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Saturday   12 - 4 pm
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Christopher Friess

How to Become a Cynic

4 May -  15 June 2024

Biting philosophers, anthropomorphic dogs, and acts of domestication - Christopher Friess' exhibition at nouveaux deuxdeux delves into the ancient philosophy of Cynicism and beyond, exploring 'doghood' as both symbol and lived reality. Entitled 'How to Become a Cynic,' the exhibition showcases panel paintings skillfully interweaving inquiries into Diogenes and the circle of Cynic philosophers with the fresco technique, prompting reflection on human existence and our drive for domestication.

Consciously opting for historical fresco painting in his artwork, Friess is drawn to its depth of pure pigments and its intrinsic connection to location and natural light conditions. However, Friess takes it a step further by liberating fresco painting from its site-specific context, transferring his frescoes onto mineral panels, transforming them into panel paintings. In fresco painting, pigments are applied to fresh lime plaster, forming a permanent bond with the substrate through a chemical reaction during the drying process. This method demands precise groundwork and contemplative engagement with the material, serving for Friess not only as an aesthetic but also as a conceptual choice.
The frescoes in the exhibition 'How to Become a Cynic' embody philosophical reflections on human existence. The dog serves as a symbol representing the Cynics, an ancient group of philosophers known for their skeptical attitude toward societal conventions and their simple way of life, hence being lifelong referred to as 'dogs.' Living in public spaces, the Cynics emphasized that true happiness does not rely on external circumstances such as material wealth, luxury, or power, but rather on independence from such transient matters. In this context, examples such as Krates and Hipparchia, liberated from all shame, engaging in sexual intercourse in the bustling colonnades of Athens, are mentioned. In ‘The Dog Marriage’,  the Disney characters 'Lady and the Tramp' engage in sex, thereby both trivializing the seriousness of the unconventional act through the depiction of animals and counteracting its eroticization.
The cynical dog is free, whether as its own master or as the 'master of masters,' as its superiority enables it to subordinate itself to its owner. This relationship is also explored in the triptych fresco 'Master and Servant': Who is actually leading whom on the leash? It depicts the same scene three times, differing from panel to panel through fragmentation, some parts denser, others more scattered, yet forming a continuous frieze as a whole.
The comparison between human and animal plays a significant role in 'How to Become a Cynic.' However, beyond metaphors, dogs are also considered apart from the projection of human desires and intentions.
For it is precisely in their existence as actual beings that the beauty of dogs lies, as Donna Haraway articulates in 'The Companion Species Manifesto' (Chicago, 2003). In the six-part fresco 'Charlie and Pip', Charlie, affected by the consequences of biopower, does not understand Pip's invitation to mate, having been castrated before reaching sexual maturity, thus sharing his fate with countless other animals. Here, the aim is less to bridge the differences between the two species through metaphors but rather to empathetically consider dogs as dogs and to question our relationship with nature and the 'Naturecultures' to which we both contribute and are subjected. This brings the discussion back to Cynic philosophy, as when Diogenes remarks:

'Just as the mathematicians look to the sun and moon, but overlook what lies at their feet...'

Just as gazing at the 'Firmament' leaves us uncertain of our own position, so too is prophecy not always easy to interpret. 'War on Currency' narrates Diogenes' visit to the Oracle of Delphi. Stylistically, the painting draws inspiration from Minoan fresco art and its reconstructions. Similar to 'Master and Servant', it is characterized by elevated sections of fresco, complemented by deeper reconstructions in casein. For instance, the fingers of the female figure, which according to the fresco fragments could be holding her nipple, in the reconstruction grasp a coin. Diogenes has formed his hands into a bowl, which he offers to the Pythia (the prophetic priestess at the oracle), as if requesting knowledge or a gift. Whether the Pythia is inciting young Diogenes to counterfeit money with reference to the coin or pointing out his human nature remains ambiguous.

Christopher Friess' works inspire the questioning of the boundaries of society, morality, and individual happiness. They create a space for a shift in perspective and encourage engagement with fundamental questions of human existence. A bridge is formed between past and present, igniting a stimulating dialogue about the timeless relevance of Cynic philosophy.

                                                                                                                                        - Text by Laura Bernarde Grayer

Christopher Friess, born in 1998 in Kufstein, Austria, lives and works in Vienna and Tyrol. His artistic practice is multifaceted and transdisciplinary, characterized by an exploration of themes such as identity, freedom and social structures. He is studying at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. His solo and group exhibitions have been held in Vienna, Geneva, Maribor, and St. Petersburg.


Wed - Fri  12 - 6pm
Saturday   12 - 4pm
+49 175 1644526
+49 179 1050088