Ten identical men, dressed in white shirts and black trousers, a representation of some sort of ordinary man. The ten anonymous and replicating figures share and inhabit the space of a luxury hotel suite, whose large windows overlook the city of Athens. For twelve minutes, the duration of the video, Goldbach makes the protagonists move within this set, performing gestures that are those one would expect from white-collar workers: signing contracts, reading documents, ratification of an agreement … and around these actions it appears a conviviality and sharing that is always artificial and forced. The continuation of the action makes the place increasingly claustrophobic and the flat and anonymous image of the protagonists takes on disturbing contours.

Ten (2010) is the video by artist Niklas Goldbach who stages the personification of himself, declined in ten identical figures, ten replicants that refer to the myth of Atlantis and its government of the ten brothers. The myth is actualized, the ten brothers are reduced to clones of a single man or perhaps to the flattening and conformism that power generates. The dynamics of power and control are the focus of Goldbach’s work: while he brings back a contemporary version of the Atlantis power, however, he highlights not the values of such a system of power but the weaknesses and the most disturbing aspects that can be re-read in the sterilization of the political thought that dominates our present reality. We too, contemporary robots, have moved away from a political feeling, from a vitality that has its real confirmation in the activities of society and in its construction.

Taking to the extreme the representation of an ideal society in which servant and master have the same identity, Goldbach shows its version even more disturbing and mysterious: Ten is the representation of a despotic future in which the human being loses all physical  and psychological characterization, becoming a simple body that performs actions without any emotional transport. The characters seem to be trapped in a routine that leaves no room for variation, almost a Kafkaesque reality designed to be theoretically perfect but which leads to the death of man as an individual.

The meticulous representation of the political rituals in which the ten protagonists of the video are intent is composed like a surreal narration in which reality shows its dramatic side: the sterile and anonymous power that Goldbach puts in the hands of men-puppets is the metaphor of the present political and social condition. The coldness and detachment that dominate the protagonists’ actions are not, however, entirely repulsive: the relationship dynamics staged move towards a sort of melancholy participation and/or identification of the spectator. The anonymous replicants are closer to us than one might imagine.


Niklas Goldbach
Video, 12:10 min, Full HD, Stereo, 2010 © Niklas Goldbach