ive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
- ee cummings
Otto Berchem’s work explores social and visual codes, focusing on the relationships between language, architecture, history and poetry. His practice employs a wide variety of media, including painting, video, photography, and public interventions; which are all represented in his fifth solo show at Ellen de Bruijne Projects. Dive for Dreams is a continuation of the ideas and themes from his previous exhibition (Revolver, 2013), and revives the performative aspect of the Dating Market, his first solo show with Ellen de Bruijne, in 2000.
With this body of work the artist continues his investigation of signs, human relations and codes, using his chromatic alphabet and exploring different possibilities with it. Berchem’s code is inspired by the writings of Uruguayan Jorge Adoum and Vladimir Nabokov, Peter Saville’s designs for the first three New Order albums, and the condition of Synaesthesia.
Through the use of this alphabet, Berchem has proposed a series of works reviewing iconic images, re-interpreting them by strategically, deleting the preexisting meanings and slogans, and replacing them with his own interpretation.
…when I try to explain my problems,
I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.
- Pablo Neruda, We Are Many
As an American artist who has lived abroad for most of his life, it is important for Berchem’s practice to create relations between centers of power and what has historically been arbitrarily assumed as periphery. With the video Inverted Americas Berchem evokes Joaquín Torres Garcías’ 1943 drawing América Invertida, depicting an upside South America. By channeling one of Torres Garcias’ more renown contributions to modern art history, Berchem questions the notion of identity and the clichés of nationality and territory.
The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness.
- John Berger, The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
If we understand a protest as a rehearsal for Revolution, a type of performatic activity using the public space as a stage, any element used with it has its own symbology depending on the nature of the protest. Brooms have been related to manifestations linked to corruption, or in demonstrations against social ills, such as racism, xenophobia, colonialism, etc. In this particular situation Berchem appropriates the symbol of a broom and connects it with the Barres de bois rond of Andre Cadere, and with it he traces the links between the history of art, its revolutionary moments, and the need to manifest dissent within the current state of contemporary society.