On View in the upstairs gallery
Born in 1965 in Gribbohm, in northern West Germany near the Danish border, John Bock studied sculpture at the Hochshule für Bildende Künste (HfBK), Hamburg, West Germany. Reconciling elements of Dada, Happenings, Fluxus, and European Actionism, his artistic practice can be understood through the tripartite lens of lectures, installation environments, and audience participation.
Bock is known for his lectures that parody academic activity, which he enacts in impermanent environments crafted from household objects, detritus, furniture, wood, and other generally inexpensive and often found items. These quotidian materials recall the work of artists such as Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy, who wove kitsch sources into California’s post-Pop art aesthetic in the 1980s. During exhibitions and events, Bock occupies these spaces as places of semi-dwelling and stages for audience engagement. Consisting of pseudo-formal language in a mixture of English, French, and German, Bock’s lectures often verge on gibberish and are variously shouted, proclaimed, and spoken in a fast-paced manner.
Although an admirer of Joseph Beuys, who performed similarly didactic works from the 1960s to the 1980s, Bock does not intend to teach his viewers but rather to engage them in an experiential and reciprocal relationship. However, his incomprehensible language and actions frustrate any clearly prescribed exchange, serving as a wider metaphor for the precarious communication between contemporary artist and audience. The lectures are accompanied by the wearing of costumes, sewn or knitted together; gestures; and spontaneously drawn diagrams and illustrations of the performance, further creating a deliberately absurdist, or to use the artist’s term, “a-logical” atmosphere. Items used during a lecture are often destroyed or discarded, while the improvised, collaged stage remains on view, sometimes alongside video documentation, and provides a permanent work to exhibit in its aftermath.
Collection R. F. Jefferies