Kenneth Bergfeld

Human Performance

12 March – 07 May 2022

Opening: Saturday, 12 March 2022, 5 - 9 pm

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Metal Flute, 2022
Graphite and oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2103

Metal Flute, 2022
Graphite and oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2103

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Metal Flute, 2022 (Detail)
Graphite and oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2103

Metal Flute, 2022 (Detail)
Graphite and oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2103

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Rental Car (Direct Credit), 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2109

Rental Car (Direct Credit), 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2109

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Wet Cigarette, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2108

Wet Cigarette, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2108

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Cellphone's Death, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2098

Cellphone's Death, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2098

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Emergency Exit, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2111

Emergency Exit, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2111

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Debt, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2102

Debt, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2102

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, the new pollution, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2099

the new pollution, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2099

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, field of obligation, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2100

field of obligation, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2100

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Signs of Life, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2107

Signs of Life, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2107

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Taoist Prime, 2013-2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2120

Taoist Prime, 2013-2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2120

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, structured like a language, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2101

structured like a language, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2101

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Wasted Hours, 2022
Acrylic and oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2104

Wasted Hours, 2022
Acrylic and oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2104

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Wasted Hours, 2022 (Detail)
Acrylic and oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2104

Wasted Hours, 2022 (Detail)
Acrylic and oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2104

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Jacobin, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2112

Jacobin, 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2112

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Days of Innocence, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2105

Days of Innocence, 2022
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2105

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Days of Innocence, 2022 (Detail)
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2105

Days of Innocence, 2022 (Detail)
Oil on canvas
200 × 150 cm (78 ¾ × 59 inches)
KB/P 2105

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Resilience (Mushroom), 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2110

Resilience (Mushroom), 2022
Oil on canvas
40 × 30 cm (15 ¾ × 11 ¾ inches)
KB/P 2110

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld, Human Performance, Installation view

Installation view

Press release

For his first solo exhibition 'Human Performance' at Jan Kaps, Kenneth Bergfeld presents a new body of paintings. The title is borrowed from the scientific journal of the same name concerned with industrial and organisational psychology in relation to work performance, and reflects the artist’s concern for the labour conditions of a globalised economy. In particular, exploitation, economic inequality, and hierarchical power structures. The site-specific work 'The Ruins of Exchange', 2022, a black velour carpet plotted with motifs executed in oil, serves as a continuation of the hung works. The elements depicted in the tondi – archived concepts, spectral collages and and historical as well as contemporary references lay the foundation for the metastructure of the exhibition. Together, they encourage reflection on the idea of Human Performance, a term expressing physical, sporting and intellectual efficiency.

Kenneth Bergfeld’s portraits are avatars often depicted with a shell of hair which oscillates between a bushy helmet and a sacred halo. These mystified beings, eyes obscured under a silky, velvety mass or retro-futuristic sunglasses, move between the interior and exterior, revealed without revealing themselves. The paintings are a result of the superimposition of three levels of presence: their materiality, the aura of the characters, and their internal landscapes. 

In addition to this psychological ambiguity, the paintings encompass a spatial and temporal meta-reality. The open, dimensionless spaces in the background, for example in 'cellphone’s death', 2022, where disembodied heads on shelves are repeated ad infinitum, serve to address the psychological conditions of consumerism. The tight frame around these haloed faces, the realistic representation, palpable materiality and the mixture of virtual and artificial elements frees them from the constraints of time. Indeed, Kenneth Bergfeld stretches out a stylistic line that begins with sacred orthodox icons, passes through the floating strangeness of a Tarkovskian aesthetic, and leads into a digital future.  

Characters drawn from the artist’s social context also make appearances in his paintings. They have similar traits to his avatars: hidden, glassy eyes or lost in a blur, with otherworldly skin or hair colour. Bergfeld turns all his subjects into fictional characters, referencing the English-Australian feminist theorist Sara Ahmed: “The fictional character can thus reach out of fiction, almost like a hand that comes out of the grave. The hand coming up and coming out can signify not only persistence and protest, but also a connection to others.”1 

His technical virtuosity - a performance in itself - allows Bergfeld to move in the intersection between sacredness and the virtual to reveal a delineative view of the world. 'field of obligation', 2022, which depicts an abstracted mushroom-headed figure immolated on an evening walk through a suburb of Cologne dominated by Germany’s biggest oil refinery, Shell Energy and Chemicals Refinery Rheinland. In this work, the artist addresses questions around sustainability and pollution, laying bare the tension between the subject and its environment. Human Performance expands on  Anna L. Tsing’s examinations on the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multiple landscapes. 

Oriane Durand

1 Ahmed, Sara, Willflul Parts: Problem Characters or the Problem of Character, New Literary History, vol. 42, no. 2, 2011, p. 249.