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.