Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff

Competitive Histories of Desire (1), 2015

archival digital print

46 × 52 cm


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Additional Information

Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

photo credit: def image, Berlin

Artwork
Description

Competitive Histories of Desire (1) is a digital print dating from 2015 by the American artist duo. The image is of a table top surface at the New Theater, which was founded by Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff and for which they continue to work as writers and directors. The pictures were taken during the process of cleaning up after a performance night at the theatre and the table surfaces show signs of use: crumbs and bottle caps litter the surface haphazardly. The images explore the idea of the table surface as a platform: it is a place of meeting between individuals, a place of communion and communication.

The table top that is the subject of Competitive Histories of Desire (1), whilst representing a space of communality, is conversely empty. The table is deserted, but redolent with signs of life recently departed. The effect is one of almost aching absence. The work is a suggestive and deeply sensitive study in absence.

Competitive Histories of Desire (1) forms part of a series of works by the artists of table tops pictured after they had been sat at and used by unseen visitors. The images are all evocative of the networks and relationships within Henkel and Pietgoff’s lives. Amongst the series are works which show restaurant tables where plates have been cleared, but crumbs are left scattered across the table. The table becomes like a screen, or perhaps even a canvas, it is a surface onto which traces of existence are projected. Some of these were exhibited at UCCA Bejing.

About
the artist

Calla Henkel (b. 1988) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Max Pitegoff (b. 1987) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. They began to work collaboratively while attending Cooper Union School of Art in New York. They have been collaborating for almost a decade. After graduating in 2011 they ran Bar Times in Berlin and opened New Theatre.

Their work revolves around ideas of the nature of performance and is reflected in their involvement as founders, writers and directors of the Berlin performance space, New Theatre. Their work takes the quotidian as a performance and views existence as a serial of cause and effect, much like the modern sitcom.

Theatre is an important motif in their works; they explore the idea of collaboration by discussing the roles individuals adopt within a community. The duo challenge the traditional perception of group shows in which the works often do not cohesively combine to form a whole. Instead, Henkel and Pitegoff aim to create theatrical works that unify the contributors and contributions, as though they were actors in a play. This performative element bleeds into all their work and depicts the everyday as an expression of a person's societal role. Individuals become defined by their function much like appliances. The importance of identity decreases, as people become mechanisms within the system which ultimately comes to define them. With New Theatre, they aim to produce works in which different artists and their creations are able to interact and overlap, as part of a performance.

Collaboration is key to their output. Working across a wide variety of media, much of what they do involves narrative creation, which can influence the viewer's understanding of the objects. Alternatively, the works included can help to shape their scripts, which are performed by the artists rather than actors. This obscures the traditional parameters of theatre, consequently blurring: reality and fiction; art and theatre; production and product. Their work becomes an exploration of relationships, between individuals and their external circumstances and the way in which these influence their own constitution. There is a sense that each person unfavourably becomes an extension of their surroundings, losing an element of individuality.


Their work revolves around ideas of the nature of performance and is reflected in their involvement as founders, writers and directors of the Berlin performance space, New Theatre. Their work takes the quotidian as a performance and views existence as a serial of cause and effect, much like the modern sitcom.

Their work becomes an exploration of relationships, between individuals and their external circumstances and the way in which these influence their own constitution. There is a sense that each person unfavourably becomes an extension of their surroundings, losing an element of individuality.


Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition