Kahrs picks images out of the flood of printed media, the advertising world and film as it rushes past him, brings them to a standstill and thereby creates a new passage of time. The scenes and motifs often refer to traumatic or painful events. However, the artist does not lapse into the realistic illustration of miscellaneous horrors. He is interested in what precedes or follows the explicit depiction of violence, outbursts, shock, danger or tragedy.In 1997 Johannes Kahrs (b. 1965, Berlin, and still living there) has already exhibited at the Museum Society (VMHK). His exhibition comprised a total installation that included a painting, posters, audiotape and which completely filled the exhibition area. The museum added the entire installation to its collection. However, since the whole ensemble is an elaborate in situ work, only the 93’09 painting has been displayed so far. The source and basis for this painting is a still of Robert de Niro in Martin Scorcese’s film Taxi Driver. The result is the picture of a single shimmering film image waiting in the projector for the following scene.
Selecting images from the onward-rushing flood of the collective picture archives, the printed media, the advertising world and films, Kahrs brings them to a halt, and thus creates a new version of the passing of time. He does not use recurring images or extend the image sequence in time, but simply emphasises the contrast between the static and the moving image. The latter is made up of pictures taken from the advertising world and the newspaper press: in Kahrs’ view the element of movement is not related to the form of the image, but to the question of whether the image is simply swept along on the current of mass distribution.
Although the scenes and motifs Kahrs uses often refer to traumatic or painful events, he does not resort to a realistic illustration of horror. Instead, he is interested in what precedes and what follows the explicit depiction of violence, excesses, shock, intimidation and tragedy. Kahrs’ favourite image zone is ‘the interim’, or interval that is created when the stream of dramatic moments is interrupted or stopped. For example in Mann ungefähr 14x geküsst (1994), the face is an undefined area built up entirely of red marks that look very much like lipstick.
We are familiar with the actions associated with the film stills that Kahrs uses as a model. The spectator has no difficulty in linking the scene depicted to the drama that will subsequently take place. By placing the picture in a story, Kahrs makes clever use of the spectators’ knowledge. A link develops between the spectator and the image because an association is made between the concrete representation and the diffuse film images that are stored in the memory. Or, taken even further, the spectator reconstructs the situation depicted using the memory of other images. However it is impossible to remember the individual film image that has been used as a model, as an isolated image: did we really see Mick Jagger drinking coffee like this in Godard’s film?
The A – h exhibition is presented by S.M.A.K. in association with Frac des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou and the Kunstverein München. The exhibition introduces us to the whole range of media and image formats Kahrs uses, for the very first time. A-h shows expressive-obsessive distortions of bodies, schematic and richly contrasting charcoal drawings, fragmented narrative sound and video installations and libidinous and controversial sculptures of outbursts of violence. All the works were made during the 1992-2001 period.