Rebel with a Whip

A series of photographs depict the artist located in impressive vistas wielding a whip. His inspiration is said to draw on an ancient tale where the Egyptian Pharoah, Xerxes, and the Archaemenid King, had an engineer whipped 300 times when the bridges he built collapsed in a storm.  Taken in various locations during von Bismarck’s travels throughout Europe and the Americas, in the last quarter of 2011, his images are comical whilst carrying serious undertones. 

At times, it looks as if von Bismarck is a mad man (not the kind that lived in New York and worked in advertising in the 1950s), bizarrely throwing his elongated whip at a huge stone, or a towering statue. This would likely be the reaction to anyone seen trying to discipline the pillars of the Brandenburg Gate by hurling a whip towards them one afternoon. Despite this, the photographs do enliven one’s sense of rebellion. They are attention grabbing and cause the viewer, at the very least, to question the artists’ motivations and think more deeply about the meaning behind the frames.

Punishment #7Photo: Julius von Bismarck – Punishmeht #7 2011, courtesy alexander levy 

There is no truth, only perspective

Von Bismarck’s work is reminiscent of critical philosophy in both name and notion. The title of the show draws parallels to Foucault’s famed book Discipline and Punish. The content of both aims to defy what is considered natural and break-down authoritative societal constructs. Perhaps the artists’ international upbringing between Germany and Saudi Arabia instilled an understanding in him that values and ways of seeing are dependent on society rather than pre-given in nature.

A show worth seeing

Having not yet reached his 30th birthday, von Bismarck holds an impressive resume. He has studied in Berlin under revered public artist, Olafur Eliasson, and in New York at Hunter College. In 2008, von Bismarck was awarded the Golden Nica of the Prix Ars Electronica for his work Image Fulgarator. Last year, he picked up the Prix Ars Electronica@CERN award for his playful bridging between the fields of art and science, criticising our notions of reality in unpredictable ways. Punishment I is no exception to the artists’ bold and dynamic style. The show opens on 27th January (18hr – 21hr) and will run until 24th March. The Alexander Levy gallery can be found in Berlin’s bustling Mitte district, near the Kochstrasse metro stop (U6).

  • Alexander Levy, “Julius von Bismarck. Punishment I”, January 28th – March 24th 2012, Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm