Selfie hype, veggie boom, plastic surgery, fitness mania – What’s our problem? In times of grotesque self-optimization and the ubiquitous pressure to achieve, the exhibition I AM A PROBLEM invites you on a journey through the ups and downs of human existence. Presented by theatre director and set designer Ersan Mondtag, the MMK 2 becomes sombre but nevertheless tantalizing parallel realm where works from the MMK collection become protagonists of a narrative and engage in dialogue.

The starting point for Mondtag’s concept was a legend about Maria Callas (1923–1977). To achieve her dream figure, the world-famous opera singer supposedly swallowed a tapeworm with a gulp of champagne. As the story has it, she quickly lost a staggering fifty kilograms with the parasite’s aid. Callas’s uncompromising effort to shape her outward appearance according to her ideal image is one of the show’s leitmotifs. The other is the downside of that endeavour – the disintegration of her own body.

For I Am A Problem, Mondtag has transformed the MMK 2 into a scenic parcour. On its serpentine paths, we encounter border crossers and doubles, quiet rebels, failed existences, and bodies fallen prey to the will to optimize. The works range from Andy Warhol’s Kellogg’s Cornflakes Box and a large-scale commissioned piece by Plastique Fantastique to some of the MMK’s most recent acquisitions, for example Will Benedict’s music video I Am A Problem, from which the show takes its title.

With texts by the author Thomaspeter Goergen – recorded by members of the ensemble of Hamburg’s Thalia Theater – Mondtag gives the works voices and renders them performers of their own longings and fears. Usually in the form of arguments, their discussions revolve around existential matters of human existence such as the transformability of one’s own identity, the pursuit of perfection or the transience of organic matter.

Mondtag’s staging reveals how metamorphoses of corporality become symbols of the disintegration processes taking place on the individual and societal level alike. The quest for perfection ultimately leads to aggression, fanaticism and violence. As the parasite relentlessly decomposes its figure-obsessed hostess from within, the bodies’ occupants wage war – with themselves and their surroundings. Because he who is prepared to sacrifice himself is also prepared to sacrifice others.

Featured artists: Kader Attia, Vanessa Beecroft, Will Benedict, Bernhard Johannes Blume, Shannon Bool, Miriam Cahn, John De Andrea, Marlene Dumas, Robert Gober, Douglas Gordon, Ilja Clemens Hendel, Georg Herold, Martin Honert, Jonathan Horowitz, On Kawara, Plastique Fantastique, Teresa Margolles, Barry Le Va, Bruce McLean, Aernout Mik, Lutz Mommartz, Bruce Nauman, Steven Parrino, Arnulf Rainer, Bettina Rheims, Thomas Ruff, Taryn Simon, Dayanita Singh, Markus Sixay, Jack Smith, Elaine Sturtevant, Jürgen Teller, Oliviero Toscani, Rosemarie Trockel, Andy Warhol