Inspired by Slavoj Žižek, the artist's self-exploratory Berlin expo finds question marks lining the history books of his own life
The Berlin-based artist Christopher Roth encountered Slavoj Žižek during the 2002 Berlinale, where the artist’s film ‘Baader’ was in competition and where Žižek talked about storytelling in porn movies. Žižek’s belief that the truth can be found, not inside, but on the surface, inspired Roth to embark on a search for himself in his latest exhibition ‘Roth’. The results of his quest? Parents, books written, shirts lost, medication never picked up, and crimes for some of which Roth is still wanted. Some evidence suggests that Roth doesn’t even exist.
In two weeks, Georg Diez and I will do a congress in the Kunst-Werke which is called “What happened 2081?” It is 2081 and we have forgotten everything. Men are forbidden, drama is forbidden, democracy is forbidden. There are laws, but no memory left
In ‘Roth’, the artist displays a horror film, a video documentary, objects, sculptures and a personalised dedication inscribed on a red wall. The different mediums create an impression of a group show, as if many Roths contributed to it, revealing the different sides of the artist.
Dazed Digital: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Christopher Roth: The Olympic Games in Munich. I remember the red and green tracksuits of the policemen on the concrete roofs of the Olympic village during the “Black September” attack on the Israeli accommodation. The policemen tried to sneak up to free the hostages while the terrorists watched them live on television.
DD: How did Slavoj Žižek inspire the exhibition?
Christopher Roth: There were people on a panel talking about film and terrorism and a documentary filmmaker said he wanted to show the inner life of terrorists. That was too much for Žižek. He shouted that inside is nothing, you wouldn't find anything. When calming down he looked up to the sky and said: “The truth is always outside” Later when Georg Diez and I started the 80*81 project, Žižek was the first one we talked to.
We sat in Ljubljana in his famous flat (with the Josef Stalin posters) and again he said: “My whole effort is to remain at the surface. I don’t believe in depth. If you deeply look into a person –in everyone– you find shit. I think true metaphysics is the metaphysics of surface.” So when I thought about making a show about myself I didn't look inside into the darkness of my soul like the romantics would do – I looked outside.
DD: What five items would you save in a fire?
Christopher Roth: Chesini bike, Helmut Lang coat, Ayzit Bostan Chelsea boots, Pierre Jeanneret chair, credit card.
DD: What’s next?
Christopher Roth: In two weeks, Georg Diez and I will do a congress in the Kunst-Werke which is
called “What happened 2081?” It is 2081 and we have forgotten everything. Men are forbidden, drama is forbidden, democracy is forbidden. There are laws, but no memory left. All that is left is neo-yogaism. But then, in South Africa, in India, in Brazil, fragments are discovered, which point to something that used to exist. Archives, hard discs, books. We have to put the pieces together. We look for symptoms and traces of a future truth. Now I plan to be still alive in 2081 and see if I will remember.
‘Roth’ is showing until 13 April, 2012, Esther Schipper, Berlin