Weiss Falk

LISTE Showtime

Tina Braegger Out of the Dark


Oskar Weiss and Oliver Falk are very happy to present Out of the Dark, a triptych by Tina Braegger for the inauguration of LISTE Showtime.

In the triptych we witness a marching bear appear out of the dark and disappear into the light. The marching bear is constantly reemerging in Braegger’s oeuvre and potentially appears anywhere – out of the dark – as the triptych literally shows. Ever since it first appeared on the cover of The Grateful Dead’s The History of the Grateful Dead, in 1973, the bear has become the unofficial logo of the rock band, chosen by the band’s fans, the Deadheads, as a signifier amongst the Dead‘s insignia. The bear was appropriated by the fans long before the band used the logo for official merch, and thus, a clear differentiation between the original bear and its counterfeits is barely possible. Similar to the usage of the bear within the context of fan art, it also emerges in different variations, formations and formats in Braegger’s oeuvre. While the artist sticks to Bob Thomas’ original template when outlining the bear, she is inspired by fan art when it comes to decorating and coloring the bears. However, her primary interest is not merely in the possible variations of designing the bear, but also in its repetition. We bear witness to this on the unclean canvases on which we find marks of the production process. The Grateful Dead bear serves as a kind of framing device in Braegger’s practice: through its constant recontextualisation and its commercialisation as a logo, the bear has long lost any moral integrity and can also circulate detached from its original context in a sea of signs. This characteristic – and the fact that the bear does not assign to a gender, has never been animated, has no voice nor age – are of particular interest to Braegger.

The triptych Out of the Dark condenses the logic of the Grateful Dead bear as Braegger‘s framing device - and one could even recognise a double framing in it. On the one hand, the various functions of the bear-logo can be exercised through it, such as its repetition and seriality, which are already included in the chosen format of the triptych; on the other, the bear as a symbol of Braegger’s artistic practice can be broken down into its basic elements throughout the three panels. One could understand it as a parodic treatment of a modernist male asceticism - the painter who creates paradigms to perform through. And yet, it is not the essence of painting that is brought out here, but the essence of the bear. Which are the essential elements for the bear, in order for it to appear? Or, how many characteristics features of the bear must be given so one can still recognise it as a Grateful Dead bear? Equally, one could see it as an emptying out of attempts – a set up by the artist to play with the willingness of the viewer to read a bear in each colour particle on the monochromeblue image surface (enriched with glitter). What is clear, however, is that the constant reappearance of the initially harmless and cheerful bear occasionally tips over into something uncanny. Should it make us happy that it now emerges from a monochrome picture surface? What does that mean? Is it ’heavenly heaven or an abysmal (druggy) hell from whence the bear marches? These associations can be made all the more clear in reference to other framing devices Braegger uses, such as the title Out of the Dark, borrowed from one of Austrian singer Falco’s last songs, Out of the Dark (into the Light), or the medieval apocalypse depiction of Jacobello Alberegno‘s Polyptych of the Apocalypse, to which the work might also refer. Are we witness to the genealogy of the Grateful Dead bear, a motif whose origin can be traced to the cult of a coloured bear from Ancient Greece named Efcharisto Thanàtos? If so, is this telling, as a footnote in the artists’ novel The Grateful Dead: A Diary by Gabriel Krampus, indicative of another framing device recurrent her practice?

Even if these references seem disconnected historically (or fictionally), an entanglement can also be observed: they all refer to different conceptions of temporality— different imaginations of the inevitable end, redemption/salvation and eternity; perhaps of the origin, or even the origin of the replica. Precisely because the connections are so enigmatic, their interconnectedness cannot be denied and, as a matter of fact, one might even make the assumption that soon enough, another bear will appear out of the dark.

Lucie Pia

Tina Braegger (b. 1985, Lucerne) lives and works in Berlin and Zurich. She has a forthcoming solo exhibition at Neuer Essener Kunstverein, Essen. Her works have additionally been exhibited at Luma Westbau, Zurich; Istituto Svizzero di Roma, Rome; Galerie Weiss Falk, Basel; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, St. Gallen; Fondation Ricard, Paris; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; and DAAD Galerie, Berlin; among other venues.