VI, VII is pleased to present Meg at Paracelsus, a solo exhibition by Paris-based artist Rob Kulisek. The exhibition is centered around works produced over a two-year period and combines photography with a publication.
The series features Meg Yates aka “MegSuperstarPrincess” , a local New York icon who brings the indie sleaze “up to date.” Wet fur, damaged Chanel matelassé, Marlboro light and black pinot are the accessories of this Edie Segwick of the 21st century. After a few inebriated adventures, our “neo Cory Kennedy” had to go to a private recovery clinic in Zurich, the Swiss citadel of the wealthy. In this exclusive rehab center dedicated to Carl Gustav Jung with no public address, Meg will enter a purgatory in which she will be examined by a plethora of specialists. A Chairman (CEO), a medical director, a clinical coordinator, a psychologist, a psychotherapist, an orthomolecularist, a personal trainer, a nutritionist, a counselor, and a yoga instructor will successively take care of this dark angel. In letting Meg cross the divine threshold of this uber-chic-clinic, little did the medical board know that they organized the collapse between two cultures: the ravaged sick and toxic New York underworld with the protestant and hygienic serenity of Switzerland, always maintained at an optimal temperature of 24,2 degree Celsius.
Bentley on call, personal chefs, and amazing views of lake Zurich: the Paracelsus clinic costs upwards of $100,000 (approximately 1.000.000 Norwegian Kroner) a week and is ultimately a strange paradise which caters to the most secretive addicts in the world. In this anti-chamber of addiction culture, everyone can be saved from the needle park, as their motto says. First published in the inaugural issue of the independent magazine “The Opioid Crisis Lookbook,” founded by Dustin Cauchi and Dasha Zaharova, this series of pictures where contextualized during the magazine’s launch in a scenography that recalled William Friedkin’s movie Bug. Aluminum foil wrapped and mosquito zapper lit, the space imitated the Feng Shui dementia of the meth couple from the film. “If every face is a landscape, Rob Kulisek’s palimpsests feel like a gardening session à la Robert Oppenheimer” the magazine would say at the time.
With late skype sessions and collages as his weapons of choice, Kulisek proceeded to a total mise-en-scène from his computer in Paris. Starting just a few weeks before Covid and after the location scouting of the rehab center in Zurich, he directed his friend and model Meg Superstar Princess in her apartment in New York. The images were then superimposed on found material creating these multilayered compositions. Thirteen portraits of the Paracelsus medical staff have been created and an installation of pages and layouts from a forthcoming book are presented for this show at VI, VII.
Our antiheroine du jour Meg is also anything but trivial. Her clothing style, her poses but also her blog mimic the hipster ethos of the late 2000’s: American Apparel meets Myspace meets Subprime crisis. Too recent to be totally digested and old enough to be exotic, this aesthetic creates a début de siècle confusion typical of our age of rapid stylistic versatility. Rob’s cursed images act also as the pastiche of a heroin chic editorial. But beyond the ghosts of 90’s photographer Davide Sorrenti and Kate Moss’ baby face in a Calvin Klein ad campaign, this work has in sight the Calvinist virtue and its claim to purity, both moral and carnal. Rob Kulisek reveals the cohort of chimeras and boogiemen that populates the medical panopticon that are recovery clinics. Yes, in Paracelsus too the night can get scary.
Footnote: Meg Yates or “MegSuperstarPrincess,” a New York muse, disseminates her hipster ethos aesthetic both visually on Instagram (@megsuperstarprincess) and as a neo-downtown poet and diarist via her blogspot lehipsterportal.blogspot.com
Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou
ADDITIONAL PRESS RELEASE
“Even a happy life cannot be without an element of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced with sadness. It is far better to take things as they come, with patience and equanimity.” -Carl Jung
VI, VII is delighted to present “Meg at Paracelsus”— a series of photographs by American artist Rob Kulisek. The works were conceptualized in 2020, when Kulisek was invited by French curators Pierre Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou to contribute the inaugural issue of “The Opioid Crisis Lookbook”—an in-print magazine that collects stories, images, symbols, myths, visual culture, and rhetoric revolving around hard drugs and the present day opium epidemic in the United States.
Kulisek’s initial prompt was to look at Paracelsus Recovery Center, the world’s most exclusive rehab specializing in addiction treatment, which is located in Küsnacht on the Gold Coast of Lake Zürich, where weekly, inpatient rates start at around 100,000 USD (approximately 1 million NOK). Amenities include a private villa, a butler, a driver, a live-in psychiatrist and a team of Swiss professionals (15 to 1 patient) who work closely with each patient to develop an extensive recovery plan. The facilities are situated next to the former home of Carl Jung who is often credited with with inspiring the theoretical foundations of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Based on this, Kulisek envisioned a project where he would photograph his friend: social media star and openly recovering addict Meg Yates (aka @MegSuperstarPrincess) —a downtown New York icon known for her back, smudged raccoon eyes and tiny frame—at the facilities in Küsnacht.
Given the combined challenges of privacy issues and Covid restrictions, it became impossible to photograph inside the facilities, and thus Kulisek instead staged the idea; sending camera to Yates in New York, who then photographed herself in her downtown apartment. Kulisek superimposed Yate’s self-portraits over portraits of the clinic’s staff, using the material to create compositions giving the illusion that she was actually enrolled in treatment. The resulting images are harrowing in effect, haunting and surreal, drawing parallels to the disorienting set of global circumstances taking place at the time.
Rob Kulisek (b. Philadelphia, 1989) is an American photographer living and working between Paris and New York. His work circulates in the worlds of fashion and fine art photography. Often staging or directing work, or repurposing found materials or scenes in an inventively subjective manner, Kulisek’s work is rich with implication and fantasy.
This methodology has formed the backdrop for projects with commercial clients such as Adidas, Burberry, Gucci, Hästens, Nike, Telfar and Tesla Motors; images and campaigns that have appeared everywhere from the cover of Texte Zur Kunst to the pages of American Vogue.
Writing about his work in 2021, curator Pierre Alexandre-Mateos states “Kulisek’s practice is marked by a sensual, suggestive and largely physical imagery. Capturing the high frequencies of bodies and interferences happening in group dynamics, his style is profoundly vibrant, and contemplative. Whether in the form of exhibitions, collaborative works, experimental magazines, music labels or installations, he plays with rigid categories to espouse soft, flexible forms, sometimes deeply sincere and spontaneous, sometimes more analytical.
Part of a generation of artists who are questioning porosities between Art photography and Fashion photography and shifting their commercial and aesthetic stakes, his pictures are nourished by his assiduous reading of independent fashion press from the 1990s, such as Purple, and Self Service, as well as experimental fashion brands like interdisciplinary studio’s Bless. Nurtured by subcultures that have emerged mostly in the 90’s and the 00’s in the indie-fashion photographic field, a large part of his practice is infused with anti-fashion, grunge, queer and porn-chic.”
Kulisek attended The Mountain School of Arts in 2015. The following year, he was nominated for FOAM Magazine’s Paul Huff Award and his collaborative work with Dora Budor, WHEN THE SICK RULE THE WORLD, was included in the 9th Berlin Biennale curated by DIS.
Kulisek has also collaborated with German artist David Lieske on visual art and music under the name Kulisek / Lieske. In 2017 he photographed artist, model and musician Eliza Douglas for the cover of “299 792 458 m/s,” a fashion publication and conceptual project by him and Lieske, which is published by Westreich Wagner. Inspired by GDR experimental fashion magazine “Sybille,” “299 792 458 m/s” directly questions our relationship to speed and perishability whilst dealing with notions such as the temporality of fashion products, the relativity of luxury and the blind spots of representations.
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS I (CEO), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS II (Chairman), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS III (Medical Director), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS IV (Addictions Counsellor), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS V (Addictions Recovery Advisor), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS VI (Clinical Coordinator), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, Big Book, 2023 Inkjet prints on various materials
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS VII (Psychologist), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS VIII (Psychotherapist), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS IX (Acupuncturist), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS X (Orthomolecular Medicine Specialist), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS XI (Nurse), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS XII (Personal Trainer), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)
Rob Kulisek, MEG AT PARACELSUS XIII (Yoga Instructor), 2023 Digital C-print on Kodak Endura mounted on dibond 53.3 × 40 cm (21 × 15 ¾ inches)