Helmhaus Zürich, February 14-April 5, 2020.
Published in: critics picks, artforum.com, March 17, 2020.
While sitting in a tramcar on my way to the exhibition venue, I noticed a curious ad for Florence Jung’s solo exhibition: “If there is one name you never utter, call 0775050362.” The intrigue continued inside the Helmhaus, which offered further contact infos, rumors, and half-opened entryways. Doors prove to be one of the exhibition’s leitmotifs: Some cannot be opened at all, others offer an obscured view through a narrow crack, and still others can be passed through only one person at a time, under strict control by a guard. As soon as I entered the adjoining room, one of the guardsmen handed me a note demanding that I call the phone number listed. An authoritative voice at the other end of the line gave further directives while vaguely offering that the “intangible leaves traces.”
In fact, most of the exhibition spaces appear nearly empty, with only a few material traces, such as a stack of unopened letters in a corner, and boxes of ad catalogues from the artist’s fictitious company, New Office, which has produced three hundred ad slogans. These phrases combine doubts about particular social, economic, and psychological situations—hidden anxieties or insolvable contradictions leading to paranoia and cynicism—and always extend an option to call someone. Like the exhibition itself, they insist on a persistent ambivalence, leaving one wondering whether to follow an address, or if this act reveals a rather uncanny publication of one’s inmost conditions. The next morning, a new text message referring to the “intangible” reminded me that my phone number has now become part of the artist’s resources.