Björn Braun’s works are concerned with the alienation of Man from Nature and with our highly imaginative endeavours to somehow overcome this often uncomfortable, but always mysterious dissociation – be it with the assistance of the sciences, of philosophy, of religion, or precisely of art. Since time immemorial, we have been struggling to gain an understanding of this world, have exulted in Romantic and religious idealizations of Nature, have succumbed – mostly on Sundays – to its call, or have regularly muddled ourselves with ever new hypotheses concerning our own specialness and superiority.
In an undogmatic, humorous, seemingly simplistic, but ironically intended and always affectionate and approachable way, Braun shows us how all these diverse attempts to pinpoint our role between self-overestimation and undue empathy, between insight and escapism, are, for sure, an essential driving force in our existence, but are nevertheless, in their own particular claims to absolute truth, condemned to failure. And instead, there is now even a suspicion growing that the actual alienation of civilized Man may well be not from Nature at all but primarily from his own self.
Instead of accordingly adapting his perspective unruffled in pensive contemplation, or falling prey to utter isolation, or simply entrusting himself to this elemental immediacy, Björn Braun, like some modern Don Quixote, hurls himself into the thick of this uncertain, intuitive skirmish of relationships – which, as we know, is “the greatest adventure of all”. The artist confronts the beholder with abstracted landscapes whose sheer transformations and meta-levels tend to aggravate non-understanding and the yearning to be elsewhere, make contemplation ever less likely and render mankind’s distance from itself ever greater.
Braun also joins dubiously balanced rope-teams involving a well-nigh endlessly long list of animals, it being never entirely clear whether these are assistants, partners, playing companions, objects of study, metaphors, subordinate retainers or simply just mute walkers-on.
Thus, for example, he removes sheep from their natural, random grazing habits and arranges them in a semi-natural pattern, which can accordingly be at least half comprehended. Or, as if in a Natural History Museum, he presents casts of nesting holes and turns them inside out – which at first increases one’s curiosity – but then, on account of the material’s lack of transparency, leaves the actual homely, interior nature of this world still shut-off from view.
With half a zoo-full of creatures, he creates a culinary round dance, which proves necessary for the animals, but for human beings is self-inflicted and – contrary to all expectations – highly unhealthy.
Or Braun seeks a dialogue with a parrot, which magically turns into a diametrical counter project to the Old Testament-like thesis by which Nature created Man only for the purpose of a dialectical consideration of its self – something known to be still a very one-sided conversation, but which in this special case affords at least an unintended re-assurance of personal self-understanding. Faced with a nascent excess of pathos, self-love and megalomania in the worlds of art and Man, therefore, the artist does not shrink from a malicious, peacock-supported and thus biological counter-attack with soap bubbles.
Braun demonstrates that both longed-for and actual day-to-day experiences of Nature are perceived from an abstract, domesticated protective space and reveal themselves in the final analysis to be pure, unconscious self-contemplation.
And yet, however adventuresome and motley the works may be in the process of their creation, their appearance is familiar, unpretentious, light of foot, poetic.
In times when general self-location (once again) is not so easily achieved, times in which ever more people tend to hold the external world responsible for their own alienation and loneliness, or even, feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, hand over their thinking and emotional worlds to external authorities, only to confuse a dubiously founded group feeling with real identity – in such times it is refreshing to see how someone finds ways to playfully take this condition for what it actually is: a given of nature maybe, but certainly elemental and hence unavoidable. Our convoluted discords and inconsistencies, our attempts at convergence and idealization can precisely be highly entertaining and worthwhile, as long as one is prepared to embark on the laborious, never-ending, in part absurd and very fragile internal discourse involved. One should just be able, in the process, to not always take oneself and these all-too-human games all that seriously.
So long: “Take it easy baby, take it as it comes …”.
Text: Stefan Jeske
Translation: Richard Humphrey