Paul Petro Contemporary Art is pleased to present Matthias Herrmann’s Hotel 2001 photographs in our second floor gallery. In cooperation with Art Metropole we will launch the book Hotel 2001 at the reception. Matthias will be present at the opening. Hotel 2001 is comprised of photographs the artist takes of himself in hotel rooms:
An American cultural theorist has recently argued that the most advantageous position from which to define gay identity is that of shame. Shame, he argues, is a powerful experience common to the group and, furthermore, an experience from which many important life-lessons can be drawn. Personally, I think shamelessness is a better starting point. Let’s just say what the heck and get on with it.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell Matthias Herrmann and his cock apart. He’s so cock-like, pert and amusing. And his cock acts just like a silly guy in a hotel room. The two of them seem to have a wonderful time together. It’s rare to see such shamelessness. What an instructive performance! In America, the trick of imagining your colleagues naked is a strategy for board room dominance. We find nudity to be so absurd that it virtually nullifies existence. Without clothes we are nothing. Naked with his cock, Matthias Herrmann comes alive. His cock is like a little battery that keeps his arms flapping and legs kicking. As long as that tube is stiff, all’s well in hotel room 617.
I recently saw a performance off-Broadway titled Puppetry of the Penis. It was a stand-up comedy revue consisting of two Australian fellows who manipulated their cocks and balls into forms resembling everything from a hamburger to a flying squirrel. Oddly, they never acknowledged that any of the men in the audience might find their antics-like twirling their members in the manner of helicopter blades-to be anything more than simply grotesque. The other strange thing about their show was the total absence of a mise-en-scene. A bare stage and two spot-lit cocks. Mathias Herrmann, in contrast, is nothing if not alluring and his work is frankly addressed to the gaze of fellow cock-holders. This is what gives his photographs the flavor of an inside joke. As for the mise-en-scene, Herrmann and his cock are true decorators and fashion whores. It is the rare-if beguiling-image which features only his stout, undressed prong. So, we have the ultimate self-exposure combined with a theatrical flair for dissimulation. Herrmann’s photos present cock as character.
Then there’s Herrmann’s ass. Another willing playmate. Truly like the flip-side of a coin, Herrmann’s double cheeked tuchas has the same semiotic value as his stiff dick. A sex part on parade. Still, perhaps because it less resembles the human figure, his ass is relegated to a supporting role, as the corps de ballet is to the prima ballerina. Still, its performances are not incidental. Can we even say that Herrmann himself is Janus-headed? That his ass and his face are two expressions of the same mind? When he turns around, after all, we do not feel as if we are being ignored. Herrmann’s face throughout bears the bemused yet slightly jaded look of a babysitter blandly suffering the tortures of his ill-mannered young charges. His own body a doll, a plaything, dressed and posed. Not without a certain pleasure and even thrill, but also with the knowledge that these are moments stolen from the norm. Fraught with reality but not to be brought up when the parents come home.
Finally, what of Herrmann’s texts, found bits of opinion and advice. These laconic incursions into the wordless zone of play take their place among other signs, confident and yet not wholly believable. For some, I imagine they offer relief, deletable little homilies like the kind of thing you might find at the check-out stand of a supermarket or send to a friend in the form of a greeting card. My grandmother and my boyfriend enjoy things like this. They can be the reason we laugh.
- Lawrence Rinder
from The Reason We Laugh, Hotel 2001
1: Andrew Cecil performs as the bartender, and Paul Petro as the fun-loving gallery dealer, for Matthias' busy camera. Matthias Herrmann.
2: Wayne Baerwald, Director of the Power Plant, with Winnipeg film-maker Noam Gonick (with his pants down) and artist AA Bronson. Matthias Herrmann.
3: This arm of a Matthias Herrmann collector caught his attention. Matthias Herrmann.
4: Andrew poses for Matthias, while waiting for a little more business at the bar. By the end of the evening, his jock strap was packed with loonies.