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Graw Böckler Generation Uscha; UP & CO, New York
Max Henry

Graw Böckler, photo

The idea for this show, "Generation Uscha," is a spin-off from a solo show titled "Uscha," at the Hohenthal und Bergen gallery in Cologne and the APR project space in London. As the third installment/exhibition, photographs of Uscha Pohl, which were are taken by Ursula Böckler, have been recontextualized by Böckler and Georg Graw into a new narrative. This quixotic montage begins with an 86" x 48" black and white photograph matted behind Plexiglas. The image of our host and master-of-ceremonies Uscha Pohl, comfortably resting a large globe of the earth on her shoulder, welcomes the viewer into the "world of Uscha" we are about to encounter.

Divided into alternate components in separate rooms--each with a self-sustaining theme regarding different aspects of life--they are titled and excerpted from a ten-year chronological "day in the life" series, and are arranged according to identity, environment, basics, occupation, and social life. They are chronicled in the form of light box "action photo" installations showing the artist at work (in the fashion business) and play (at the Venice Biennale). Slide projections of Uscha's face on a bottle represent the pleasures of food and drink. A communal sitting room screens a music video-style film shot on location in Ibiza called Nacktmaus, metaphorically about a mouse-like creature (as portrayed by Ursula Böckler) in the wild, reaching out to a fast-paced world. The lugubrious "mouse," like people of all stripes and sizes with their own dreams and aspirations, endures a series of Keatonesque failures and successes, yet maintains a vitality while capturing the spirit of pursuit. Another anteroom has domestic photographs of women in various stages of dress and undress, hamming it up and posing for the camera--doing what girlfriends do.

Integral to the show, and interspersed throughout, are fourteen photobox collages, imaginatively collated (from the private photo albums of Graw and Böckler's friends and associates) into a linear narrative on social commonalities, likes, and shared experiences. As the figurehead of an international cast of characters, Uscha all the while turns up as the nexus for the unfolding story: See Uscha dancing at a party, see Uscha in the Amazon, see her at gallery openings in Venice, and so on.

The seed for this self-effacing real-life document in real time was, at first, a playful dialogue between two friends. For Uscha, it provided a respite from the strictures of running a fashion designer's business. For Böckler, it was an alter ego to explore her personal mythology, in a scale that was larger-than-life.

What constitutes the source material for biography is truth, fiction, hearsay, and legend. In rummaging the memory for glimpses of times past, "Generation Uscha" presents us with an inadvertent iconography. Although at first glance this travelogue essay seems to be a ten-year hedonistic holiday about the ubiquitous Uscha, it purports to remind us of the vicissitudes of a particular generation. The fragments are magnified and altered into a kaleidoscope with a single detached person at the center.

The common ground from which collaborators nurture a through line can conceal as much as it reveals. Uscha is rarely, if ever, sad in these photos, although diary-like letters excerpted for a set of books reveal her more vulnerable side. The persona, the social personality, the figure of fashion style, are prisms by which we can observe the customs associated with who we are in an anthropological sense. The enigma of seeing someone up so close who still maintains a sense of privacy is the subtext of all those who remain in the public eye, and with acute observation, turns us back unto ourselves.

Max Henry

New York, New York

1997

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