Keren Cytter dramatizes today’s new normality dominated by social media and the Internet, characterized by a state of permanent networking, circulation and updated presence, resulting in the collapse of clear boundaries between private and public. Including more than one hundred works produced between 2002 and 2022, the survey Bad Words at Ludwig Forum Aachen presents all of the Keren Cytter’s versatile fields of interest combined for the first time.
Keren Cytter dramatizes today’s new normality dominated by social media and the Internet, characterized by a state of permanent networking, circulation and updated presence, resulting in the collapse of clear boundaries between private and public. The multidisciplinary works of the New York-based artist include films, soap operas, plays, sculptures, drawings, novels, zines, life coaching guides, and children’s books, as well as festivals. Including more than one hundred works produced between 2002 and 2022, the survey Bad Words at Ludwig Forum Aachen presents all of the artist’s versatile fields of interest combined for the first time. Their particular sequencing throughout the three exhibition floors at the Ludwig Forum follows Cytter’s ongoing interest in personal mythologies and the various stages of life, while highlighting text and language as crucial elements in her practice.
The first room introduces a series of children’s books, sculptures, and animated films that describe childhood as a search for one’s own identity in proximity to and at a distance from family, friends, and strangers. This installation is followed by a series of drawings and two videos reflecting the ever-changing emotional world of young people: clichéd icons such as Che Guevara or personalities like underground filmmaker and pioneer of queer cinema Kenneth Anger illustrate possible bandwidths of youth culture and socialization.
Other stops in the exhibition include Keren Cytter’s multiple collaborations, most notably with New York-based artist John Roebas. Through their joint sculptural project Ego bodies, Cytter / Roebas playfully highlight that disturbances and fragmented bodies belong to growing up just as much as dealing with coming of age. Art Projects Era (A.P.E.), a non-profit organization and production platform, is another collaboration co-founded with curators Maaike Gouwenberg and Kathy Noble. Since its creation in 2010, A.P.E. has challenged the limitations of institutional structures through festivals with international performance artists, writers, dancers, and musicians in Amsterdam, Basel, Bologna, Bregenz, Düsseldorf, New York, Warsaw, and Zurich.
In the last room, 825 Polaroid photos taken between the years 2012 and 2013 display family, friends, objects, film sets, landscapes, and manipulated portraits—a collection of images in which Cytter imitates different photographic genres and which she ironically, or affirmatively, calls MOP (Museum of Photography) (2013) to question the power of memory and the interpretive authority of institutions. Behind it, a series of blue drawings document apartments where the artist has recently spent her time (her home in Queens, and a house in Lausanne where she quarantined for ten days), still-lifes, and views from windows drawn with a ballpoint pen on small sheets of paper that she carried in an envelope and reassembled in the exhibition space.
All works on view are connected by a new site-specific installation: a text that sprawls along the walls of the museum, guiding the visitor from one space to the next. Being at the same time its own long title, this text addresses the individual objects of the exhibition it accompanies, as it incorporates additional narratives. In other instances, it refers to its own physical presence as a plotted wall text, and to the presence of the visitors, who, while walking and reading the text, become in a way performers themselves.