Creator Julius Von Bismarck is an artist whose work always has an air of intervention about it, something that jolts the public from its usual sleepwalk while resisting societal norms and conventions. From his Image Fulgurator which looks like a gun and inserts hidden messages into people’s photographs without their knowledge, to his collaborative project which put a large emoticon on top of a lighthouse in Lindau, Germany which displayed the collective emotions of passersby.
His latest artwork, Punishment I, a performance piece for the camera—both video and still images—is currently exhibiting at the Alexander Levy gallery in Berlin. It sees him travelling the world—Switzerland, South America and the United States—whipping various things until he’s worn out, venting his anger and frustrations. The idea is inspired by an ancient legend where the Achaemenid king Xerxes punished the strait at Hellespont (now the Dardanelles in Turkey) with 300 lashes because he was pissed off that bridges he’d built across it were destroyed afterwards by a storm. So he vented spleen by having the water whipped, naturally.
The absurdity of this action, whipping something that can’t feel or acknowledge the pain, is carried over in Bismark’s allegorical project which is both funny and unsettling. The juxtaposition of one man whipping the might of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro looks daft, as does his lone figure attacking the sea and other landmarks—dwarfed by their size his actions appear surreal and questionable. But no doubt it feels quite cathartic, if tiring.