Theo Altenberg, Monica Bonvicini, Peppi Bottrop, Larissa Fassler, Tom of Finland, Günther Förg, Thomas Grötz, Katharina Grosse, Sabine Hornig, Pertti Kekarainen, Iris Kettner, John Kleckner, Stefan Knauf, Ola Kolehmainen, Matti Kujasalo, Erik van Lieshout, Niko Luoma, Philipp Modersohn, Lars-Gunnar Nordström, Jussi Niva, Albert Oehlen, Manfred Pernice, Michael Rutschky, Benja Sachau, Thomas Scheibitz, Emanuel Seitz, Florian Slotawa, Thomas Struth, Finbar Ward, Jenni Yppärilä
curated by Stephan Gripp
22. 09. - 15. 12. 2018
Opening: 21. 09. 2018, 6 - 9 p.m.
The animal has created a network with many-branched passages and caves underground. His structure seems to have turned out well. And yet he is constantly overcome with the fear that his burrow is not perfect enough to fend off enemies or other interferers trying to penetrate their way into the complex.
Franz Kafka’s story "The Burrow", which was written in the middle of the 1920s, is set in a period when, accelarted by the Industiral Revolution, bourgeois home of the 19th century together with the lifestyle of its inhabitants was falling apart. The mental problems that went hand in hand with the transformation in the spatial and social order, which were expressed for example in many types of spatial phobias, were still dealt with by Sigmund Freud in the old middle-class setting containing armchairs, massive sofas and heavy rugs. At the same time, architects and urban planners began to develop new residential and urban concepts to prepare the residents of the metropolises for the 20th century. The aim was not only to get rid of the sicknesses of the old cities with their spatial order, but also intending to do away with myth, irrationality and tyranny. In this way, the space as a converted, symbolic and intellectual place entered the social debates of the 20th and 21st centuries.
After the Second World War, the architectural ideas and models that were formulated in an exemplary manner in Loos’ “spatial plan” or in Le Corbusier’s “espace idicible” were only distant echoes of a modern age that had failed by its own doing. As a result, the space became a guiding concept and a battle cry of the late 1960s in order to now analyze the next traditional social order and then make an attempt to remove this.
Thanks to the concepts developed at that time concerning our understanding of relationships to the space, we can see today that space is not a homogenously static structure. We live in a fragmented and networked spatial structure and in virtual spaces; we pass through territorial spaces, populate places or search for spaces of retreat to withdraw from public perception.
The exhibition “Ich bin ein Riss, ich will durch Wände gehen / I am a crack, I want to go through walls” shows how art stands in relation to these spaces and brings together works from the Peters-Messer and Miettinen collections.
Monica Bonvicini and Manfred Pernice connect their objects and installations to a reference system in which body, spaces and objects are closely related to one another. With the drawing "Caged Tools" by Bonvicini and the fragments from a condemned building by Pernice "o.T. (hässliche Luise)" (Untitled [Ugly Luise]), they transfer the sound of the city into the exhibition.
In the photographic series unconscious places, which got underway in 1979, Thomas Struth sets these empty places in scene as a psychological profile of their (absent) inhabitants by documenting desolate urban landscapes.Theo Altenberg’s photography of a mass scene in Friedrichshof "Nach den Selbstdarstellungen" (After the Self-Portrayals) shows that war and the crisis of the Modern age led to a liberation of spaces and bodies. Opposite to this we have Florian Slotawa’s material assemblage made of apartment windows and washing machines as a monument to a normative, petit beourgeois domesticity.
In rural areas, bus stops are transitory places that act as meeting points for the kids from the suburbs and where the approaching bus into town promises release from small-town constrictions. Sabine Hornig’s brutalist construct Bus Stop appears to be a space offering protection and a stage in equal measure; it thus provides the setting for Tom of Finland’s posing California Men.
The uncanny in modern architecture is reflected in Ola Kolehmainen’s photograph Library 1. This work shows the enlarged negative of a room view of the Alvar Aalto Library in Vyborg, whose central object is a skylight that dominates the visual spcae as a round black disc.
In the central room of the Salon, its “Berliner Zimmer”, Erik van Lieshout and Michael Rutschky cross the territories of West and East Germany at different times; the former in his room installation Rotterdam – Rostock, first shown at the 4th Berlin Biennale, and the latter with his photo series Unterwegs im Beitrittsgebiet (1-50) (Out and About in Acceding Territory 1-50). As chroniclers and participants, they relate themselves to the people and architecturs of the cities, the peripheries and the rural spaces and show how social and political circumstances in time and space are changing and establishing new connections all the time.
curated by Peter Friese / in cooperation with Robert Grunenberg Berlin
22. 09. - 15. 12. 2018
Opening: 21. 09. 2018, 6 - 9 p.m.
Aurora Reinhard, a resident of Helsinki, proceeds from the idea that the way we think about men and women in our society, and about gender and sexuality, are constructions and discourses that have developed throughout history. In her photographic works, sculptures and videos, she questions in particular the external image and self-image of women in the media and in the world of consumption. However, in her work she also examines the tension between the sexes as a part of our cultural and intellectual history, which goes back much farther than the current debates. This approach, which is rightfully designated a feminist one, manifests itself again and again in disconcertingly beautiful works that challenge the senses and the understanding of the onlooker in equal measure. They range from in some cases disturbing and provoking photographic works to sculptures and videos in which the boundaries, tensions, but also the transitions between the sexes are looked at in a differentiated way, critically and at the same time with great compassion.
For her exhibition, the artist developed several works allowing herself to be inspired in the process by pictures from the abundance of images that exist in the collective visual memory of the Occident. Some reach far back to ancient times, such as the double motif of mother and child. But the figure of Saint Sebastian, suffering the terrible fate of being shot with arrows, is also there. In this case, however, the Christian martyr changes sex to become a tied-up Andromeda riddled with arrows.
The motif of the severed head also belongs to this canon of images, depicting the idea that a person literally does lose his head at the end of a tragic conflict, is de-capitated. The traditional ones we know of range from Medusa to Goliath, Holofernes and John the Baptist, right up to the pirate Störtebecker and the countless people beheaded during the French Revolution. Severance of the head from the body has existed as a martial symbol in our cultural memory for thousands of years. Besides the context of Medusa’s head, this photographic works also reminds us of the head of John the Baptist presented on a plate, just like the impressive painting by Lucas Cranach from about 500 years ago. This is therefore not about in some way affirming eternally valid archai that never change in their form and meaning. Instead, Aurora Reinhard makes it obvious in all of her visual adaptations that the supposedly primal images have all developed historically and have ultimately shown themselves to be symbols that are modifiable and reinterpretable, capable of new contextualization and meanings.
As such, Madonna with Child not only picks up on a pictorial tradition that predates both Christianity and Judaism, but also proves – in this adaptation – to be a highly peculiar figure, brought into the modern age and given a fetishistic quality in a way that is quite disturbing. The figure dressed in a latex mask with wig, wearing a red fishnet shirt and blue overgarment, presents itself as a sexualized rubber figure with firm breasts and a correspondingly artificial-looking baby. The impression that, what we have here might be an embodiment in the tradition of Isis, Demeter, Cybele or Maria, the Mother of God is taken to the extremes and ab absurdum by the sense of alienation. And the real, somewhat distressed pupils looking out of the eyeholes in the latex face make it clear that, behind this mask-like fetish mantle there is a real, alive human being, which only intensifies the contradiction all the more. Aurora Reinhard expresses in concrete terms and radicalizes here a once hieratic image handed down over the millennia with the help of disconcerting paraphernalia, some of which was acquired in sex shops, to turn it into an alarming and equally fascinating substitute image of our times.
The desire to be another, to slip into the skin of another person, or even into the latex facade of the other sex are just as manifest in this photographic work as the awareness of the futility of so presumptuously forging an identity by using a fetishist surrogate, as it were. Aurora Reinhard’s works are not to be understood as proposals or recipes for real processes of finding oneself, but are above all to be grasped as deeply disturbing and also insightful images. It is all about understanding the difference between the sexes as a social construct and about being aware of the cultural preconditioning of that which we call identity, sex and gender. All of this does not present itself here as an anticipated solution to all conflicts, but as their most radical disposition in visual form.
In High Rider, Aurora Reinhard combines a pair of scissors with a pair of women’s legs spread open like scissor blades. By doing so, she creates an intense mental image - one that is perhaps even slightly reminiscent of one of Max Ernst’s frescoes – in which sexual desire and the sense of seduction emanating from the female body comes together with the (assumed male) fear of being castrated. The connection between Sigmund Freud’s discovery of the subconscious, and ultimately the influence of dreams and the subconscious on the Surrealists, can be seen clearly once again in this small golden figure. After all, the essay by the discoverer of psychanalysis on Medusa’s Head and Freud’s description of the fear of castration contributed towards controversial debates. Freud came up on the one hand with the fear-filled notion of a vagina dentata when writing about male desire, which could certainly be derived from the figurative notion of a fanged Gorgon-Medusa. On the other hand, he described this archaic female figure as herself castrated, because (after she loses her head to Perseus) he interprets the gaping neck-wound just as figuratively as a bleeding vagina. However, in this case he perhaps went a little too far: Medusa is not in fact castrated (potentially with penis envy), but a castrator! She stands for the fascination and the joining of Eros and Thanatos, passion and pain. And for the symbolic idea of a powerful archaic female figure that embodies these contrasting elements without cancelling them out in harmony.
Together with these works, which were exhibited in the Kunstverein Ruhr as part of a solo show, the show will be presenting no less controversial works owned by the artist and the Miettinen Collection.
These include Flowers, a pile of long, stocking-like gloves in all imaginable skin shades. Long, claw-like and varnished fingernails have been added and they are very like a perfect second layer of skin that can be changed at any time. However, at the same time, they are also like relicts of skin that has been flayed in an extremely painful process. When Aurora Reinhard examines in her special way how femininity is represented, this always goes hand in hand with an in-depth look at cultural and intellectual history, is without compromise, and also tinged with a good portion of humor. In her photographs, sculptures and videos, what she ultimately achieves are not effigies or cheap illustrations of contexts we have long been familiar with, they are rather impressive symbols that astonish and shock, but also stimulate interconnections as well as completely new ideas and realizations.
Thanks to: The Finland Institute in Germany, Frame Finland, Timo Miettinen, Kunstverein Ruhr / Text: Peter Friese