PARADISE NOW, NIKLAS GOLDBACH

Niklas Goldbach
Paradise Now, 2024
UHD video, sound, 40:00 min
(Originally two-Channel video Installation for 4K Projection and Discoball.)
Music: Bastian Hagedorn

 

The Black Box at Wschod New York presents the US premiere of the most recent film of Berlin-based artist Niklas Goldbach commisstioned by Inke Arns and first shown in March this year 2024 at Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV) in Dortmund, as part of Goldbach’s the largest institutional exhibition.

One might venture so far as to say that Niklas Goldbach has not taken a single photograph of a human being in his works. Which, considering his background in sociology and a photography practice spanning nearly two decades, testifies to an admirable persistence and a sense of observation focused not on our interactions but what structures our existence: a sense of space, architecture, and social engineering.

For Paradise Now (2024), Goldbach prepared a slow-sipping cocktail of views of massive construction projects in Cambodia and Vietnam. Some in the making and imposing in ther scale, others defunct and resembling vestiges of past civilisations that thrived just a while ago. As Inke Arns put it: Those “various large-scale construction […] all promise utopia. The first is Ho Thuy Tien, a 5 hectare water park that opened in 2004 just 8 kilometres outside of Hué, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. To this day, a huge, walk-in drag sculpture, built to the tune of three million Euro, stands in the middle of a lake in the now abandoned park. Another location is Bokor Hill Station ne Kampot in Cambodia, where the Sokimex Group has been building hotels, restaurants and a golf club on ruins from the French colonial era sin 2008. The Thansur Bokor Highland Resort Hotel opened in 2012, and the entire mountain plateau is to be redeveloped over the next few years, wi plans including the construction of an entire city (Bokor City).”1 All this culminating in an extatic shot of a rave-fuelled club in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, its name: Heart of Darkness.

Goldbach’s journey echoes a tension between the major narratives in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) and Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), each of them tackling universal topics through the events of their time. “Coppola’s film …”, says Goldbach, “served as a loose inspiration for my filming locations: the Mekong Delta, the beaches, the military bases, and colonial villas. While Conrad’s novella was the literary template for Coppola’s film, in my video, it becomes a filming location for the visual climax of the video, the first time we see people: The Heart of Darkness is the longest running gay club in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and one of the city’s most popular nightlife attractions.”2

But more than anything, Goldbach’s work is a novella about the endless cycle of creation and destruction that is told through the fate of architectural structures. He says: “Alongside the more existential waltz of construction and decay, the tourism and real estate industries are transforming these once ‘exotic’ branded locations into either homogeneously designed and globally accepted boutique hotels – or into concrete beach deserts. To me, everything we build is essentially a sandcastle at high tide – temporary and sometimes beautifully fragile.”3

 

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1. Inke Arns, "The Paradise Machine", HMKV Dortmund, 2024.
2. Into the Darkness, Niklas Goldbach in conversation with Krzysztof Kosciuczuk on the occasion of the presentation at the Black Box, May 2024.
3. Into the Darkness, Niklas Goldbach, 2024.

 

Krzysztof Kościuczuk

 

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Niklas Goldbach, born 1973 in Witten, Germany, lives and works in Berlin. He works with video, photography, and installation. After studying Sociology at Bielefeld University and Photography and Video at the University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld, he was awarded with the Meisterschüler degree at the University of the Arts, Berlin, in 2006. In 2005 he received the Fulbright Grant New York and majored in the MFA Programme of Hunter College, New York City. His recent solo exhibitions include The Paradise Machine, HMKV, Dortmund (2024), Kunstpreis der Stadt Nordhorn 2024, Städtische Galerie Nordhorn (2024), A Date with Destiny, Watermans Art Center, London (2023). He particpated in the Architecture and Film Festival, Rotterdam (2023), Techniques of Becoming, Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (2022), Bergen Assembly, Bergen (2019), the Parliament of Bodies program of documenta 14 (2017).