The Danish artists’ group SUPERFLEX (Rasmus Nielsen, Jakob Fenger and Bjornstjerne Christiansen) has been working together since 1993 on a series of projects to do with economic forces, democratic production conditions and self-organisation. The artists have examined alternative energy production methods and commodity production plants in Brazil, Thailand and Europe in their projects which both expose and question the existing economic structures.
One of the most famous projects is GUARANA POWER, which SUPERFLEX carried out in 2003 in Brazil, together with local farmers who cultivate the caffeine-rich berries of the guarana plant. In collaboration with the artists, the farmers produced a drink for which a logo and marketing philosophy were then devised. By supporting this producers’ own initiative, the project was responding to the price dumping policy for guarana berries pursued by the two large companies who have a monopoly on both the guarana plant and the brand. The intention behind the development of GUARANA POWER was to use global brands and their market strategies as raw material for an economic and social counter-model. The idea for the product was then handed over to an independent association, who still produce and market the drink, so that the project is on-going.
In 1997, with the help of Danish and African engineers, the artists developed a simple mobile bio-gas unit in the framework of the SUPERGAS project in East Africa. This alternative system produces enough energy for the cooking and lighting purposes of one household. The bio-gas system is fuelled with organic material, such as, for example, animal faeces, and thus uses a natural and readily available raw material. For a small amount of money, an African family can buy this bio-gas system and thus achieve a certain economic independence and self-reliance.
SUPERFLEX describe their projects as TOOLS, as proposals that invite people to actively participate in and communicate the development of experimental models that alter the prevailing economic production conditions. Assisted by experts who bring in their respective special interest, SUPERFLEX provides TOOLS that encourage their users to take an active part. As “open sources”, these TOOLS can then be further utilized and modified by their users. For example, during SUPERCOPY / SOCIAL PUDDING, at the Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig in 2003, SUPERFLEX, together with Rikrit Tiravanija, developed an infrastructure for the production of pudding. In doing this, they exposed the economic structure of the institution, which was financially supported by the well-known pudding manufacturer Dr. Oetker. In the course of the exhibition, the employees of that institution produced a copy-product from the Dr. Oetker product range and invited the visitors to create their own kinds of pudding. SUPERFLEX uses such TOOLS to initiate important processes of communication that productively reflect on economic power relations and hegemonies and address real social needs, above and beyond the art discourse. Over the past years, SUPERFLEX has achieved international recognition with their projects. For example in 2004, the Danish artists had solo exhibitions, among others, at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt am Main, the Redcat Gallery in Los Angeles and the gallery side 2 in Tokyo. In 2003, SUPERFLEX participated in the “Utopia Station” exhibition at the Venice Biennale.
The Kunsthalle Basel is proud to present the SUPERFLEX/ SUPERSHOW. For some time now, the three artists have been preoccupied with the notion of surplus value: how does it come about, and what mechanisms influence it? Based on the fact that art museums and institutions in the 1990s became more and more like brand-names, or are perceived as such, the artists aim to explore the surplus value of the Kunsthalle. The art institution will be examined from the same economic and social viewpoints as the ‘Nike’ or ‘Ikea’ brands. Throughout its history, the Kunsthalle Basel has already gone through various identity-seeking stages which have been orchestrated by different directors/curators. Last year, after comprehensive refurbishment the Kunsthalle assumed a whole new image once again.With “SUPERSHOW – more than a show”, SUPERFLEX will subject the Kunsthalle to a precise analysis and demonstrate to the visitors the increase in the immaterial value of the institution since its beginnings. The “Kunsthalle factor” will be defined by different experts, whose economic and political perspectives will be presented in the exhibition. The “Kunsthalle factor” will be calculated based on the average difference between the former value of the exhibited artworks and their current market value. The Kunsthalle’s surplus value, however, is not solely determined by economic standards. For this reason, SUPERFLEX will also expose the institution’s ideal value. The focal point of the artists’ attention will be the audience: the visitors will become both the subject and the producers of the SUPERSHOW. The exhibition itself is to be a “value escalation machine” in which the visitors assume an active role and produce a surplus value. This dynamic process can provide the “Kunsthalle” brand with further definitions.
Supported by The Danish Arts Council, Committee for International Visual Art.