Talk therapy informs and infuses more and more discourses outside therapists’ offices. From personal development coaching to social media and entertainment or political analysis, therapeutic speech enters the scene as a linguistic agent and decodes choices, habits or individual biases, online and offline. It makes unconscious choices familiar and explainable through patterns of talk, action and thought. It dismantles automatisms by highlighting the shadows in which shame, joy, guilt or desire hide for every individual. Healing Games is the solo exhibition of artist Christian Jankowski, whose practice touches on dialogue at both a personal and a collective level, through a newly commissioned work, Family Constellation, and through previous works that echo concerns from related fields.
For Family Constellation, Jankowski asked Romanian Clinical Psychologist Alexandru Bătinaș to lead three online therapy sessions in the gallery space throughout the artistic working process. The artist invited his younger brother Jochen Jankowski to Bucharest for two weeks, both taking part in the sessions to discuss their relationship, family dynamics and the role of art as a possible healing game. Creating a new image of their “Ursprungsfamilie” (family of origin, a German term used in psychotherapy to describe genetic predispositions and alikeness amongst members of a family), Jochen works on and orchestrates the shaping process of four wooden sculptures in the exhibition space, representing each member of the family: the mother, the father and the two brothers. The entire sculpting development is informed by the discussions with the therapist and by the brothers’ old and new perceptions of their family. The siblings’ collaboration in chainsaw carving resurfaces movements of consciousness, giving access to memories that are subtly unearthed throughout the sculptures’ making. Fixed on four-wheel platforms, they allow the artist to move the heavy characters according to the ever-changing family dynamics.
Unlike most of the artist’s previous works, where the investigation matters derive from the local context and are directed outwards, this project points to his kinship in uncontrollable, affective ways. Family Constellation accesses the unfamiliar through the familiar, exploring family relationships as a method of voyage and hybrid encounter.
The video and the series of plexiglass objects document Jankowski’s therapeutic intervention and complement the sculpture ensemble in the personal and collective psyche, engaging with specialists of fields situated outside the art realm. The script is never the product of one author, but rather the result of meetings and dialogues between the numerous voices involved.
Family Constellation is an elaborate installation that combines various media produced in Bucharest in the autumn of 2020, and alongside the other works explores the potential of dialogue and (un)familiarity as a catalyst in (self)healing processes.
For Shame Box (1992), Christian invited a number of passers-by to write down their greatest shame on a sign and sit behind the signage in the storefront window of his Hamburg studio, presenting it to the outside world. The display of intimate emotions becomes a public installation, a therapeutic gesture for participants and viewers alike. Visitors (2010—2019) is a series of neon works that reproduce messages left by the public in museums’ visitor books. Jankowski selects the messages that lead to the destabilisation of the certainties of language, captures the mute dialogue between the producer and the viewer and redirects an impression, turning a reaction into an image that is open for interpretation.