Christopher Charles: Rite On
West Ends IPMB, Berlin, 30 November - 11 December, 2013
Curated with Anja Henckel


Christopher Charles's work explores childhood rituals and rites of passage in youth and young adulthood. His is a world of neo-tribalism, naive graffiti, group and gang mentalities, as well as costumes that signify belonging. Especially concerned with social conditioning, the artist's works explore the construction of identity and community through outsider symbols and behaviour.

The act of recording and passing on knowledge, teachings and history is inherent to all societies. Though practices vary, ritualism and idolatry are recurrent. Objects and monuments of worship - and fetishism - are central to a sense of communal belonging. Exploring perennial impulses through the fractured prism of his own biography, Rite On is a monument to yearning, disappointment, sacrifice and satisfaction.

Untitled Smoke Drawings (2011) employs a mark making technique analogous to a specific form of toilet ceiling graffiti in which a flame is used to mark the surface from below. Using a number of different lighters and candles, Charles has refined the technique to a near photorealistic degree. The figurative works realized in this manner draw from the limited iconography of heavy metal.

Poles (2013) captures highly personal - and sometimes extreme - performances by the artist, his family, friends and contemporaries, Charles's video work involves little or no post-production in the contemporary sense. Instead he employs a process of in-camera editing - filming and re-filming. The work is then often filmed again from a television screen, projection, or by positioning a second camera to record through the viewfinder of the first.

In the artist's own words: "I use materials and equipment that are available. I use VHS because it is a vocabulary I know. VHS has been the predominant film technology in my life, and this imbues it with an unpretentious familiarity. My work is not only concerned with what is filmed, but the with process of being removed from the initial action: In the way that one may be shocked as a witness to an accident, but wouldn't stop eating dinner when seeing that same accident on the television at home. I intend to make the material accessible by removing the viewer from the initial event. It is for the pedestrian. It is for the Voyeur. It is for the Home Audience."

Hardly Recognize Your Voice (2012) is a site-specific installation in which an extremely heavy object is suspended from the ceiling by a weight-bearing mechanism that consists of the interleaved pages of two telephone books. The adhesive-free system is a counter-intuitive monument to communication, distance and conversation - a point of tension, and an everyday miracle.