She's the mysterious glance across a dimly lit room. She's the kiss you still fantasise about. She's the damsel in distress who couldn't give a fuck about being saved - and doesn't need your charity. She's Jonny.
Jonny is a fantasy brought to life by film. As an extension of insitu-Berlin's ‘Cycle III’ annual theme for creation, the exhibition, Jonny, uses works from 1924 to the present day to create a fictional character.
Each video serves as a portal highlighting different traits of Jonny's complex personality. It's about "Composing a body by adding separate parts and leaving blank spaces for the viewer's subjectivity to complete," insist featured artist duo Distruktur (Melissa Dullius and Gustavo Jahn).
Meeting Jonny teleports you to a surreal and sci-fi inspired world, complete with mirrored foil ceiling and dune-like mounds. Greeted with dark walls and carpets, Jonny’s light instantly demands attention. "It was important to us to create…an intimate encounter, just as if you were immersed in her own private world and psyche," explains the Insitu team.
As you continue your voyeuristic journey through the multiple facets of Jonny, the song that inspired the entire exhibition, '(I Know) A Girl Called Jonny' by Rowland S. Howard, plays – “I know a girl called Jonny. She's an impossibility. I'm an alchemist in my astronaut's dress, changing all the girls into boys.”
Flashing images from 12 different screens leave viewers with a taste of Jonny’s plentiful flavours; they begin imagining her rosy cheeks and 'I don't give a damn' attitude. Her personality however, has to be earned, with some characteristics only hinted at. "We think the key things that come out within the show about Jonny's personality is a certain ambivalence to the world as well as a disappointment in traditional gender roles - especially relating to the expected role of women,” the Insitu team discloses.
This despondency towards gender roles weaves itself throughout the exhibition. Feminist Nancy Buchanan's work, 'These Creatures' (1979), dons a wildlife documentary style as a male narrator objectively comments on the mystifying elements consumed by the female human-being spectacle. "Whether they imagine them to be goddesses or villains, men are often unable to see women as equals," says Buchanan. "
Fantasies driving the concept of 'otherness' continue to divide us - all of us." Sylvie Fleury's 'Twinkle' (1992) portrays its female character in a "never-ending try-it-on” state as she rummages through her closet. Not satisfied with a single style, Fleury's character captures the discontent with her role as woman. Jonny’s identity however, is fluid; unfixed by fashion.
Jonny exhibits a similar fluidity in time and space, with Distruktur's piece, 'Éternau' suggesting time travel is possible – it claims "The past is the future inverted". As a “vision of a utopian woman”, Jonny doesn't truly belong anywhere. She's a vision from the future with all the dream girl-esque qualities of Brigitte Bardot. "She is detached from the world," continues the Insitu team. "Those who want to get close to her can never really get to know her."
Jonny’s heartbreaker attitude has managed to seduce audiences - revealing just enough skin to entice without giving too much away. Little do her viewers know that Jonny is the real voyeur, as the Insitu team explains: "Jonny views the world from afar; she gazes on it as an outsider…"
Experience exhibition Jonny – or rather let her experience you – at insitu-Berlin, from now until 19 December 2015.
Words: Katy Shields
Images source: Insitu Berlin