A few weeks after my back (with the rest of me still attached to it) was bought by Rik I received a call from him at work in Zürich. I had been invited by the ZKM in Karlsruhe to take part in a six month group show titled ‘Medium Religion‘. I couldn’t believe it. A show curated by Boris Groys and Peter Weibel about religion and media. Out of the tabloids and into the art world. I was ecstatic. A few weeks later I took the train to Karlsruhe with my brother Ben and Stephanie. In the museum we met up with Rik and his friends and had a tour of the show. An hour before the vernissage I was led to my bar stool and for the first time in my exhibition history there was a placard on the wall saying ‘TIM by Wim Delvoye / tattooed skin / 2006-2008 / Courtesy Sammlung Reinking, Hamburg’. Very nice… Wim couldn’t make it to the opening because in Belgium there was a snowstorm from hell. After a few drinks and laughs the evening began. The event was packed. First the speeches and then the media tour by Groys and Weibel.
Same procedure as every time: I take off my t-shirt, sit on my bar stool, straighten my back, pull in my stomach, get in the mood with my i-Pod (Slipknot, The Passive Resistance, Pantera, The Prodigy, Vale Tudo and Leonard Cohen), face the white wall and lose myself for 30 – 60 minutes. I can see the shadows reflecting on my wall from those standing behind me. I hear nothing, I see no one, I have no idea what’s going on. Sometimes I feel extremely exposed and vulnerable. I get scared. Other times I’m completely in tune with the moment and my surroundings until I’m more ‘TIM’ by Wim than the actual Tim. When I’ve had enough I put on my t-shirt, remove the headphones, get off my seat and go to the bar for a beer. This ritual happens between four and six times per session. At the end of the day I get my stuff, say adios to the security staff and head to the train station. Usually pretty tipsy…
I was exhibited seven times in six months. Once a month and twice at the opening. Three weeks ago was my last visit. I miss it now. There was a satisfying normality to the process. It was very exhausting, which is weird since I never did anything. It felt normal and only in retrospect does it seem a little bizarre. Arriving in the morning and going to the reception for my free pass was amusing every time. The lady at the desk and I would greet each other and I’d tell her that I could get in for free since I was being exhibited. She would ask if I’m an artist and I’d say that I’m an artwork. In the beginning there was confusion and I’d show myself in the brochure, towards the end we all knew each other. The ZKM as a building has an intense atmosphere and being exhibited together with artists like Christoph Schlingensief and Adel Abdessemed was a very humbling and extraordinary experience. The whole exhibition was excellent. Challenging, provocative, enticing, critical, humorous and honest. It was a great success for the ZKM and caused a lot of constructive discussion.
Every trip to Germany was different. Sometimes I went with friends, other times with journalists, but twice I went by myself. That was very awkward. For the first time I felt like an object, a piece of art. This wasn’t necessarily bad, but certainly different. The staff at the museum were busy with their work. I didn’t speak to a single soul all day and basically came and left unnoticed. This really wasn’t about me, I was just the canvas…
After the first few times in the ZKM the ladies doing the guided tours through the exhibition began to include me in the discussions with visitors about Wim’s ‘TIM’. At first I could feel a crowd gathered around me. I’d turn down the music and hear the lady in charge speak about Wim and myself. Strange. Then I’d turn around and answer questions. This was a whole new twist to the experience which I enjoyed very much. It also became the norm and on my last visit I sat through five guided tours. The discourse with visitors was great. Some were supportive and fascinated, others just repulsed. The younger people were far more critical than the older generations which I found interesting. I learned a great deal about WimTim and art in general in these discussions and they were always challenging.
The first time I was ever exhibited at de Pury & Luxembourg, I always wanted there to be as many visitors around as possible. Made me feel more important. But in Karlsruhe I experienced a whole different rush. It was truly magical when I was sitting and the museum was empty. No human presence or interaction. Feeling like it was just the other artists pieces and myself. Inanimate intimacy. Sometimes I would look around and maybe see one visitor in some far away corner. When that person came to me I existed exclusively for him/her. A new layer to the onion of the WimTim experience.
There are many people who were involved in making this a definite highlight of the project for me. I want to thank them here: Stephanie Schleiffer, Wim Delvoye, Rik Reinking, Ben Steiner, Antonia Marten, Anne Däuper, Tobias Efthymiades, Franco Scalese, Peter Weibel, Boris Groys, Ursula Eichenberger, Franticek Klossner, the students at the Hochschule der Künste Bern and everyone at the ZKM. Thank you for the memory of this experience. – TIM
All images are courtesy of Tobias Efthymiades.