Text Wolfgang Ullrich
One of the best-known advertising slogans at the beginning of the 21st century was „Geiz ist geil“ („Stingy is horny“). The capitalist profit logic celebrated with it comes up in a different way in the title of the exhibition by Pia vom Ende and Christian Kölbl: „Krise kann auch geil sein“ („Crisis can also be horny“) – meaning that markets created by sudden changes offer the opportunity for wealth. The phrase comes from YouTuber and entrepreneur Fynn Kliemann, who thought it was horny to make a lot of money from the gigantic demand for masks created by Corona in April 2020. Just how reckless his supposedly social deals were was revealed two years later - whereupon the cynical confession of a crisis profiteer went viral and became a hashtag.
In the exhibition, the two artists present products that are themselves only made conceivable by current crises such as the war in Ukraine. At first glance, they thus seem to confirm another basic conviction of capitalism, which consists of interpreting entrepreneurs and artists as two varieties of the same type of person: Both, it is argued, are equally creative, risk-taking, and uncompromising.
But it quickly becomes clear that Pia vom Ende and Christian Kölbl undermine this popular analogy, which serves primarily to ennoble entrepreneurs as artists. The fact that they design and advertise particularly cynical offers also exposes the dark, even evil side of many quite sincerely intended products. With their exhibition, they sharpen the view of how often abysses open up just in times of crisis, when cohesion and altruism would be all the more important.
Design and marketing are the most important drivers in a developed affluent society. They ensure ever new offerings and variants, give products more distinctive power and legitimize higher prices. Even the most everyday types of products have been charged with meaning in recent decades by being transformed into brands and aesthetically exaggerated. Often, the utility value even takes a back seat to the aesthetic value. So sneakers, perfume or surfboards are now collected rather than used by many.
New crises, above all the war in Ukraine and feared blackouts in the energy supply, are now preparing the ground for making products attractive to broader markets for which there was previously no major marketing. Emergency generators, radios with battery operation, but even weapons are now suddenly being subjected to the same aesthetic upgrade.
Christian Kölbl goes one step further. He is offering a "Liberator" gun in four design variants and as a limited edition, but above all with his own name on it. This is printed in large letters on the gun's case, turning it into a luxury product. The guns are produced with a 3D printer according to plans freely available on the Internet, not unlike many weapons that are nowadays used by preppers, right-wing extremists and other fanatics, bypassing all laws. So in Kölbl's case, these highly controversial weapons are now certified with the aura of art, which makes them all the more sinister. For does this not transfigure the aggressive catastrophic longing of those who otherwise use them into a heroic worldview and prophecy? But it is not only those who enjoy frivolity who are likely to be addressed by this; rather, Kölbl's multiples also allow us to think in terms of large historical arcs and to associate Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer, who for their part designed weapons and fortifications.
The walls of the exhibition space read "Buy your gun." The suggestion is that in the future everyone will need a gun - that this is part of a contemporary, even decent lifestyle. And once weapons are just as much a matter of fashions and hypes as music, clothing and accessories, then new markets will open up all the time, and highly dynamic consumer cycles will emerge here as well. Christian Kölbl's work makes us aware that in the course of marketable staging, even war and violence - the business of killing - are no longer something remote and questionable. Rather, what is aestheticized is also normalized.