Statement #21 | Sven Bergelt — @basjanader_#I’mtstty

Performance, June 13, 2023, 7 pm
In collaboration with Paula-Marie Kanefendt
Open Space from 5 pm

In @basjanader_#I‘mtstty, Sven Bergelt examines emotional, affirmative, and communicative moments of human existence, which are both induced by and flaunted in videos on YouTube—an ambivalent game. The source material for the lecture performance at Kunstraum Lakeside and for his artist archive of the same name are the 100-plus imitations of the film I’m Too Sad To Tell You (1971) by Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader (1942–1975) that have been published on the Internet. Although born in Holland, Ader received almost all of his artistic education in Southern California, where he joined the first wave of West Coast Conceptualism in the late 1960s. In his comparatively small œuvre, he used conceptual means to explore aspects of the human condition such as vulnerability and emotionality—at a time when Conceptual Art was firmly influenced by the “aesthetic of administration” (Benjamin Buchloh). The original film shows Ader crying for several minutes in front of the camera for an unknown reason. In addition to this black-and-white document, the work from the early 1970s includes photo stills and a postcard that the artist had sent to friends and acquaintances. Since the 1990s, Ader’s work has been increasingly featured in exhibitions and, moreover, hundreds of people have posted videos on YouTube referencing this work. Like the artist, they sit in front of the camera and—for unknown or known reasons—burst into tears or otherwise relate their own emotions to the original film.

Sven Bergelt’s collection of audiovisual and text material, which unfolds around Bas Jan Ader’s work, addresses the culture of copying on the Internet and its potentials as network-based communication. In 2007, the artist himself re-enacted Ader’s film and posted it on the Internet. His video updated Ader’s topic in the context of current media conditions: even the deeply personal—feelings, that is—originate from or resemble a script that is conveyed by media. For each exhibition, Bergelt rearranges his archived material anew in order to underscore the idea of a processual archive. These restagings of Bas Jan Ader are not copies; rather, in their difference to the original setting, actualizations and new referential frameworks emerge. For example, many comments on the videos exhibit gender-related interpretations and idiosyncratic reactions. It becomes obvious how the comment function on YouTube triggers new forms of communication and thereby articulates topics not negotiated in the original. By transferring these videos from YouTube’s user interface to his own archive, Sven Bergelt disengages them from the contemporary mass medium of the Internet. The collection establishes a new, independent material context that allows the artist to examine re-enactment and re-mediatization as communication phenomena on the web.

Sven Bergelt (b. 1983 in Germany) lives and works in Leipzig.

Sven Bergelt, @basjanader_#I‘mtstty, 2013/2023


Funded by the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony