Jeremy Shaw Raises the Bar at Art Basel

In his art, Berlin-based Jeremy Shaw recreates altered states, so it’s very logical that the Absolut Art Bureau, an organization that is responsible for the liquor brand’s art initiatives, would hire him to design a bar at Art Basel this year. Called Kirlian, after a photographic process that makes a photogram out of electricity, thereby exposing the magnetic field, or “aura” around an object, the bar promises to be a place where you can be lifted out of the frenzy of the art fair and have a transcendental experience.

Kirlian is a process that Shaw uses frequently in his practice. None of his imagery, however, is present at the bar—although a thumbprint Kirlian photograph from his 2010/11 series, “Transcendental Capacities,” is used on the flyer. “At Art Basel, from my experience, the last thing you need after being around the fair all day is to be assaulted or challenged by more work,” Shaw told Interview about the design, which he doesn’t consider to be an art project. “I just really wanted to create an odd, but strangely comfortable space with unique, but great drinks and weird, but great music.”

When visitors enter, they will be confronted by dark space ideal for dance parties, replete with glow-in-the-dark drink menus. “There are tons of huge plants, chandeliers on dimmers, ivy taking over the balcony railing, a mirror ball with white pin spots, a stand-up original Tempest arcade game, a soundsystem, hazers, antique perfume bottles, and a laser,” Shaw described, lending Kirlian a distinctive Studio 54 vibe.

Shaw, who is a DJ and musician as well as an artist, also programmed the entertainment. Performer will include Julee Cruise, an American dream pop vocalist best known for “Falling,” the theme song for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, as well as a line-up of DJs who spin hypnotic, rave-inspiring sets, including Veronica Vasicka, Konrad Black, and Mickey Moonlight. “They’re all artists who play somewhat obscure, yet highly palatable music with a leaning towards the dark and mysterious,” Shaw said.

“I think the Kirlian is definitely somewhere I’d be found drinking,” Shaw continued. “I’ve always gone for music over environment, so on the programming of that alone, I’d be there.”