The Place Of Dead Roads by Joachim Koester (2013)

curtesy of the artist and Jan Mot

In the video installation, The Place of Dead Roads (2013), Danish artist Joachim Koester takes us on a journey to a subterranean world; a ‘road used by the dead’. Inspired by a quote by the Austrian-American psycho-analyst Wilhelm Reich : ‘Every muscular contraction contains the history and meaning of its origin’, Koester transforms the typical movements from the Western world into an odd kind of dance.

 In Koester’s video, four grubby characters are brilliantly embodied by dancers Pieter Ampe, Boglarka Börcsök, Liz Kinoshita and Halla Olafsdottir. They inhabit a dusty, wordless, cabin-cum-corral, each only dimly registering the presence of the other. Summoning a composition of gestures – that run from leering, hair-trigger, thumbs-in-belts stand-offs to the frenetic action of imagined gun battles –the four bandits variously gesticulate as if lassoing, writhe as if riding a bucking steed, step-dance as if having their feet shot at in the saloon, violently distort as if discharging bullets from their pistol–fingers or convulse involuntarily while being shot. Börcsök and Olafsdottir between them seem to channel the figure of Calamity Jane – or, at least, Robin Weigert’s portrayal of the legendary frontier woman and gender bruiser in the magnificent HBO series Deadwood.

Koester borrowed the title and concept of the work, The Place of Dead Roads, from a novel by William S. Burroughs Wild West, in which Burroughs tells the story of Kim Carsons, a cowboy who attempts to escape his own dead body, after being fatally shot in 1899.

The Place of Dead Roads is a Jan Mot production, in co-production with Centre d’art contemporain Genève.

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curtesy of the artist and Jan Mot

Joachim Koester is Danish born on 1962 in Copenhagen. He graduated of the Royal Danish Academy of Art in his native city in 1993.

Starting in the mid-1990s, he developed an oeuvre that could be described as a complex web in which journalistic and historical research fuses with personal and fictive narratives. Koester is preoccupied with the unknown, the unseen, and the forgotten. Balancing the thin line between documentary and fiction, Koester’s films, photos, and installations reexamine and activate forgotten histories, failed utopias, and the obsolete. Koester’s installations usually begin with an investigation of an obscure historical figure or fact, often linked to the outer fringes of culture, such as occult and otherworldly phenomena. This information then becomes the starting point for a story that phases in and out throughout the course of the exhibition. In his work, bygone counter-cultural movements reemerge in the same way that geographical and spiritual journeys are retraced.

He has had numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world. Koester has presented projects at major international art museums and events including the 51st Venice Biennale, 2005, and documenta X in Kassel, 1997, and has participated in exhibitions at venues including the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Tate Britain, London, and MIT List Visual Art Center, Boston. He is a 2008 finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize.

Koester currently lives and works in New York.

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