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Stefan Panhans

So when does the moon come out?

The exhibition “Stefan Panhans. So when does the moon come out?” transports its visitors into an absurd world of entertainment machinery and self-staging, to which we seem to be at mercy.

Stefan Panhans, Who′s Afraid of 40 Zimmermädchen, 2007, Videostil, Courtesy the artist

Stefan Panhans (*1967) creates a strange mood in his video works and the photographs on display. Strolling through the rooms of the exhibition, it feels like being caught up in a piece of absurd modern theatre or a reality soap.

The actors in the videos are located in surreal stage settings, where they engage in theatrical monologues and dialogues. They unfold their ambiguities in search of the self within an alienated world offering manifold possibilities for identification. Attitudes, styles and poses count in this world, in a frightening exclusiveness.

Panhans’ works represent a recognizable aspect of the zeitgeist, despite or even because of their striking artificiality. They present a section of reality determined by consumer behaviour and self-staging. The young generation of the 21st century in particular is marked by pressure to submit to prescribed ideals of beauty and a growing demand for self-optimization.

The Hamburg-based artist thus occupies a very special position in contemporary video art with his works. His unusual visual strategies turn the viewer into a voyeur who cannot overlook the paradoxical nature of self-dramatization: The almost grotesquely staged surface discloses a view into the actors’ disoriented interior.

The photographs exhibited in Siegen provides different insights. They show roving impressions of the remote and unconscious in the world of commodities. Thus, on the one hand, Panhans’ art presents the formless, the two-dimensional, scattered and refracted. On the other hand, there are those driven individuals merging into a unity with the image.

Young visitors in particular can find themselves in Panhans’ stagings, recognizing–perhaps for the first time–the absurdity of this exhibitionist machinery. In the age of digital communication, the "Facebook generation" is under more pressure than any generation before to market itself as a product to the outside world. Visitors to the exhibition are offered a new perspective on this as everyday life. Some fears or doubts, and the sense of constant switching between alleged control and loss of control over oneself can no doubt be shared by viewers of all ages.

The exhibition at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst is Stefan Panhans’ largest show to date and offers a unique insight, in ten rooms, into the power of words and images in his works from the last five years. On display are 7 video works and 35 photographs.

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