The Cocktail Piece is a documentary exhibition of a cocktailparty that was hosted by David Bergé on oct 1st 2014.
In 1938, Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, invited exiled European architects, designers and students to join him for a summer in Cape Cod (Massachusetts, USA). Out of this summer gathering grew a movement of the prime protagonists of modern architecture, like Marcel Breuer, Serge Chermayeff and Paul Weidlinger, who built houses for themselves and their friends.
In October 2014, while invited as artist in residency at the Cape Cod Modern House trust, David Bergé developed The Cocktail Piece, as a critical spatial re-enactment and examination of the particular history of the artistic Cape Cod movement.
presented as vitrine #48,
at bibliotheek sint-lukas, Brussels
nov 27 - dec 19, 2014
production: PHOTOGRAPHIC EXPANDED, with the support of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, the Flemish Authorities and Kunstenwerkplaats Pianofabriek.
Acknowledgements: Tülay Atak, Duks Koschitz, Peter Mc Mahon, Catherine Chermayeff, Jana Johanna Haeckel, Zac Rose, Lieven de Boeck, Philippe Severyns and Michel Kolenberg.
click here for exhibition text
by Jana Johanna Haeckel, 2014
Every space and every building have their own story, lingering in the mind of former residents. Many of these stories are documented and preserved – they live on in the hidden silence of archives, libraries and private cellars. Others, for their part, are so extraordinary that they need to be told, to become visible and alive again.
PeopleScapes #3 – The Cocktail Piece by David Bergé brings back to life one such story. Invited to be an artist in residence in October 2014 by the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, Bergé developed a project about the remarkable history of this corner of Massachusetts (US).
In 1938, Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, invited exiled European architects, designers and students to join him for a summer in Cape Cod. Out of this summer gathering grew a movement of the prime protagonists of modern architecture, like Marcel Breuer, Serge Chermayeff and Paul Weidlinger, who built houses for themselves and their friends, creating a space of utopic thinking and modern designs that evolved into postwar communal experimentation.
Based on the particular history of the artistic Cape Cod movement, Bergé developed The Cocktail Piece as a critical spatial re-enactment and examination.
The numerous cocktail parties and social gatherings on Cape Cod gave the artist a template for the piece. This involved bringing together five figures with a past and or present connection to this Cape Cod circle, including two men who had not seen each other since their early childhoods. The get-together occurred in the Kugel/Gips House, designed by Charlie Zehnder in 1970. It brought together Europeans and Americans, current spatial practitioners at the Cape Cod and individuals with personal connection to the initial Cape Cod movement: Peter Chermayeff (son of Serge Chermayeff), Tom Weidlinger (son of Paul Weidlinger), Astrid Petersen, Nelleke Beltjens and Peter Mc Mahon. The meeting took place on the 1st of October, 2014 from 5.30 to 8:00pm, as attested to by a certificate designed by Bergé and signed by the participants as witnesses. How to read this act of appearance and disappearance staged in an architectural monument and verified by nothing more than a single piece of paper?
This piece is part Bergé’s PeopleScapes series in which the imagined, open space – in opposition to defined, occupied territories – plays a significant, not to say fundamental, role. For PeopleScapes #1 and #2 (2012), the artist recontextualized the representation of two catastrophic events in the media: the train crash in Buizingen, Belgium (2010) and the Izmit Earthquake in Turkey (1999). Bergé developed two sentient installation-settings that use the absence of shocking images of disaster to address the viewer’s own imagination and attentiveness. Escaping the direct language of press photography, Bergé created an installation that transforms the slow rhythm of time-based images and the complexity of the abstract, traumatic event into an individualized, embodied experience for the spectator.
In The Cocktail Piece, the creation and representation of an architectural legend is questioned: The vitrine of the Sint-Lukas library in Brussels showcases the certificate of the cocktail-party, the renowned publication Cape Cod Modern – Midcentury Architecture and Community On The Outer Cape, and four pictures of Bergé pointing at different photographs. The book and the photographs reflect the living mythos of the Cape Cod-movement through the private pictures and personal stories of the protagonists. By deciding not to document the prominent place as well as its former residents with ‘more and ‘new’ photographs, David Bergé refuses to nourish the legend with conventional photographic meaning. Instead he creates a ‘real’ meeting as a spatial, post-photographic intervention. In doing so, PeopleScapes #3 – The Cocktail Piece could be read as a playful critique of images as speculation and their creation of historical meaning – the spectator has to believe that the event took place as presented and that the artist and the protagonists were participating.
Furthermore, Bergé’s certified act of appearance deals with the question of in- and exclusion on a social-political level: Architecture is defined as a discipline that organizes bodies in space, based on drawing lines. These lines mark territories and the conditions of access. In most of Bergé’s spatial interventions, like the Walk Pieces (2008 - present) or Le Corbusier's voyage reORIENTed 1911-2011 (2012), wandering on the line means questioning it.
The interventions exploit the urban, not the museum space, for their spatial examination. In so doing, they are different from performances in the tradition of the Concept Art variety in place since the 1960s, or the interventions of relational aesthetic artists in the 1990s. In David Bergé’s works the participants are invited to discover the diversity of space – from transitional places to gentrified areas – through their own reflections and questions in an act of embodied memory; they become interested in the space on both sites of the line, wether it is in a photograph, in their mind, or a certificate of a cocktail party.
Jana Johanna Haeckel is an art historian and freelance writer, who specializes in photography and post-photographic practices as critical counter-narratives of contemporary visual culture.