Johannes Paul Raether, Identitecture

April 27–May 4, 2014

MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38 is pleased to present the solo exhibition Identitecture by Berlin-based artist Johannes Paul Raether. Identitecture presents three of the mutating drag personalities Raether has developed over the past five years: Transformella—Queen of Debris, Protektorama—World Healing Witch, and Swarm—Being of the Infected Metropolis. Over the course of one month, the three personae occupy the gallery space to interact with one another. From time to time they will appear and lecture in New York’s public space, and open a dialogue with other artists and theoreticians.

Transformella—Queen of Debris examines the future of human reproduction and its relationship with capitalist production: In the age of artificial insemination, pre-implantation diagnosis, and surrogacy, human reproduction has become globalized and industrialized. Serial infant production by way of surrogate mothers has been outsourced to developing countries such as India. Raether’s Transformella does not fundamentally reject these new technologies, but makes a case for appropriating the possibilities afforded by technological models of reproduction as instruments in the political debate on self-determination, collectivity, and society. Raether’s second character, Protektorama—The World-Healing Witch, is a smurf-like figure equipped with occult objects of her own creation, such as cheat-sheet walking-sticks, 3G smartphone-candy-fetishes, and ceremonial banners. Protektorama has constructed several anti-capitalist cult spots, including the dark and rigid world-healing forest and a flowery patchwork carpet to attack the ghostly empire of the capitalist relations of production in the age of mega-commodity streams. Her central thesis is that humankind is possessed by the abstract principles of capital, and thereby has rendered itself a prosthesis of its own digital devices. The Swarm—Being of the Infected Metropolis is Raether’s most recently developed character. Its ongoing research combines the analysis of techno-dystopian theories in the field of artificial intelligence with a critical city-planning discourse.

Johannes Paul Raether’s practice can be described as that of an anti-capitalist identitect, who creates a growing set of fictional identities and roaming personalities. His creations occur in diverse places to preach alternative models of knowledge production, self-organization, and reproduction. Though they have traveled separately to Tehran, Johannesburg, Varanasi and Florence, the gallery space in New York hosts the first imaginary encounter between three of them. As an analogue to this continuous transformation of identities, Ludlow 38 is transformed into a cave-like, tribal-futurist environment, comprised of digital interfaces as well as low-tech fetish objects, and manually-crafted cultic tools. Beyond being autonomous works of art, the artifacts of this installational scenario constitute the means for establishing a unique cosmos for each of his characters, as well as the backdrops and props for their appearances.

Johannes Paul Raether lives and works in Berlin. During his studies at Berlin University of the Arts, he was part of various self-organized projects, such as the artist-run educational initiative Freie Klasse Berlin. He was a member of the studio collective and community space basso from 2006 to 2011. In cooperation with the performance duo Discoteca Flaming Star he organized several performance events and co-edited the book Show, Demonstrate, Exchange. Performance—Art—Academy (2013). Raether has exhibited and performed throughout Africa, Europe and the Middle East, including at the KUMU Art Museum, Tallinn (2010), Kunsthaus Bregenz (2012), Goethe-Institut South Africa, Johannesburg (2012), KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2013), Venus & Apoll, Düsseldorf (2013), and Savvy Contemporary, Berlin (2013). His solo exhibitions include Galerie September, Berlin (2011), Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (2012), and Bad Reputation, Los Angeles (2014). He publishes regularly in Texte zur Kunst, and since 2013 has been a guest professor at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg.

Curated by Eva Birkenstock