KioskShop berlin (KSb) by Semjon H. N. Semjon (2021)
From December 2000 to spring 2010, the Berlin-based artist Semjon H. N. Semjon has with his unique long-term artistic project »KioskShop berlin (KSb)« in Berlin-Mitte connected the retail and the art world in a unique way.
Since its official opening in October 2001, around 7,000 visitors have visited »KioskShop«.
In a detour via another complex art installation »Construction of the Modern: The Berlin Collection by Dr. Carl Theodor Gottlob Grouwet (1919)« the »KioskShop« was virtually enclosed by walls that represented the salon of the collection, and for the gallery opening in September 2011, Semjon Contemporary reinforced it in a user-friendly manner. This room became the street parlor (Straßen-Salon) of the gallery's Salon Cabinets for 10 years.
The walls will be dismantled again by the end of October 2021 in order to allow »KioskShop« to reappear as a whole. The looming termination of the gallery space after 10 or 21 years by Berggruen Holdings, which had meanwhile acquired the building, prompted Semjon, after a 10-year artistic sabbatical, to show his own work presumably here in Schröderstraße for the last and unfortunately a short time. The future of this unique installation was uncertain. When the gallery would have moved out, »KioskShop« had to be smashed and destroyed. The work of art was created for this location (in-situ). Among other things, the too elastic wooden floor was exchanged for a vibration-free screed floor and the terrazzo floor was manufactured by the artist himself, and the self-made shop furniture was screwed, filled and varnished together to form a whole. Relocating stairs and installing a heating system without affecting the shop architecture were also part of it. For 10 years (actually 11) the work of art had been an integral part of the development of Schröderstrasse. The shop unit was the 3rd rented in November 2000. By 2011 every storefront had come to life.
The permanent installation simulates a small neighborhood shop on the one hand, and on the other hand the work of art plays with the perceptions and triggers reflections on the world of goods and their distribution.
At the center of the walk-in art installation are countless Product Sculptures«. These are product packages that have been reworked with bleached beeswax, mostly with their contents: Brandt rusk, Ariel detergent, Coca-Cola cans, newspapers and magazines, sweets, cigarettes and much more. As in a shop, they are set up in series in shop fixtures designed and built for this purpose. The picturesque white and strange looking product sculptures, the minimalist design of the white furniture and the brightly lit room create distance and transcend the well-known store ambience into a different level of perception and understanding. »As in front of a painting, distance from the viewer is required and at the same time curiosity is aroused« (Jan Maruhn in a text in 2001). The design was supposed to be a kind of abstract synthesis of perception from the memory of the long-forgotten colonial grocery store, the post-war corner shop run by war widows and today's Späti, which is mainly run by migrants. The installation was designed as a work-in-progress. Like a real shop, new ›products‹ were constantly being added. For this purpose, Semjon had implemented a presentation system that on the one hand physically protects the sensitive work of art and at the same time increases its added value optically and metaphorically through the display case character.
Semjon discovered bleached beeswax as a working material during a study visit to New York from 1991-1994, funded by the Evangelisches Studienwerk Haus Villigst e.V. Semjon originally wanted to apply for an assistantship to the American painter Jasper Johns, whom he greatly admired, but things turned out differently. Semjon discovered ingot bleached beeswax at Pearl Paint, the large multi-story art supply store on Canal Street, and bought several of them. At the same time, he hadn't thrown away the first emptied half-gallon milk container with the gable, because the shape he was familiar with from Berlin suddenly had a completely different, much more graphic design. (Only in Berlin was the 2l milk package available. This was introduced by the US troops during their presence. Today the ½ gallon container doesn’t exist in Berlin anymore.
The Semjon so impressive encaustic painting, which he valued with Jasper Johns and also with his first teacher Martin Assig, but already knew through his studies of classical archeology from the mummy portraits from Egypt in Roman times, inspired him to experiments. Medardo Rosso, who has only been seen as equal to Auguste Rodin in the last few decades (but in Semjon's opinion, is even more interesting and innovative), he met on his first day at the Institute for Art Research at the Technical University in Berlin in April 1984. In the institute's library there was a catalog brochure on Medardo Rosso from the 1920s on the large table covered with linoleum. It was Semjon's initiation for his main artistic material, yet to be discovered.
The first »Product Sculpture« was created the afternoon after the wax bars were bought and on the following day, and since then has generated an abundance of other work groups that use wax - mostly as the main material. The artistic principle of »Unity in Difference« was born. The various states of aggregation and the technical processing options derived from them (liquid with a brush, soft with a spatula and hard with a carving knife) result in a cosmos of formal and content-related groups of works.
From the first »Product Sculpture« the »DeliGrocery Project« was born in a very short time, the realization of which Semjon started in several attempts, most recently from 1999-2000 on site. The »Combination Sculptures« »Grocery«and »Countertop Coca Cola« as well as other works are resulting works from this period. In 1996 Semjon was able to realize his first installation sculpture »Kiosk« in Berlin-Zehlendorf. The free-standing kiosk pavilion from the 1950s with its chrome-glass shelving system set up by Semjon and the ensemble of »Product Sculptures« staged in it delighted and irritated Berliners for three months and was a grateful work of art for art critics.
The structural principle of »Unity in Difference« (1999)
All references to pages refer to the catalog, published 1999 by Vice Versa Verlag, Berlin, also available here as a PDF file to view.
In the beginning of the nineties, my artistic position of parallel works developed through my stay in New York from March 1991 to April 1994. The conceptual construction of »Unity in difference/Einheit in der Differenz« allowed me to bring different interests and talents to expression. Next to the classical fields of visual art, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, objects, installation and photography, there is the division into groups, which distinguish themselves in the mode of artistic approach (see visualization).
I’ve solved for myself the old fight between rationality and emotion, spontaneity and planar continuity in parallel works through the systematization in different work groups. It is the attempt to prevent chaos that would without doubt come through.
For years my preferred working material has been beeswax, which offers different possibilities of working, because it is diversely changeable through the three aggregations lying very close to one another. The bleached beeswax is very sensitive to dust. It requires a system of protection, which offers me, at the same time, colors to mark the different workgroups. Therefore, there forms a structure of inner and outer, through the differentiation of red, blue and black (and other colors) from one another. The colored protective forms and order-giving bodies fuse with the actual work to one whole.
The »Blue Group« represents the pure conceptual, minimal and abstract character of my work. The idea of calmness, refutation, protection and conservation is to be understood as a questioning of the loud and aggressive consumer, advertising, and communications world. Through the individual treatment of the products with bleached beeswax and the working over of a semi-transparent, painterly layer of separation, the 'loud' object becomes quieted, the banality distanced and resolved, transferred into a new reality, signifying individuality and contemplation, letting a sculpture form out of the trivial thing. The »Product Sculptures« (page 19-22), the »Product Paintings«, the »Ad Paintings« as well as the installations like »Kiosk« (page 26-28) and »Deli/Grocery« (page 61) belong to this work group
The »Red Group« is the attempt to reach the more purely emotional areas of our lives: love, sexuality, violence, upbringing (rearing, childhood) and history are the leitmotifs. The methodology grants the 'out-of-the-heart-into-the-work' a larger position of value. They are non-mediated because more direct. To this belong the »Frame Paintings« (page 40), the »Shield Paintings«, the »Icon Paintings«, the »Erotic Paintings« and the »Album Paintings« (page 41-43). »Animals in Torso« (page 45), the »Myth Figures«, the »Metamorphosis Figures« and the »Private Souvenirs« represent sculptures as well as objects in the workgroup. The »Army of Clones«, »Bloody Babies« (page 47) and »Flying Babies« are installations belonging to this group.
The »Black Group« offers the possibility to work out from the corporeality of the materials and their power of association. Here I can experiment with the work‘s material and playfully compose. My finished drawings, collages and photographs are also further examined through a reworking. The »Eclectic Figures« as objects, the »Mixed Media Series« works, the "Structural Paintings", and »Berlin Paintings« (page 34-38) and »Portrait Paintings« (page 30-33) can be mentioned here as examples.
My drawings are also in groups; the series are respectively titled: the »Triplets«, the »Tableaus« and the »Structural Combinations« (page 49-50), the »Structural Constitutions« (drawing and photography) and the »Structural Drawings« (page 51-54) as well as the »Baustellen Drawings« (page 39). It interests me to work out the possibilities of drawing and the consequential results by letting confrontation in opposition enter in.
Photography is also represented in my work complex. Above all here should be mentioned the group of self-referential works, which start out from works already realized by me. So single works, for example »Product Sculptures«, different »Wax Paintings« and the installations, serve as the foundation for artistic photography (page 25-28, 32, 38).
Also, when I begin a work from a different work concept, the three human states of being are always to be found in the results: the intellect, the body as well as the emotions.
The systematic classification is a result of my handicap, of being unable and unwilling to concentrate on one workgroup. I need diversity, because it corresponds to my nature. The developed structural principle of »Unity in difference/Einheit in der Differenz« helps me to expand my different talents, to push my work to the front and to keep from sinking into chaos.
My sculptural drawing »Black Box« (page 57) from 1990/91 had already anticipated what I only later began to peel away at: the parallel works. This work is an important link between my earlier searching and my present findings.
The »White Group« (since 1991) and the »Goldene Gruppe« (since 1996) are not mentioned here.