Double Standards

"Basically, all my work stems from something that I find funny and then I find the horror in it and desperately try to crawl back to the humour.” London-born artist Kasia Fudakowski has taken the lead from two of her idols, American artist Lee Lozano and cult entertainer Andy Kaufman, for her new solo show Double Standards "A Sexhibition” at ChertLüdde, Berlin.

Kasia Fudakowski, Boob Bait (II), 2017, Stained and waxed oak, painted steel, leather, Boob with leather: 49 x 16 x 14 cm; Metal structure: 78 x 23 cm, Courtesy the Artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin

I first saw Kasia Fudakowski’s work at Artissima art fair in Turin in November last year. The sculpture was a standout piece in the whole show; both delicate and sturdy, gorgeous and gross, enormous, emptied out prawn shells, hanging and scattered, with the amusing name Are you eating well?. As I would later find out, much of the artist’s work is funny. “I find comedy to be possibly the highest form of art,” the artist tells me when we speak ahead of her solo show at ChertLüdde which opens later today for Gallery Weekend Berlin. “Stand-up comedy—that is totally where my inspiration comes from, rather than “funny art”. Basically, all my work stems from something that I find funny and then I find the horror in it and desperately try to crawl back to the humour. Stand-up comedy is for me the most beautiful, economic, radical art form. It’s always been the case that that’s where I take my inspiration.”

‘Dear Visitor, You must choose either left or right, you cannot enter both.’

Double Standards “A Sexhibition” will have a form of twisted joke to it also. “It kind of relies on a trick because the set up for the exhibition is that when you enter the space there are a set of stairs with the doors closed off to the left and the right and a lightbox will come on which says: ‘Dear Visitor, You must choose either left or right, you cannot enter both.’,” she tells me. “It’s this idea of building in self-sabotage to the exhibition. The whole thing has been my process of trying to understand the achievements of Lee Lozano and Andy Kaufman. I think they have become, for me, the perfect artists. The whole process has been about how you deal with your idols.

“What I found so fascinating and so problematic with their work is that it is liberal baiting. For me, that’s what Lee Lozano and Andy Kaufman did. With Kaufman’s provocative acts, his wrestling women, he was doing it with audiences who had come to see him, they were already in some way fans, so he was trying to provoke people who were already in the know. Against the backdrop of second wave feminism, he really pulled at that nerve and baited his audience to get this spectacle. With Lozano, she was a relatively successful female painter and artist, I think that’s important to state. She wasn’t a downtrodden artist, she was doing well. But within that, she did Decide to Boycott Women and Dropout Piece.” 

“I listened to a podcast recently which said, very interestingly, that in a way we need the idealists,” says Fudakowski, “and every time we make some progress in the way we talk about race or gender they are immediately there saying: that’s not good enough. I think you need that coupled with the realism of people actually trying to do things and talk in a more current language.”

This is a pressing concept right now. The idea of preaching to the converted has sprung up in many conversations of late—linked mostly to the mammoth and divisive events of last year, such as Brexit and Trump’s election—and of course, this spills out to the arts too. Who are we speaking to? Whose feathers are we really ruffling? “The whole idea of the double standards and only allowing you to see one side of the exhibition is also reflective of this idiotic referendum craze,” she says. ‘The idea is, of course, you can disobey the artist but then you’re willingly disobeying the artist.”

Fudakowski, Boob Bait (I), 2017, Stained and waxed oak, steel, leather, Boob with leather: 58 x 23 x 20 cm; Metal structure: 50 x 120 x 21 cm, Courtesy the Artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin

Kasia

Despite the highly conceptually curious nature of her practice, it is also technically rigorous. Pieces which might, at first sight, appear readymade—indeed, I presumed certain works such as the human-like broom sculpture lower your ambitions (blue) to be so—are the result of hands-on and precise workmanship. A pair of wooden breasts feature in numerous works in Double Standards “A Sexhibition”, hanging back to back like a pair of boxing gloves. They’re simply formed but beautifully finished, holding properties of weighty flesh and also clean, modern design. “Most of the time I work through things and I think often in terms of the materials,” she tells me. “Because [contemporary artists are] so reliant on ideas, I think it’s really important that if you have the idea you find the right format. Which is why I’ve been accused of material infidelity, sleeping around between formats.”

While the artist’s more recognisable works are her sculptural pieces, she has a diverse practice and isn’t afraid to stray into relatively unknown territory. “I’m also designing an app for one exhibition,” she tells me. “I’ve been invited to reinvent an Allan Kaprow performance, or happening, for the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. Before he died he said his happenings could never be restaged, or recreated, they had to be reinterpreted. So I decided to make an app, it’s a very basic app, but I’ve suddenly been researching the whole world of apps. I’ve also written a piece of erotic literature for Double Standards “A Sexhibition”, and I’m trying to make a film later in the year.”

“They kind of implore a radical act in the way that they worked and my idea was to take the same liberty that they took with their life and their work but do it with them.”

For the literature that will accompany this show, Fudakowski veered into a potentially uncomfortable arena, pairing up both of her artists in an erotic tale. It’s a bold move to take with your heroes, treating them, as we so often do, with the utmost respect. But of course, it fits these two boundary pushers very well. “The idea for me was to take all of this information that I’ve read and digested about these two artists and embed it into a piece of erotic literature,” Fudakowski says. “They kind of implore a radical act in the way that they worked and my idea was to take the same liberty that they took with their life and their work but do it with them.”

‘Double Standards “A Sexhibition”’ opens on the evening of 28 April and runs until 17 June. chertluedde.com 

Kasia Fudakowski, Boob Bait (IV), 2017, Stained and waxed oak, painted steel, leather, Boob with leather: 44 x 15 x 8 cm; Metal structure: 177 x 23 cmCourtesy the Artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin