Kirlian Bar by Jeremy Shaw at Art Basel
Jeremy Shaw, a 35 year old Vancouver native and naturalised Berliner, is an artist and a musician, but usually not at the same time. During Art Basel, though, he allowed the two parts of his career to overlap. The Kirlian Bar, which he brought to the romantic, but currently unoccupied, upper room of the city’s old Volkshaus, combined his interest in music (he performs under the name Circlesquare), installation, film and mind-altering substances in the form of copious quantities of vodka supplied by the projects sponsor, Absolut.
Shaw turned the parqueted room, complete with wrought iron and wood gallery, into a temporary conservatory, filled with huge banana trees and vivid ferns. Long wooden tables with tall tapering legs, made to his specification, appeared like picnic tables in his man-made jungle.
’I didn’t attack it like an artwork,’ said Shaw on the opening night, when he was due to DJ throughout the evening. ’I actually designed the whole thing around Julee Cruise.’ The eerie singer, propelled to international fame when she recorded the theme to David Lynch’s television series Twin Peaks, was invited to sing on the palm court balcony suspended over the room, wreathed in dry ice, on the Wednesday.
Sadly Cruise was a no-show (her doctor phoned in her apologies). Berlin’s Planning to Rock filled that void, while friends of Shaw performed on other nights, including the challengingly named Aids-3D who, equally challengingly, specializes in playing hard trance, pitched down to 60bpm, and deeply disturbed 1990s dance tracks.
In the spirit of the gesamtkunstwerk, Shaw printed the invitations and the drinks list in noxious smelling glow-in-the-dark inks that meant the project announced itself unexpectedly all over town - every time someone opened their bag.
The invitations featured a Kirlian image of a fingerprint - a 1930s photographic process that creates a luminous image. Shaw makes these fingerprints to assess the effect on himself of various types of music. David Bowie, of whom he is a fan, used the same idea to observe the effect of a hearty ingestion of cocaine.
Much of Shaw’s artistic practice is an investigation into altered states. At the Kirlian Bar, it was the punters who pursued that end, ordering drinks such as the Shaw-designed Unseen Potential, a combination of Absolut vodka, citrus, soda, violet and cucumber. ’I wanted drinks with an aftertaste,’ says Shaw. ’Anything is better if it provides a lingering memory.’