and migration. Harald Fricke visited the artist and talked to him about the power of television images and the culture of similarity.
The director of the Goethe Institute in New Zealand took it with humor. When Julian Rosefeldt asked her to participate in his new project, she sent him a bar of soap - it was, after all, a bit of " daily soap" Rosefeldt had asked her for. What followed were the video tapes that comprise the installation Global Soap, which was shown in 2001 at KÃ¼nstlerhaus Bethanien, among other places. A series of continually changing close-ups, camera angles, and sequences depict scenes from a variety of TV series produced all over the world.
Eyes wide open, faces tense with worry, a global ballet of body languages that seem identical in all societies, whether they're Islamic, Western, or Asian. With Global Soap, Rosefeldt evidently found the ideal matrix for portraying television as a surface that unifies everything, "even with a completely different moral idea prevailing in the various countries."