dundee part 1 - Seminar / Lectures, Bicycle Stuff

dundee part 2 - DadaLenin, Reading Lenin, Studying



10 March – 14 April
Reading, Riding and Other Recent Works

Rainer GanahlExhibitions Department is very proud to be presenting Rainer Ganahl’s first solo exhibition in the UK.
Ganahl ( has shown all over the world, most recently in the exhibition ‘Left Pop (bringing it back home)’, curated by Georgina Jackson, Nicola Lees and Diana Baldon at the Moscow Biennale 2007 ( This month his one-person show The Apprentice in the Sun opens at Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. He will also be participating in 52nd Venice Biennale 2007 ( curated by Robert Storr and at the 10th Istanbul Biennial (

Ganahl (b. 1969) is an Austrian artist with US citizenship, based in New York since 1990. He studied at Dusseldorf Academy under Nam June Paik (, finishing in 1990, going on to the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York, (, where his professors were Hal Foster, Barbara Kruger, Benjamin Buchloh and Mary Kelly.

Ganahl’s artistic practice began in 1992. For this exhibition ‘Reading, Riding and Recent Works’, we have selected pieces that represent the ongoing series that form his practice, including work from the ‘Seminar / Lectures’ series which Ganahl began in 1995; from his ‘Reading Seminars’ which started in 1993; and from his Bicycle works which began in 2001. Whether it is through the intensity of study or defying traffic, Ganahl’s ongoing engagement with the world, its meanings and his role as an artist is a constant assessment of politics, education, media and reality.

Reading the city practically against its grain is exciting and demands quite some acrobatic discipline and courage (or reckless madness - if you want to accuse me as some people do) to surpress common sense usage”
Rainer Ganahl

In the Upper Foyer Gallery we begin with Bicycling Damascus. (2004) from Ganahl’s ongoing bicycle activism series, cycling against the traffic on streets all over the world. Ganahl’s actions update Walter Benjamin’s description of the ‘flâneur’, a detached observer who strolls the city in order to experience and understand it. Ganahl’s high-adrenaline, never mind risky and unlawful, actions see him as a direct, chaotic participant with the life of each city, with his video camera that he refers to as his ‘urban eyeglass’. As he weaves in and out of vehicles and pedestrians, and through the different neighbourhoods, we experience the idea of the city from a different perspective – in the case of Bicycling Damascus we are taken on an epic ride through everyday traffic jams, busy people, and a colourful middle eastern street in a country that the US Department considers to be involved with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Bicycling Flann O'Brien - "It was the grip of a handlebar - her handlebar", is a cyclical work that directly unites the act of reading and riding, referred to in the exhibition title, as the artist cycles in circles around an empty loft apartment in Manhattan with his girlfriend, sitting on the handlebar, reading then repeating sections of emotionalist text from the Irish writer’s book ‘The Third Policeman’ (1940). From the text we hear that the writer was obsessed with the handlebar, the saddle and the pedals which he attributes as female, and is concerned about death, loss, and bicycle theft.

Moving inside the Cooper Gallery we see Don’t steal my Brompton Bicycle, where a Brompton Bicycle is secured poetically with fragile porcelain chains and surrounded by security gear, again made from porcelain. It is interesting to note that during a six-month period in Japan in 1993, Ganahl was consistently arrested after 7 every evening as a potential bicycle thief, when in reality he was borrowing a friend’s bicycle to get around.

A Bold Line - Back and Forth - Bicycling Madison Avenue, New York, 2006 is a two-channel dvd, where the artist strictly tried to follow the line that divides the bus lane from the rest of the traffic on Madison Avenue between 42nd and 59th street. The video camera is suspended on a 4m metal stick. Street lines regulate traffic flow and the city – in his action the artist directly contravenes authority and ‘un-learns’ accepted behaviour.

Ganahl’s practice has been influenced by Edward Said’s book "Orientalism"(1978), in which Said critiques the false assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the East. Over more than a decade Ganahl has learnt the basics of eleven languages, including five eastern languages that are traditionally perceived to be almost impossible for the westerner to understand. A main part of Ganahl’s practice has been documenting in real time his studies. The artist quantifies and records his studies, and has learnt about 800 hours Basic Chinese, over 500 hours Korean, over 500 hours Basic Arabic and countless hours of Japanese. This labour captures the absurdity of representing ‘otherness’. The stacks of tapes labelled for example ‘My First Five Hundred Hours Basic Arabic’ become sculptures waiting to be viewed.

With Basic Chinese we have photographs that incorporate phrases lifted from the study manuals that Ganahl learnt Mandarin from. Overlaying documentary-type scenes of Hong Kong the phrases add ambivalence to a city where Cantonese is the main language. The Basic Chinese, Study sheets act as archival evidence of the artist’s endeavours. In Homeland Security we see the artist himself take simple phrases such as ‘I am not a terrorist’, and as he faces camera he repeats them in the different languages he has learnt, moving through the eleven languages he has been learning.

The idea for the Seminar/Lecture series came to me while attending a seminar by Edward Said entitled “The representation of intellectuals” at Columbia University in the mid-1990s. This on-going photo series has for me become the back-bone for an artistic production with a specific aesthetic; visual and intellectual scope marked by administrative systematism, continuity and contingency. As with other works of mine, these photographs have a strong indexical quality and refer to a body of knowledge that present my interest in issues of cultural critiques and politics - issues that are vibrant in understanding today’s social world.
Rainer Ganahl

In the Cooper Gallery we show photographs from Ganahl’s ongoing Seminar / Lecture series, selecting five lectures and seminars Ganahl has attended between 2003 - 2006, from a salon with Louise Bourgeois, a lecture on Mozart, to presentations on Anarchists, Nazis and Dadaists. What do these photographs hold when we, the gallery audience have not directly attended the event and heard the discourse? The titles provide some information by placing them in context, but we have to look to the perspective of the camera, which is not an objective one but rather the view of a participant, a listener, a student. Through capturing not only the lecturer but the audience in their habitat of the university room or lecture hall, these photographs give an idea of the production of knowledge and how it is exchanged in the academic setting. Moreover, even if all participants are unfamiliar, and even if everybody on the picture looks somehow bored, the photographs contravene our current visual idea of people listening and concentrating.

Ganahl has also taken on the role of the seminar co-ordinator by staging communal reading and discursive events focusing on key texts he has selected. Reading Lenin has taken place so far in Zurich, Moscow, Warsaw, Stuttgart, Baltimore, New York and Gorizia. Reading Lenin, Dundee, was a discussion led by Ganahl (6/3/07) at University of Dundee. Participation in the event was intriguing – through the process of communally reading a text that the participants initially felt distanced from, it became all the more obvious the first moment understanding was reached.

"... towards 6 pm ... an oriental- looking group of four small men carrying folders and images with them entered; ... They introduced themselves: Marcel Janco, thepainter, Tristan Tzara, George Janco and a fourth man, whose name I can't remember "
Hugo Ball describes the first evening of DADA, Cabaret Voltaire, February 5, 1916 in Zürich. Quoted in Dominique Noguez’s text, Lenin dada, Limmat Veralg, 1990 Zurich.

The fourth man referred to in this quote was Lenin in disguise. The body of work ‘Dadalenin’ at the end of the Cooper Gallery concentrates on Ganahl’s fascination with the historically not-confirmed fact that Lenin was one of the founders of the Dada movement. The museum vitrines unite Lenin busts, purchased on e-bay, with specially cast porcelain and bronze. As the Lenin heads perilously balance on piled up letters spelling ‘dada’, new monuments are formed.

The film V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, (Russian Edition), documents the artist kicking the book across Red Square in Moscow for his recent participation in the Moscow Biennial. At the end of the performance, as the screen turns to black, the artist was arrested by police. A 150 dollar bribe was the price of his freedom from the police car.

Finally we have a collective painting project in the gallery. For Google “Lenin”, 2007, Google “Red Terror Lenin”, 2007, DadaUBU 2007, Ganahl has asked DJCAD students and other interested artists who make photo-realist painting to each paint a square from three downloaded Google image pages. This action will take place over the duration of the exhibition, moving from left to right, forming a slow painterly download.

Supported by University of Dundee, SSW, Emerson at Brompton Bicycles
With thanks to:
Rebecca Lindsay who spent 6 weeks casting ‘Dadalenin‘ bronze at SSW on an internship
Barry Slaven who helped document ‘Reading Lenin, Dundee’
Nadia Rossi who helped with copying and showreeling Ganahl’s dvds
Ewan Manson who undertook the painstaking tracing of the Google Lenin pages
Miranda Blennerhassett for framing photographs and other greatness in the gallery
Kevin McPhee
Peter Bevan for sorting Rainer’s i-book
Thanks also to Ulrike Buck and others working on the porcelain in Stuttgart
The artist wants to thanks the uncountable people who make his work possible in many ways

Visit the artist’s website:
All the films and material can be viewed on :
Cooper Gallery, Crawford Building, DJCAD, 13 Perth Road, Dundee DD1 4HT
Mon-Fri: 9.30am-5pm, Sat: 10.30am-4.30pm
01382 385330

dundee part 1 - Seminar / Lectures, Bicycle Stuff

dundee part 2 - DadaLenin, Reading Lenin, Studying