MAY 5 — 13, 2021

MON — THU, 3PM — 7PM / FRI — SAT, 11AM — 4PM

The encounter between the military apparatus and the psychotherapeutic room generates the discursive correspondent of a tensioned elastic band that seeks to find resolution. If one reduces these two domains to two divergent theoretical positions, the first suppresses individuality against a collective identity defined by the same purpose, while the latter celebrates individuality and its possible inherent contradictions. Both of them have their own defense mechanisms when facing those that would question their practices. And yet, the two realms are profoundly cross-contaminated: the everyday rituals represent a day to day standardization inspired by the military instrument. 

The social values “closely associated with the military identity, such as loyalty, honour, conformism and subjugation, are privileged and framed as being desirable for citizens and as panacea for certain social issues”, claims anthropologist Catherine Lutz. Outside the therapy room, the emotion submits itself to the disciplinary rhetoric with the attempt of integrating itself in the public sphere. 

Jankowski suggests a format through which the defense mechanisms of the two fields intertwine, a video work resulting from the dialogue between the clinical psychologist Alexandru Bătinaș and five Romanian soldiers. Through language, networks of associations and symbolic interaction, they analyze the context in which they find themselves, the implications of their professions and personal considerations regarding contemporary art in the social landscape. In parallel, a series of photographs of dioramas from the Military Museum in Bucharest are paired with texts that highlight different types of defense mechanisms, as assembled by popular health websites. 

On the other side of the spectrum, faith in magical thinking could be the last resort for a better understanding of the self. In Telemistica (1999), language and dialogue weave a reality of their own, through a series of telephone calls between Jankowski and five Italian fortune tellers. The TV audience is one phone call away from hearing their own future. The artist asks questions that interrogate his own practice, building together with his collaborators a series of self-fulfilling prophecies that take the shape of the video work itself.

Through collaboration and dialogue as artistic practices, Defense Mechanism assesses our inner and outer worlds, aiming at extending new perspectives and images. 


Clinical psychologist — Alexandru Bătinaș
The five soldiers
Voice-over text — Fritz B. Simon
Voice-over — Bogdan Dumitrache
Director of photography — Armin Franzen
Camera assistant — Cristian Călin
Editing — Tudor D Popescu
Sound — Mihai Bogos, Mihnea Bogos
Executive producers, Curators — Dan Angelescu, Irina Radu, Cristina Vasilescu
Production consultant — Laura Marin
Financial manager — Mihaela Vasiloi
Subtitles translation — Rareș Grozea, Irina Radu, Paul Simula, Cristina Vasilescu

Special thanks to: Octavian Olaru, Suzana Vasilescu, Felix Sandberg, Apollo111, Diana Vasilescu, Ștefan Hoescu, Petre Fall


CHRISTIAN JANKOWSKI (b. 1968, Göttingen, Germany) studied at the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg. In his conceptual works, he focuses on performance, film, video and photography, but also employs a variety of media, including painting, sculpture and drawing. Jankowski initiates collaborations between contemporary visual art and other professional worlds such as those of religion, business, politics and entertainment. Protagonists from many fields inscribe themselves in Jankowski’s art. His art is carried out in close exchange with mass media formats and their production mechanisms. The focus lies in the collective invention and the questioning of its power: testing the image.

Jankowski has been featured in numerous group exhibitions such as the Bangkok Art Biennale 2020 and solo exhibitions including Sender and Receiver (Fluentum, 2020), Weather Flag (josegarcia, Mx, 2020), Floating World (@KCUA, 2018), 2017 (Petzel Gallery, 2018). In 2016, he curated the 11th edition of Manifesta, becoming the first artist to assume this role. Christian Jankowski lives and works in Berlin, Germany.