Jen DeNike



3 September – 12 November 06



Jen DeNike
September 03 - November 12, 2006

Opening: September 02, 2006, 5 - 9 pm

In her first solo exhibition in Germany KW Institute for Contemporary Art present photographic and video-based works by the young American artist Jen DeNike.

Jen DeNike’s photos and videos are both portraits and stereotypes, addressing essential themes like individual and society, role models and social control, cult and obsession as well as their physical, sexual, and sometimes also aggressive forms of expression. In her most recent work the artist looks at stereotyped behaviours among American adolescents – at the typical and familiar rituals, and power play, at the elements of theatricality, rivalry and aggression implicit in them and also at what lies behind, namely, the aesthetics, eroticism and occasional ruthlessness and cruelty of adolescent fantasy worlds.

The latent aggression, competition and erotic physicality of the ritualized, sometimes laughable rivalry between adolescents is revealed in Wrestling (2003), a work which impressively illustrates the playful dialectic of dependence and self-determination, the struggles involved in growing up and dealing with social expectations, vulnerability and a role model that requires belligerent behaviours.
In the seven-channel video installation Seasons in the Sun (2005), Jen DeNike has various male adolescents give an amateurish rendering of the well-known Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. Every singer interprets the wistful tune and the memories evoked by the lyrics in his own idiosyncratic way; they all seem to project their own experiences onto the song. Formally, however, the installation subverts its own caricature of male sentimentality, since the various video sequences are of different length, but seemingly in the same backdrop.

A selection of the photographic series Vampire Victims (2003-2005) that will be seen at KW, shows female teenagers apparently killed by a vampire. The fresh bite-marks are clearly visible on the victims lying in anonymous private or public locations. They do not so much resemble the extras in a film as frozen dream images that at once convey a sense of passion and desire, but also of pain and the sensuality of evil.

In both video and photography Jen DeNike always works with non-actors. Her strategies include brief instructions to the participants, little or no camera movements with the end result culminating in un-edited one-takes.

Jen DeNike’s personal experiences are closely woven into her works, which deal with her daydreams, observations and obsessions. By letting the audience witness personal, at times intimate situations without unduly exposing the protagonists, her works unfold meanings that go far beyond the individual, subjective, or personal.

We would like to thank the Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, for their generous support.