The temporary, site-specific performance Ménage de la maison (House Cleaning) by the artist Olaf Nicolai (*1962 in Halle/Saale) takes place at DAS MINSK Kunsthaus in Potsdam between October 22 and November 7, 2022, from Wednesday until Monday during lunchtime, between 12 and 1 pm.
Image above: Olaf Nicolai, LABYRINTH, 1998. Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022, Photo: Studio Olaf Nicolai / City of Seine-Saint-Denis
It might seem irritating to subject a freshly renovated building to a house cleaning shortly after its opening, but this rhetoric is typical of Nicolai’s way of working. The artist continually breaks with expectations and hasty observations. He questions the familiar and painstakingly examines the spaces in which his works are shown.
In Ménage de la maison, people sweep with a green plastic broom while speaking, humming, or singing. This activity can initially seem natural in the everyday operations of the exhibitions and café at DAS MINSK Kunsthaus in Potsdam, and perhaps therefore remain unnoticed. The performance, however, invites visitors and passersby to pause and more closely explore the meaning of what happens around them.
The green broom, which symbolizes house cleaning at DAS MINSK Kunsthaus in Potsdam, has already been used by the artist in earlier works. In 1998, Nicolai had a ten-by-ten-meter Labyrinth reconstructed from numerous green plastic brooms belonging to a Parisian cleaning department. The layout of this maze was based on a baroque garden design, which is, however, quite contemporary: the path to be covered referred to the principle of the maximum length of a limited surface, which is used today to design shopping centers, among other things. In its geometric form and artificial material, the hedge made of plastic brooms illustrates the fine line between the natural and the artificial in the urban context, which is also alluded to in Ménage de la maison. A house cleaning, just like a city cleaning, should restore a desired or hoped-for condition. The attempt to reach this state can lead to something being seen anew or something underlying, even repressed, being revealed again. In a figurative sense, an examination of present and past takes place during a house cleaning, whereby new encounters with places, events, and memories simultaneously arise. Both aspects are essential for DAS MINSK: “It is a new old place, which must find its identity between memory and the present,” director Paola Malavassi says.
Ménage de la maison responds to the concurrent exhibitions by Wolfgang Mattheuer and Stan Douglas, which also examine human-designed environment and the urban landscape. While in Mattheuer and Douglas’s exhibited works the (Schreber-)garden becomes a reflection of sociopolitical conditions, with Nicolai it is the everyday ritual of cleaning that offers the occasion to casually address social constructs and behavioral patterns.
Text: Marie Gerbaulet
Concept: Olaf Nicolai
Performers: Meike Droste, Thomas Rudnick
Curator of the Performance: Marie Gerbaulet
Assistant Dramaturg: Sylvie Kürsten
Production Assistance: Alina Stoll
Duration: October 22 – November 7, 2022
From Wednesday until Monday during lunchtime, between noon and 1 pm
Duration of the performance: 20–30 minutes
Opening hours of the exhibitions: Daily except Tuesdays
Wednesday to Monday 10 am – 7 pm
DAS MINSK Kunsthaus in Potsdam