Christian Jankowski


Christian Jankowski: Puppet Conferencem, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 2003

-> further Works in the Exhibition


Annika Plank

Of Men and Muppets. The Subversive Art Practices of Christian Jankowski

“But Jankowski acts as though he is the high priest of media hysteria and limitless communication […]. Television and video are his propaganda weapons, and the montage is his credo.“ [1]
Massimiliano Gioni

Born in Götttingen in 1968, Christian Jankowski belongs to a generation of artists who grew up with entertainment media. Unlike the video pioneers of the 1960s and 1970s, who linked the triumphal march of television at times to apocalyptic, at times to utopian expectations, a younger generation of artists drew, as a matter of course, on the rich reservoir of media images and concepts, and processed them as they saw fit. The radicality with which mass media, especially television, was reflected upon and deconstructed at that time has now yielded to a pragmatic-ironic position, which is aware of the mass media’s strategies of seduction and attracting attention, and knows how to take advantage of them. And yet the central themes of the previous generation are by no means obsolete. Particularly in Christian Jankowski’s work precisely such questions as to the general conditions of art, originality and authorship, interaction and intervention, as well as narcissism and self-dramatization in front of the camera — albeit under different premises — play a decisive role. Seldom is a Jankowski work clearly defined in advance. It evolves on-site, is dependent on context, and has a predominantly performative character. Whatever emerges in the end, whether a performance or a video work, whether painting or literature, is not important. The content of the work determines the choice of medium.

After his first unsatisfactory efforts in the field of painting, Jankowski, still a student at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg (HfBK), began producing performances and actions, some of which of were recorded on video. For his work Schamkasten [Shame box] (1992) the artist converted the shop window of his shop apartment into a public confessional. Passers-by and friends were invited to take a seat in the shop window and hold up a sign on which they divulged their very private feelings of shame. By transgressing the boundary between the private and the public, Jankowski adopted the artistic strategies of the 1960s and 1970s — with the small but not unimportant difference that he did not put himself on display, but volunteers instead. [2]

Jankowski assumes the role of initiator and specifically seeks out people who help to shape or change his ideas about their personal or professional backgrounds. For example, as he himself admits, it was his lack of literary talent that prompted him, in 1998, to publish Mein erstes Buch [My First Book]. [3] Inspired by the rooms where famous authors did their writing and guided by literary experts, day in day out Jankowski worked on a book during his six-week exhibition in Frankfurt, a city famous for literature that encompassed the entire spectrum of literary genres and writing styles. Naturally, upon completion the book was presented at a reading and received rather muted reviews. [...]

[1] Massimiliano Gioni, “Streng vertraulich”, in: Suzette Lee, ed., Dramensatz, exhib. cat., Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel, Christoph Merian Verlag, Basel, 2003, p. 23.
[2] The design of the video Create Problems (1999) is similar in which Jankowski has volunteer couples play out semi-pornographic scenes in a Dolly Buster film studio.
[3] Angelika Nollert and Christian Jankowski, ed., Mein erstes Buch, exhib. cat., Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, 1998.

Catalog excerpt "Extended. Sammlung Landesbank Baden-Württemberg"
Editors: Lutz Casper, Gregor Jansen, published by Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg, 2009


Works in the Exhibition

Christian Jankowski
Kunstwerk verzweifelt gesucht, 1997

Schwarz-Weiß-Fotografien, 9-teilig, Video
je 65 x 50 cm; 18 min

Christian Jankowski
Puppet Conference Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 2003

25 min

Christian Jankowski
Kunstmarkt TV, 2008

45:15 min


Christian Jankowski
Puppet Conference
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 2003
DVD, 25’00’’