Belly buttons, butt holes, bell ends – New Scenario is the pair asking artists to fill body holes with art for a new online exhibition
The human body has been used and abused many times in the art world – a means of creating an alter ego, a marker of one’s true identity and pure sexual gratification being just a few. But rarely has it been used as a home for artwork itself.
Fed up with the limitations of a traditional whitewashed gallery space, artist duo New Scenario’s latest curatorial project sees seven orifices transform into exhibition spaces for miniature sculptures created by over 40 rising artists. Each artist was given complete creative control; their only instruction being the hole in which their work would be placed.
Spanning the realms of liquid, metal and nature, the resulting BODY HOLES features plants emerging from the tip of a penis, Lord of the Rings memorabilia placed inside a vagina and unreadable texts inserted into nostrils. “When you look at a lot of art like we do, you get sick of all these shows that follow the same pattern. (They’re) quite boring from a creative perspective. It’s nice when something has the potential to de-stigmatise the perceptions of our bodies,” the pair commented.
Put together especially for the 9th Berlin Biennale, BODY HOLES is for those who reject the increasingly homogenised nature of art along with anyone who feels even slightly intimidated by minimalist gallery walls. In line with New Scenario’s previous work (which includes a peek into the undocumented via limo interiors and dinosaur habitats), the exhibit will remain solely online to be accessed by whoever, whenever.
Below, we chatted to New Scenario (aka Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig) about turning art on its head, body diversity and the complications of shoving small-scale art inside mouths, anuses and belly buttons.
“In this process, a vagina or penis is not a sexual organ anymore; it’s just the space you have to deal with” – New Scenario
What sparked the concept for BODY HOLES?
New Scenario: We wanted to step away from the hermetic interior of a stretch limo and use the human body as a carrier of artwork. From a wide angle view to a close-up zoom, so to say.
Some may perceive the project to be shocking or even arousing. What were your intentions? Do you hope that this alternative use for bodily orifices will normalise them in some way?
New Scenario: We haven’t met a single person that was shocked by it yet. While shooting the images, we got a sense of how doctors may perceive the body. The doctor has to do an examination, and we have to arrange and shoot an artwork. In this process, a vagina or penis is not a sexual organ anymore; it’s just the space you have to deal with. The intention was to approach these parts as neutral exhibition spaces. We think it’s nice when something has a potential to de-stigmatise the perceptions of our bodies.
There’s a real diversity in the bodies used. Was this an important factor? How do you go about finding people willing to have art placed into (sometimes questionable) holes?
New Scenario: It wasn’t actually too hard to find people willing to provide their 'exhibition space'. We tried to have a diversity of genders, skin tones, age, and hairiness to show a wider, abstract and more universal perspective on the human body. We didn’t want the show to be read as representing only one type of body. That’s also why we decided the identities of the models should not play any role in the perception of the show. They were simply brave and helpful enough to embody our vision.
A project like this must come with several challenges. Was it difficult to physically place and photograph the artworks in the holes?
New Scenario: Yes! Some pieces were really hard to shoot. For the vagina shooting, we had a gynaecologist helping but it was still quite hard to handle the work. Luckily, the model was super chill and everything worked well but it’s not like you inspect the space first. We only met the models during the shooting and then had to deal with all the peculiarities of the orifices and artworks. A couple of works had to be redone because they didn’t fit. It’s a challenge to shoot under these circumstances but an enjoyable process once you get the result you were imagining.
You’ve previously said you’re not “anti-gallery” but seem to feel the traditional white cube format no longer works for everyone. Can you elaborate on the idea of an alternate setting for art?
New Scenario: Yes, that’s right. We’re not anti-gallery. We love to visit and to do white cube shows. That format makes sense, works well and is just fine for everyone - but right there is also the problem. Today, the white cube has become safe terrain; an easy formula to make a solid good looking show. When you look at a lot of art like we do, you get sick of all these shows that follow the same patterns. We felt that moving towards new terrains would give us a lot more freedom and room to experiment.
The settings are the starting point that shape the show. All shows (until now) were accessible through documentation only which means the image the viewer is confronted with becomes very important. However, it’s not traditional documentation anymore. It’s something else, something that we as artists are able to shape. The exhibition site has become the studio and the documentation has become the exhibition. The lines become blurry. We love the idea that an artwork is an entity that – just like us – can travel; one time be nailed to a white wall, next time sitting in the back of a truck and another time hanging out with a bunch of wild mountain goats.
Art can be quite intimidating to some. Does your online approach aim to make the art world more accessible?
New Scenario: The problem lies more in the perception and learned ideas of how to approach art. People tend to think they have to 'understand' an artwork. They think they have to read or interpret it in a particular way. And when confronted with 'naked' pieces in sterile white rooms, they feel pressured. Of course, it’s hard to interpret a strange looking installation of found materials attached to some video screens. But that’s not the point. When listening to music, you don’t have to understand the song. The understanding comes through time. It’s the same with art, we suppose.
Our approach is not of educational or political nature. But the combination of site and artwork may be an entry point that gives the viewer some reference or connectivity other than the 'naked' work can provide. We try to keep our shows unpredictable and fresh: simple enough to be entertaining and enjoyable yet complex enough to be intellectually challenging. If our shows help to change the views of some people or give them easier access to the art world, that’s great.
“Today, the white cube has become safe terrain; an easy formula to make a solid good looking show” – New Scenario
What’s your favourite body hole?
New Scenario: The nostril is cool when you discover it through a macro lens – all that hair and small particles of dirt and bits of snot. A nostril gets quite abstract close up.
So what’s coming up for New Scenario?
New Scenario: That’s always a secret. But we are working on two new projects right now.
Let’s end the interview with this pathetic quote from Bruce Lee that we found when googling the word 'routine': “If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow – you are not understanding yourself.”