Stefan Panhans
Mar 14 - May 9, 2009

Stefan Panhans IF A STORE CLERK

Too Much Change is not enough
Eva Birkenstock and Ulrike Gerhardt

In Stefan Panhans’ exhibition I Might Keep It without Telling Him at Galerie Olaf Stüber the video work If a Store Clerk Gave Me Too Much Change (2009) will be shown for the first time. In addition Panhans presents a selection of associative collages, drawings and photographs that emerged during the research and preparation stage for his video. As independent works they comment and extend the picture world of the depersonalized “main character” in the video. Unfiltered observations, text fragments, collages and sketches interweave to a visionary space that is kept open in a similar way as the video setting. Somewhere between a basement, a young persons’ bedsit, hobby workshop, derelict building and waiting room is something lying in the horizontal…

If a Store Clerk Gave Me Too Much Change, 2009 starts off with one fixed camera shot giving an insight into a room-collage displaying requisites of different temporalities. A reproduction of Van Gogh’ Starry Night and the star cutting of the successful series Heroes mark off the cultural context. In the midst of this weave of meanings a bizarre maggot has woven in. Enclosed in a segmented cocoon it stretches out in bright red on top of a blue isolation mat above hay bales. Only its head sticks out; a masked Talking Head with a blond wig and theatrical make-up. Roughly painted walls, stored toolboxes, the posters and the cool blue of the door convey the impression of a provisional arrangement. Promises of fulfillment, balance, recharge are used up, exhausted. Only the ensemble of the sleeping bag, reflecting camping tools, food remains and wavy hay bales – staged residuals of adapted nature – are arranged and illuminated in every detail. Like a bright radiant display in a department store, bedded on cloths, and waiting in the storage for its performance. The isolated protective suit starts to rustle.

You can change your life every day, today would be a good day!

The bound upward head turns to the side, the white of the black-framed eyes scrolls towards the spectator. Empathic life coaching resounds without return. Stefan Panhans’ creature samples the optimal manual for the efficient self-tuning.
Two actresses* practise in a (mental) loop, alternately they accomplish their brain-workout in four different discourse-levels: From management of Qi-lifestyle to saving models and post-modern love in cyberspace. The talking mask becomes a hybrid fiction of present subject-conception. Salary requirement, the next air ticket and the fashion of the next season stimulate desire. The slogans inflate the borderless willingness of the flexible, neo-liberal employee for the enthusiastic life-long learning. A restless, unstoppable monologue whose speed and information density remind of attacking beasts of prey. The store clerk might be wrong the Webmaster will not miss a thing. In the simulated plastic idyll allegorical layers emerge, that grow from the horizontal into the vertical – also the uncanny creature dreams of being in a light sphere catapulted to the very top.

Everything gets better and better! Let no one set the limits for your dreams!

When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning in his chamber having had a wakeful night, thoughts of joy, power or positive energy seemed to be farther then ever. Because now he was lying on his back, eight-legged, and it was impossible to get up. The legs of the ambitious cloth merchant were flickering helplessly in front of his eyes. While Samsa was expected in his office abortively, Panhans’ character remains in the caterpillar coat beyond time and obligations. Its voice recites stormily messages bereft of meaning coming from alien ghosts. Obsessively the self-appointed medium winds and meanders and reveals info, facts and highlights. Recitals of stylised characteristics, economical expenditures, lexical knowledge and imaginary super-powers buzz through the room and bounce off the slick surface. The spectator of If a Store Clerk Gave Me Too Much Change becomes a testimony of spiritualist séance in the information age. In Panhans video the nightmarish feeling of desperation (which Gregor Samsa knows and is able to couch in terms) is becoming an epileptic seizure that converts the distanced thinking of Samsa into outrageous, intangible, visionary convulsions. Beyond imagination circulate the catchwords as empty signs of lost representation. How does pain actually feel in the digital age?

When it (the tyrannosaurus) comes across bigger herbivores among the dinosaurs it pushes lightening-fast its wide opened snout into their body and tears out big chunks of meat.

In the mist of signs danger is all around. While the programmed chambermaid in Who is afraid of 40 Zimmermädchen is posing neatly and fears wild animals, in Store Clerk it is the biggest humiliation to be forgotten in the subject-wardrobe. The survival-equipment, profane symbols, capacity to act and resistance debunk as pure décor. The area of physical attacks seems to be over, the birdcalls are canned.

I cannot understand at all while it is not my turn now?

In the holes and helixes of goods traffic people and things turn to be just waiting. In expectation to become a good, subjects anticipate the gaze of the capital and offer themselves, ready for mating with investment assets. Stefan Panhans monster is a megaphone of the mummies of the capitalist afterlife. As long as their deployment stays out they drift in their synthetic hollows and occupy themselves with design. Too much change is not enough. Themselves and all the things that surround them have become untouchable and insatiable. They call whispering for the registrar who got lost in the Babylonian shaft under the pyramid.

translated by Andrea Winkler


* Lisa Marie Janke, with whom Stefan Panhans worked now for the fifth time in sequel, and her sister
Catherine Janke