Jacob Ott (1992*) in Upper Bavaria (Dorfen), lives and works on the Upper Rhine (Basel).
Jacob Ott uses various media - from sculpture, object, painting and installation to film, music, sound and performance. In his works, he examines locally specific cultural assets and everyday practices popularised in the context of globalisation. Meanwhile, he reflects on the semantic and practical transformation of cultural techniques through massification, standardisation and institutionalisation using biographically significant and currently prominent examples. To this end, he develops independent, but also context-specific artworks as well as works and exhibition formats that form a new context for other artworks. His often satirised depictions of cultural-technical practices and products address their latently inscribed paradoxes, dysfunctionalisms and absurdities in an amusingly critical manner. However, he is not primarily concerned with consistent cynicism or the systematic disappointment of technological fantasies of progress. Rather, he searches for new narratives, approaches and ways of dealing with a crisis-ridden present in a mode of irritation and overstretching, in which the contemporary subject seems to find itself lurching between powerlessness, resignation and indifference.
What is remarkable here is Ott's eye for the unusual in the familiar, through which he allows the examples of his subject matter a speculative perspective. In this, they appear beyond their socially ascribed functional contexts in their initially purely aesthetic quality. One example of this is the conceptual work Palme from 2017, in which the palm oil applied thinly and extensively to window panes is reduced to a purely aesthetic dimension, thereby revealing hidden everyday qualities such as translucidity, colourfulness, materiality, consistency, etc. The political dimension of the resource is involuntarily revealed and thus a reflection on the currently most acute contradiction between environmental and human need. In addition to motifs of physically and industrially combustible energy sources (especially palm oil, wood and fossil fuels), fire plays a central role as a thematic node and archetype of combustion in Ott's more recent works such as Komm Feuer, geh mit mir ein Stück.
Fire appears only indirectly, but as a highly ambivalent phenomenon whose greatest threat, apart from its positive qualities, is that unchecked combustion, binge burning (automobiles, raw earth, etc.) is taking on uncontrollable proportions (global warming, forest fires) and leading us into a new age informed by fire (the pyrocene), in the context of which the production of his work must reorient itself.
Jacob Ott studied Fine Arts at the HKDM Freiburg, at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart and at the Institut Kunst in Basel. He is the founder and part of the Hotel Simplon collective and the Ott Orchester music project. As part of the team, he runs the online cultural platform OOO, the experimental publishing project Conservative Books and has been on the board of Kunsthaus Baselland since 2023. His works and performances have been shown in various exhibitions, including at the Kunsthalle Basel, the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Galerie 3000 in Bern, the Fondazione Morra in Naples, the Galerie Albarran Bourdais in Madrid, the Museum für neue Kunst in Freiburg, the Galerie Müller Roth in Stuttgart, the Kunstraum IDEAL in Leipzig and the Galerie Casa Equis in Mexico City.
Text: Lukas Treiber, 2023
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