Its physical presence — whether in motion or standing still — creates a disagreeable atmosphere of control and surveillance on the part of an unknown authority. Constantly in the crosshairs, constantly the target: the outfit aims at its own mirror image, making it perpetrator and victim at the same time. In front of the mirror piece Mutation of the Objective, the act of aiming at one’s own mirror image is suddenly self-examination and self-empowerment. The enforced conformity of perpetrator and victim corresponds to the self-contained system of the closed-circuit concept known from media-based works. Berger draws on this in another space. He performs in front of a running camera. The recorded action is transmitted elsewhere in parallel. The situation resembles the function of a surveillance camera, forcing the viewer to assume a two-fold role; clandestine voyeur on the one hand and a superior agent on the other. The performance Genius Media follows a separate logic that seems free of results-oriented meaningfulness.
“Drafting images of life on behalf of society […],” is how Harald Uhr describes Ralf Berger’s artistic objectives and activities (Harald Uhr, “Ich habe nur das Eine im Kopf,” in Ralf Berger, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn 1997). Although the quote references Berger’s works from the nineteen nineties, the formulation is still valid for his current artistic explorations. Consistent with the subtitle of the Bauhaus project Alternatives for Living. Blueprints for Haus Lange and Haus Esters, Ralf Berger’s installative performance Genius Media is conceived as a dystopian perspective on a future life in an authoritarian media-based technocratic society. The visitor to the nearly empty spaces of Haus Esters encounters a five-person outfit in the former children’s room, positioned before a mirror and patrolling the house.
Utopia and dystopia are mental locations for Ralf Berger. Haus Lange and Haus Esters are founded to a certain extent on the utopian notion of a rational society. Every place is accordingly also a medium of social drafts; Haus Lange and Haus Esters are as well. Berger starts with this spirit — the Genius Loci — of Haus Esters and wants to invoke a spirit of media in an alternative dystopian draft, the Genius Media. The concept of the genius derives from the Roman belief that represents the inherent force of every man and is to be understood as an inner action principle. Berger orients himself on prophesies of technological pessimism like the “Megamachine” described by the sociologist Lewis Mumford in which humankind is subject to technology and must submit to coercive authoritarian mechanisms. Berger comprehends media as instruments for the construction of the megamachine und predicts humankind’s final enemy in his dystopian experiment.
Ralf Berger’s (born 1961 in Düsseldorf, DE) multimedia works operate at the intersection of performance, installation and media art and focuses on the interaction of his own body with his surroundings in his exploration of the boundaries of artistic material and medium. Berger was awarded numerous grants after his studies with Klaus Rinke at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf and his works have been presented at solo exhibitions across Germany and at international group shows. In 1999, Julian Heynen curated the solo exhibition Ralf Berger. Arbeiten 1993–98 at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld.