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Clemens Berger: Im Jahr des Panda [In the Year of the Panda]

de    en    fr    span    cz

Munich: Luchterhand, 2016.
672 Seiten; hardcover; 24.70 euros [AT]
ISBN: 978-3-630-87531-6.

Clemens Berger


All about Drop-Outs: Clemens Berger’s Thought Experiment on the Entanglement of Art, Money, and Life

Pia Swoboda, a bank robber, and Kasimir Ab, an artist, cannot live freely under their own names. Police are searching for Pia and her friend Julian. Their brazen bank robbery has allowed them to set up a new life for themselves far from the social constraints of their hometown, Vienna.
Painter Kasimir Ab feels alienated by the art world’s pseudo-intellectual codes and its kowtowing to capitalism by placing market value far above
the critical moment of art. He feels a much greater affinity for Pia, the social media hero.
While fleeing the scene of the crime, Pia distributed money to those poorer than her, but in the context of the banking crisis, her robbery was also a reference to lived reality, interpreted as a political act in public space, reclaiming public property.
For her part, Pia sympathizes in her new life with the actions of an
"unknown artist" who works in secret. This artist is none other than Kasimir Ab, who wants to express social solidarity through actions critical of the system. His media are public spaces and objects, which he declares open to viral imitation: walls, ATMs, stickers, and the pièce de resistance: banknotes stamped "Limited Edition."
Clemens Berger shows us the myriad ways in which collectable value acts as an external control on the art market. Socio-critical values in contrast never extend beyond the autonomous arena, although they alone maintain a reference to society.

Berger interweaves Pia’s and Kasimir’s stories with a third storyline about a baby panda at the Vienna zoo. The panda’s symbolic and nominal value seems to contrast with those of art. But as the narrative progresses, surprising parallels emerge.
Im Jahr des Panda
is a 670-page imaginatively absurd novel. Banality and the sublime meet when scientists sing karaoke pop songs at work events or a newscaster sinks into a kind of black hole on the air during a slow news season. This does not read as hyperbolic, but seems plausible in a world held up by myriad absurd mechanisms. This entertaining novel is like a prime-time TV movie you wouldn’t want to miss.

Abridged version of the review by Marietta Böning, September 2016.
English translation by Laura Radosh.

Full German text:

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