Adam Nankervis

Black stars on a white sky


(Hermine Demoriane - Hilary Kitz - Deborah Wargon (words and music)
Stefan Armour (piano) - Presented by Adam Nankervis)

Black stars on a white sky

Black stars on a white sky

Shadow play on a detail of Jean Cocteau’s fresca

Shadow play on a detail of Jean Cocteau’s
fresca at Notre Dame de France, London

Black stars on a white sky - Details of installation

Black stars on a white sky - Details of installation

Adam Nankervis and Museum MAN

Mr Clean, the Jolly Green Giant, Michelin Man, Chiquita Banana, Mr Peanut…. Manufacturers have always had the tendency to personify their products in a comic way with a human or animal ikon, with little statuettes or with drawn images, especially in the USA. Adam Nankervis has a particular fondness for these kind of characters (and others that have no name, and no brand). He picks them up in jumble sales, car boot sales and charity shops. But they are only one component of the live-in, itinerant, constantly mutating artistic project he calls Museum MAN.

It all started with the discovery of an abandoned flat in the former East Berlin, vacant but still crammed with the paraphernalia of its deceased owner. Nankervis was overwhelmed by the mundane but intense evidence of another life, a personal thread which touched at certain points the received history of a former period. “Snapshots of family and friends, mementos and letters, personal items frayed and torn, albums of historic and aesthetic importance mixed with DDR castes of rewards, medals, knives, radios, WW II helmets, a uniform, personal effects, a STASI typewriter ….” The flat was a sort of involuntary museum constituted at the moment it was left by its human inhabitant. After paying his respects, Nankervis wondered if such a varied and minutely detailed memorial of the deceased could be turned around to become a lived-in museum conceived as “a model incorporating the new”.

Museums are about stillness, places of dust (at least they were until they became the major component of the leisure industries they are today). But Museum MAN is a phenomenon of movement, in several ways:

As the artist puts it: “The bringing together of objects to be read as autonomous entities and threaded for a re-telling by their interrelationship in harmonics when situated together”. There is a sense of profusion, of teeming objects and images, and therefore multitudes of relationships. Museum MAN is in “maximalist overdrive”, in Nankervis’s words, “disparate, haemorrhaging, coalescing, unifying”.

But of course these are all generalities. It is the specific sensibility that makes the choices and creates the relationships between objects that we respond to, without necessarily being able to say why we are drawn to it. Just recently there has been a kind of revival of interest among museums in their early beginnings as the Cabinets of Curiosities of the 17th century, the collections of incongruous objects put together by scholars and wealthy amateurs in their homes. I saw an exhibition informed by this idea recently at the Gemeentemuseum in De Haag, called Wonder-kamas, and it was a total disaster. All manner of objects brought out of the storerooms and put together - but no poetry, no energy, no harmony, no edge, nothing generated in the relations between them.

This is exactly where Adam Nankervis excels. There is poetry in his salvaged ensembles.

Not that the quality of ‘poetry’ should exclude the painterly. One of his recent incarnations of Museum MAN has been SHOULD THE WORLD BREAK IN, which was shown at the Bereznitsky Gallery in Kiev in the Ukraine. The word ‘break’ is a key generator in the title. Whether it was old planks, drawings, photographs, paintings, bits of frame, or furniture, the work had a beautiful tonal consistency across its entirely, The half-broken or roughly assembled bricolage of materials only added to the work’s humane response, a response which was amplified when I learned that the structure was made from wood from demolished refugee houses after the fall-out from Chernobyl. In Nankervis’s work it was as if that total dislocation of people’s lives and break down of their health was materially testified to, but also soothed by a kind of painterly balm.

Guy Brett

Ernst Fraenkel, the 19th century philologist writing about the typography of poem “Un coup de dés” by Stéphane Mallarmé, observed that a throw of the dice did not abolish chance: the dots on the faces of the dice and the dots over the letter “i” were “black stars on a white sky”. Museum Man invited artists, writers and poets to contribute to a book which would offer a variety of readings (or misreadings) for an age of blurred definitions and uncertainty, an age of rediscovery. The book is housed in an attic above a barn, whose exposed roof beams might be the open pages of a book. In the middle of the floor an open frame has been installed, made of doors and planks found in the grounds of thechâteau . A single table and chair present the austere artifice of a deck or cockpit echoing the book’s nakedness. From its exterior components (table, chair, book) the spectator is invited to enter the work and become part of it. This creates two states in an allegory: the reading from the table (within/without) and the observation of the reader (without/within) An open and a closed book. A.N.

Previous Work

Reliquaries Of Empires Dust 1

Reliquaries Of Empires Dust 2

A spires Embers
A spires Embers

Above: Reliquaries Of Empires Dust-I Heard A Fly Buzz-installation, Berlin 2009

Below: A spires Embers Tower, Kiev 2009

Adam Nankervis Born: Melbourne, Australia. Lives: U.K. Director, Museum MAN, Berlin 1997-ongoing International Coordinator, London Biennale 2000-2010 Founder, Changing Channels-London Biennale Pollinations, 2003 Berlin Exhibitions (selected)

A spires Embers Collection

, Luba Mikhailova+Ludmila Bereznitska Arsenal, Kiev, Miystskiy Arsenal

Should the World Break In

, Ludmila Bereznitska+Partner Gallery, Kiev

Reliquaries of Empires Dust

, Ludmila Bereznitska+Partner, Berlin

Bouquets For A Dead End Street

, Royal Academy London event horizon - curator temporary contemporary

Indifference (is bliss)

, Berlin - curated by Johannes Buss

Museum MAN

, Valparaiso, Chile

History of Disappearance

, Franklin Furnace Archives, Museum MAN, Chile Centro Culturelle, Palicio de La Moneda, Metropolitana Gallerie, Santiago, Chile

Museum MAN presents inneROUTEr

- 3 exhibitions

Yokahama Boogie Woogie Zaim

, Kyoto, Japan - curator Koan Baysa


, Museum MAN’s Another Vacant Space, Liverpool Biennial

Bouquets For A Dead End Street

- Deformes-First Latin American Performance, Biennale, Chile


- concept for the inaugural opening of The London Biennale 2006 - A global manifestation with 160 artists worldwide participating in cities from New Delhi, Sydney, NYC, Liverpool, London, Naples, Tokyo


- Curator / Assemblage, Berliner Kunstsalon, Berlin

Anywhere in the World

- David Medalla’s London Cosmic Wrestling Match - Marcel Duchamp vs Joseph Beuys: performance and installation, Institute Of Contemporary Art, The Mall, London

Museum MAN

, Liverpool Biennial 2004 Fireworks Tablet Gallery, Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London - Curator Mark Wilsher

Star Maps

, Los Angeles Biennale - Patricia Correia Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica - Curated Koan Baysa

Pansy Takes A Trip: When Summer Has Almost Gone

, SdB Rotterdam - Curator Sico Carlier

Cosmic Carco Cult DAAD

, Atelier Dahlem, Berlin - Curator David Medalla

Life/Live collaboration with David Medalla

, Centro Culturelle De Belem, Portugal Musée D’Art Moderne de la ville, Paris - Curator Hans Ulrich Orbrist

Portraits of Ascencions

, Billboard Danceteria, NYC

Impostures, Delusions and Fanatic Missions

, Another Vacant Space, Mercer St., NYC - founded by Adam Nankervis

The Lightning Brothers

, Remo, Sydney, Australia