Artist
Jan Peter Hammer
See images of Work
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The Fable of the Bees
HD-video
2012

The Fable of the Bees is a 1705 poem by Bernard Mandeville in which the author brings into being the counter-intuitive argument that better people make the world a worse place, since so-called vices such as egoism or greed stimulate social prosperity, whilst altruism or honesty result in collective atavism and disinvestment.
Shot in the guise of a You Tube home-made production, Jan Peter Hammer’s eponymous video shows an eager young professional unwittingly channeling Mandeville’s reasoning, providing a good illustration of the adage that “practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intel-lectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”(J.M. Keynes)

That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen
Performance
2012

That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen is a performance in which a hired security guard sits idly by a lump of cash, during the gallery’s opening hours for the whole length of the show. The guard’s task is to survey the money, yet the sum he is guarding is his own wage, which he will collect at the end of the assignment. That is, whereas the guard’s function is to watch over the money, the money’s function is to pay the guard for watching it. Reminiscent of Beckett’s literary compactness, guard and money are locked together in an absurd play, whilst in a Dadaist abstraction of the business cycle capital and labour cancel each other out. “That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen” is a title borrowed from Frédéric Bastiat’s 1850 text “Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas”, in which Bastiat lays out yet another parable, the “parable of the broken window”. Positioning himself against Mandeville’s notion that destruction brings net-benefits, Bastiat states that, “In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.”

Ich und der andere
Neon lights tubes
79 x 51 cm
2011

Memorial for the Losers of the Reunification
Bronze
91cm x 107 cm
2013

After the Berlin wall fell, in 1989, the economical conversion of the now defunct DDR was accomplished virtually overnight. The citizens of the former east were ill-equipped to deal with the liberalization of the housing market. Living in a Socialist country means not having access to capital, and the DDR’s pensions proved meagre when having to live up to West German living costs. As vast swathes of real estate were sold off to investors, most citi-zens of the former East were prized out of their homes.
Memorial for the Losers of the Reunification is a commemorative bronze plate reminiscent of the former east tradition – inspired by the remaining socialist memorials like the five part memorial “Befreiung” by Günter Schütz, which is installed over the Schönhauser Allee bridge– meant as a memorial for all our lost neighbours, for all the aging workers and pensioners, who were replaced by the dapper families and sleek professionals that now populate East Berlin.

Man & Dolphin
Wood and books
21 x 76 x 23.5 cm
2015

Nellie
Neoprene
15 x 273.5 x 90 cm
2015

The Boy Scout Project
Archive project
2000-2003

The Boy Scout Project, consists of several arrangements built out of an array of hundreds of found images and objects, which all belong to the The Boy Scout Project Archive. By 2003 this archive contained 2053 items. The project was triggered by a boy scout’s jacket, which Hammer bought in Germany a few years earlier. The reason why he used the Jacket as a reference-object was its signal-red colour, which “separated it’s wearer from the background”. On the blue patch on the backside of the jacket one can read Staten Island Catholic Retreat 1968.
The Boy Scout Project Database is composed of two parts: The first named Research1 documents several evidence gathering excursions to the former site of the Boy Scout retreat of 1968 at Staten Island, New York. The second, Research2, complimentary to Research1, consists mostly of digital data and images and builds a sort of wild web of analogies around the event documented. All the images are juxtaposed through an associative process – for instance the image of an open-heart surgery gets juxtaposed with the image of a family picnic. Many of these juxtapositions establish new analogies, since gestures and shapes may resemble one another. The ensuing cross-link creates a new layer of meaning, which will be given an entry name of its own, thus archiving the process of analogy-building itself. These analogies also govern the introduction of new images bringing the flow into a halt, thus self-enclosing the system.

Tilikum
HD-video
45 min
2013

The narrative of Jan Peter Hammer's film Tilikum starts on 25 February 2010 with a 911 call. Seconds after having completed a live performance at sea World Orlando, Florida, a forty-year-old trainer called Dawn Brancheau was dragged underwater, drowned and dismembered by Tilikum, a bull orca. As it later became known, Brancheau was Tilikum's third victim, the orca having already killed another trainer who slipped and fell into his tank and a visitor, the latter under unknown circumstances. Fascinated by this story (and its afterlife in the mainstream news media), Hammer began to research the incident, which revealed details about the entertainment-industrial complex of which Sea World is a part. He also discovered a bizarre web of connections between the earliest 'oceanic' leisure centers and Cold War military research–links full of grim twists and turns ranging from grisly development of sensory deprivation techniques, fatal early experiments on dolphins, LSD-fuelled scientists, interspecies communication, and what all this has to do with the space race.

Tilikum
HD-video
45 min
2013

The narrative of Jan Peter Hammer's film Tilikum starts on 25 February 2010 with a 911 call. Seconds after having completed a live performance at sea World Orlando, Florida, a forty-year-old trainer called Dawn Brancheau was dragged underwater, drowned and dismembered by Tilikum, a bull orca. As it later became known, Brancheau was Tilikum's third victim, the orca having already killed another trainer who slipped and fell into his tank and a visitor, the latter under unknown circumstances. Fascinated by this story (and its afterlife in the mainstream news media), Hammer began to research the incident, which revealed details about the entertainment-industrial complex of which Sea World is a part. He also discovered a bizarre web of connections between the earliest 'oceanic' leisure centers and Cold War military research–links full of grim twists and turns ranging from grisly development of sensory deprivation techniques, fatal early experiments on dolphins, LSD-fuelled scientists, interspecies communication, and what all this has to do with the space race.

Das Wettrennen
Photo arrangement
102 x 145 cm
2011

The Anarchist Banker
Video installation
2010

The Anarchist Banker by Jan Peter Hammer is a 30 min. long video installation shot on HD Video, featuring the actors John Quincy Long and Tomas Spencer, emulating the style of a talk show, where the host interviews a banker in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Named after the short story wrote in 1922 by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, Jan Hammer's video restages Pessoa's dialogue between the banker and his secretary as an interview between a banker, Arthur Ashenking, and Dave Hall, a TV moderator. The name Arthur Ashenking is a loose translation of the Portuguese Artur Alves dos Reis, the shaddy financier said to have inspired Pessoa's original character. Alves dos Reis almost single handedly bankrupt the Portuguese state, by mounting a huge fraud, which shook the credibility of the Portuguese currency, the Escudo. The subsequent scandal undermined the public trust in the First Republic to the point of enabling the military coup d'état of the 28th of May 1926, whose ensuing dictatorship ruled the country for most of the 20th century. The dialogue's original content has however been adapted to reflect upon the financial practices of neo-liberalism and the resulting credit crunch. Through the words of Arthur Ashenking we are, thus, led through the genealogy described in between the writings of Max Stirner and the economic policies of Milton Friedman. Yet, such genealogy also accounts for the invisible Other of the official narrative of tyranny and exploitation in the 20th century. Reinforced by the trauma of Nazi Germany and the ‘failure’ of the grand-narrative of communism, Western societies have indulged in a surge of social policies and practices all aimed at improving the ideal of self-determination, which always pitches individualism against totalitarianism. The result of which has been a transferal of all tension from the political to the psychological, and the ensuing notion that we are, ourselves, responsible for our own achievements and shortcomings and that it is our moral duty to improve our own emotional standing, from which an improvement in the actual material conditions will necessarily follow. The idea that democracy and Liberalism might be antagonistic political forces, or that Liberalism might undermine all possibility of democratic cohesion, or political determination, remains, however, mainly unexamined. While the banker's inexorable logic, through which he exposes the core of his economical philosophy and debunks his opponent, though faithful to the original, proves itself uncannily contemporary in its defense of 'rational egoism' and unabashed self-serving interests.

Monarchs, Men & Monsters
Installation view
2012

Monarchs & Men is a film project by Jan Peter Hammer, intended as a sequel to his previous video The Anarchist Banker (2010), which re-stages Harden’s discussion in a contemporary setting. Here Rockefeller is represented by Arthur Ashenking – the character Hammer and the actor John Quincy Long debuted in The Anarchist Banker an investor who turned egoism into a political philosophy. Not unlike Harden Rockefeller, Ashenking is a wholly fictional character whose views are fleshed out from the writings of F.A. Hayek, Thomas Friedman, Bill Gates, and Aynd Rand.

Bio

Lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

When I started my artistic career I had a strong interest in film theory and literature, namely Nouveau Roman, and my first films and installations focused on atmospheres and objects endowed with a spellbinding character. For The Boy Scout Project (2000-04), I followed the path of a 30 year old punchy-red boy-scout jacket, which I had found in a thrift shop in Hamburg and traced it back to its original owner in Staten Island. After the financial crisis in 2008, however, I felt a greater urgency to engage with political discourse.

In a serendipitous moment, I came across a novel by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, called The Anarchist Banker, which described the thoughts and motivations of a proto-liberal character. I was struck by the timeliness of the argument and decided to adapt it into a short-film format. The concept of the piece was to insert the writings of contemporary opinion leaders –like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times– into the original text, in order to shine a light on the ideological distortions and arresting callousness of the theories which masquerade as economical common-sense and pragmatic policy. In my view the strength of the piece is derived from its narrative thread, that is, the way it makes visible how theoretical abstractions have concrete consequences and how terms like “the economy”, “free-market”, or “neoliberalism” are not mere concepts, plucked from the ideas tool-box, but a dynamic of exploitation and submission governing relations between people. In other words, I have a strong conviction that narrative practices provide a vantage point for critique because they allow one to address the materialities of neo-liberalism –i.e. the manifold way people are compelled to reproduce its ideological determinations– instead of the mere concept of neo-liberalism.

This is also the reason I find the interrelation with literature and cinema fundamental to the development of contemporary art practices and the reason why, after adapting The Anarchist Banker to the screen I proceed to realize a series of other works which fleshed-out and made concrete notions that often only appear as remote generalities. To give but two examples, one of my recent works was a performance piece, in which a hired security guard sits idly by a lump of cash, during the gallery’s opening hours for the whole length of the show. That is, whereas the guard’s function is to watch over the money, the money’s function is to pay the guard for watching it. Reminiscent of Beckett’s literary compactness, guard and money are locked together in an absurd play, which turns the invisible abstraction of the business cycle in a painfully concrete performance, making manifest that though money has no price, securing its value always carries a high social cost. My latest film, which was commissioned by the Bergen Assembly 2013, follows the tragic story of a captive orca Tilikum, in order to address the ideological underpinnings and idiosyncratic oddities of behaviourism, neuroscience and management philosophies. Here too, I found it essential to focus on the experience of an individual –albeit in this case an animal– as a means to make sense of the vast social puzzle around him.

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