Micha Klein has created a wondrous landscape somewhere between dream and imagination, and with a smattering of reality. This is quite evidently a digitally manipulated photograph to which Klein has added a number of artificial shapes and objects.
The stage between dream and reality is reflected in the psychedelic and surrealistic shapes and colours and additionally underscored by the pharmaceuticals scattered around the group. The men and women may derive from real life but they are now in a different universe.
The depicted people are beautiful and too perfect. They appear unreal, or unearthly even. Klein has created a new fictitious generation of beautiful young people who bear a certain resemblance to the all too perfect beings we encounter in advertisements.
Klein illustrates in his computer manipulated images that today photography has no more to do with reality than other types of pictures. Pictures do not portray reality; they create reality. Even the most stunning models are given the computer make-over before the glossy magazines are printed. This applies to the beautiful people in Klein's universe too – all skin blemishes etc have been retouched.
Not only are Klein's models artificial, they live on an artificial drug: the crystal powder in the man's hand. Crystal powder is another term for MDMA, a psychedelic drug used on the international club scene. Consciousness expanding drugs and their ability to carry their users to new levels of consciousness – and thus a different reality – is a recurring feature of Klein's works. He is associated with the urban club culture himself, and there is often an autobiographical dimension to his work.
ART HISTORICAL REFERENCE
The composition of the picture, and above all the relative positions of the figures, mimics Éduard Manet’s famous 1863 painting 'Déjeuner sur l’herbe' which has attained the status of central work in the canon of western art history. The strategy is trademark Klein: Often the surface holds a number of allusions to high and popular culture that we can uncover by exploring further. At first glance the digital photograph most of all resembles an excessively glossy ad for a soft drink, underwear or the like. But that is far from being the case. Klein has spawned a new generation and a new society, gorgeous, pink and out of this world. In the geometric shapes, the rainbow and the psychedelic palette the picture features several references to New Age philosophy and thus constitutes an unorthodox vision of a different world.
A NEW WORLD
The work is part of the series 'Arrival of the Rainbow Children' in which Klein revisits themes from a previous series entitled 'Artificial Beauty' (1998) which found the artist exploring his contemporary culture’s extreme preoccupation with physical beauty. Comprising ten models from Amsterdam morphed into even more beautiful but also highly artificial women, the series raised questions of beauty, genetics and plastic surgery. A similar project was undertaken by the American artist Nancy Burson in the early 1980s when using computer technology she merged beautiful and famous people into one. Nancy Burson’s works are also found in ARKEN's Collection.
Micha Klein's art in generalMicha Klein's works are a significant crossover between art, marketing, advertising, web design and VJing, a discipline which stems from DJing but with music videos and video graphics being played rather than records or CDs. Klein is a very successful VJ and experienced a breakthrough on the international club scene before he made it as an artist. Common to all his outlets is computer technology, whether used for advertising, museums of art or dance floors.
Klein's studio takes on substantial jobs for large concerns such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's. He distinguishes between the different assignments but his commercial jobs and his works of art have a number of parallels in form, style and expression. The aesthetics of advertising is a unifying principle in Klein's works. They are glossy, clamorous and constantly playing with kitsch and bad taste but with ambiguity as well. The cheerful colours cloak more serious contemplations which closer scrutiny reveals.
The concept of Gesamtkunstwerk – a work of art which is a symbiosis of several dimensions of our lives and thus more than just a picture on the wall – is another feature of Klein’s works. Therefore his other works are very significant. Particularly the club culture is a key component in Klein; at times he prefers the unceremonious gathering at clubs to the seriousness of museums and galleries. In the former venue people are happier, more spontaneous and open, and art is all about seduction!
SEDUCTIVE AND SLIGHTLY ODD
Of his art Klein has said: "My work must be as seductive as advertising and entertainment. If not, it loses its visibility in a culture saturated by media, constantly bombarding us with commercial messages. Since these messages have become part of the mainstream culture, it is vital that artists especially can infiltrate this culture with their subversive ideas." The critical position of art is essential to Klein. Although his art mimics the images of popular culture, it – and this applies to 'Crystal Powder from God' too – comments on the aspects of society that Klein finds fascinating yet problematic.
Klein is reassessing Pop Art. Everyday and popular culture has long been an integrated element in art, and Klein brings everything that is usable over from this world. Nonetheless the definition of art plays a pivotal part in his works. They employ spectacular effects in order to survive in the visual competition and thus in many ways resemble those of Damien Hirst (in ARKEN's Collection) who believes that art must compete with commercial and spectacular expressions. Art is a refuge but it is presented in a language which increasingly resembles the culture around it.