ADIB FRICKE | How to look at words
22 April to 19 May 2023
'Writing as something to look at has its place in the gallery's program. So far exclusively in the section 'handwritten', that is drawing. Adib Fricke's work is not at all about handwritten drawings but about words set in block letters. A work on written language that engages in a multiply varied breach of word, a literal breaking, crossing through and at the same time untwisting of the word. Fricke's 'HOW TO LOOK AT WORDS' approaches the word this side of its communicative context and signification.
Above all, Fricke has created a magnificent world of words. The stripped-back, minimalist typography he developed remains grounded in the common aesthetics of the world of type and letters that surrounds us, but carefully composed and in bold color. Even the plain black and white he uses in his work insists on a luminosity that wants nothing to do with the truth value of the proverbial "black on white." Fricke's words have no exchange value. They do not want to be spoken to a counterpart, they want to be read. A reading, however, that cannot help but engage in the "literal" power of color - it's always not just reading but a 'LOOKING AT WORDS'.
The textuality in Fricke's work is about playing with the word's legibility. It engages this early learned cultural technique of reading and the inescapable conditioning that has to turn any sequence of letters, no matter how colorful, into some word. Even if the word, as in the case of Fricke's protonyms, developed some years ago in his 'The Word Company', lacks any meaning and can at best be used as a personal or brand name. This almost compulsory reading puts up with just about any odd sequence of letters. We are pleased, probably also relieved, to find that Fricke's conscious, often unpronounceable lapses of pen, his moving of vowels and consonants within a word, almost immediately reveal their meaning. It's a thoroughly learned and astonishingly prompt deciphering providing a kind of quiet happiness when encountering the friction between the colorfully defaced signifier and the signified showing through.
Fricke's words have their extravagant life of their own, which, in their materiality and physicality, they share with us readers. Whether panel painting, large-format poster, or installation work in space, the set words remain unspoken and present themselves to our reading in their colorful appearance. Even in his works with orthographically and grammatically correct sentences, one encounters this quiet self-referentiality of admittedly bold presence. Thus, our looking at Fricke's treasury of words is immediately followed by a reverberation, a lingering monologue that even has an approximate voice: one's own.
Opening 22.4.2023 from 6 pm
18 February to 17 March 2023
'The circle has some prominence in Saskia Wendland's drawing work. Not only as a recurring form, but also as a performative act of circling, as a physical, form-giving action. The series of red circles measuring the swing of her arms, which over the past 20 years has grown to 26 drawings, may already stand for this. However, Wendland's circling and circling back to form and line by no means always ends up in a circle. Also, the obvious reference to the Ensō of Japanese caligraphy is as evident as misleading. Wendland studied caligraphy during a two-year stay in Japan in the early 2000s. Though, this encounter did not stop at the appropriation of a cultural and artistic practice closely related to Zen Buddhism.
Wendland is not in the first place concerned with the moment and the ritualized act of drawing a circle, which may result in the Ensō. Nor is it about Japanese ink and paper. Wendland works with pencil and cardboard, and her handling of these materials repeatedly brings her drawing work close to minimalist sculpture. Her drawing is work in space. A space she ultimately shares with the viewer.
Above all, Wendland circles back. The first circle is followed by many others in a self-imposed work rhythm. These circles, superposed one upon the other, leave after weeks and months of practice an almost pasty path of the abrasion of the red pencil. It is a repeating and returning, a practicing and insisting, a constant circling back that only much later comes to a close, finding a peculiar conciseness. A conciseness that owes itself to the condensation of time, of action, and finally of the space of her artistic activity.
This persistence and insistence, this slow, sometimes hesitant circling, is present in a different but similar way in all her works. For instance in her dotted circles, which are also on show. Here it is the plan executed with a fineliner that is at the core of the drawing and presents itself with all the care of its execution. Still a physical, performative drawing, but yet entirely without the arm-waving or otherwise sweeping gesture. Works that ultimately show how the encounter with the other is above all an experience and learning of oneself. Perhaps for Wendland in particular the insight into the time it takes, the slowness of the beat that determines the choreography of her drawing.
Even beyond the circular form, Wendland's drawing is about grasping what she does, about the physical and visual knowledge of form, of the formal aspects of her work, which of course includes the act of drawing, her often enduring performance. Once again, Wendland's drawing is slow, aimed at a physical and visual knowledge of what she does. Not only of the form, but also of the movement that finds the form and follows it. Even in the up and down of a simple curved line. With its slow choreography that rhymes with seriousness and work, this drawing finds an iconic conciseness that fixes and fixes us.
From Walter Benjamin (quoting Franz Hessel) we know, "We see only what watches us." Wendland's drawings watch us. Not as a recording of some tense act of drawing. What watches us and what we see is slow time condensed in the beat of work and life.
Opening 17.2.2023 from 6 pm
ISABEL ZUBER | treading water
7 January to 3 February 2023
'Treading water' presents Isabel Zuber's repetitive, often serial and essentially performative drawing practice. In small, very small and large formats, as ephemeral, often room-filling wall works in situ and finally as performance of the drawing act, it is above all this: a futile, physical activity. That passes. It may dive in the daily production of volumes of small drawings, or, similarly exuberant, reach beyond the field of vision in her large formats or finally, in the two-handed act of writing, measuring the long unrolling paper up to the arms stretched out as wide as possible. Even in the small format, her writing is always illegible resulting in an unfinished sentence. Micro- (and Macro-) grams that encode nothing and give nothing to decode. Drawings likes scores of the singing of the unfinished sentence in a kind of prosody; beyond the level of the phoneme and beyond the signification of written language. A letting-go and letting-happen that, in ever new attempts, always only just succeeds in refraining from importance and meaning, in attempting the futile.
Especially in the small format, these drawings are like stills of a film that has been running for a long time. A self-portrait from 2003 may stand for this. A 52-minute video that shows her barely moving face as a sort of still life. A portrait that treads water and never intended to get to a point.
At the same time, despite the serial and repetitive character of her drawing practice, despite the performative peculiarity of her work, the validity of the individual drawing is not contested. Zuber's works find to a conclusion and form in every format. And yet they stand in the tradition of performance, referring to Hamish Fulton's "no walk, no work", Tehching Hsieh's "Doing Time" and perhaps also to Robert Walser's walks. An unspectacular walking that is not about getting anywhere, that passes in this slow time and finally has to get back.
The conditioning of this drawing practice, even in the art-context, leads back first and foremost to the own physique. Zuber measures her physical limits rather than the limits of the sheet. (And the viewer measures and sings along). An attempt at only approximate reassurance eluding the hardships that generally drive such undertakings, the idea of progress and coming to a point.
It remains a 'treading water', a futile walking and walking on, as with Fulton from "water to water".
Opening 7.1.2023 from 6 pm
BOOKS | group show
29 October to 9 December 2022
'From a curatorial point of view, there is not much more to say about 'books' than the exhibition title already says. Though, our interest in the subject has a long and rich history. With 'books', it culminates in the presentation of a wide range of most diverse artistic approaches to the book as object, medium and technology. The approach of the opening date has led to one thing in particular: The successive grinding of any remaining programmatic border fortifications. Thus the show gathers bookworks engaging across all genres and beyond. Rather classical artist's books, sketchbooks and leporellos, some from the late 80s and 90s, are included, but also sculptural, installative and conceptual works, a book on a movie and the movie on the book and a website: https://adibfricke.com/die-reise/
We would note, though: The metaphorical reference in that idiomatic expression of 'devouring a book' already points to an ambivalence in the reading of books that often gets even somewhat rougher in the artistic work with books. The bibliophilic pleasure has its counterpart. "... Not that you mind the killings. Your book is full of killings ..." says Harry Paul (Robert Michum), the serial killer in Charles Laughton's 'The night of the hunter'. (Minutentexte, the book to the film edited by Michael Baute and Volker Pantenburg and the corresponding film to the book also appear in the side programme of the show). In the artistic production, the book sets the scene for many battles and atrocities. It is cut up, sliced, skeletonized, glued, and, if necessary, provided with a holes in the back for the nail on which it is to hang. With such forms of appropriation and incorporation, there is not much left of the book to read. However, the sensual, bibliophilic experience that the book offers only really becomes apparent with this material battle.
And then: Where one's own working through and digestion of 'important' books in a fairly distant past couldn't help some heavy underlining with a pencil, and later on maltreating the book with neon yellow, green and pink markers, the artist's reading of the book by times completely derails. Inspired by the content, but perhaps even more so by the printed page, the linear clatter of letters and words, the book undergoes much more than a 'working through'. It is transformed into a new, graphically complex state that opens up a new, very different life after the 'read out'.
Finally: The book as the setting for such adventures finally becomes, in a more unadulterated bibliophilic apprehension, the book as time. Experienced time; time captured in photos, sketches, documents; but also the time of book creation and book leafing. With the technology of the book artistic work and its reception enters into the order of backwards and forwards. An order of successive pages to which sketches, photographs, drawings and collages between the covers of the book necessarily conform, even if they resist it. The book is not in the first place an image, but a sequence of images: Film.
And then you close the book, put it back on the shelf and remember.
Opening 29.10.2022 from 6 pm
Participating artists and clips of almost all the books on show can be found here: https://www.vsala.com/books.html
FRIEDER BUTZMANN | Nebelkerzen in Dauerschleife
17 September to 15 October 2022
'It is a kind of retrospective that the Berlin-based, internationally active artist and musician Frieder Butzmann presents at Vincenz Sala using video and film technology: In over 50 films and clips, we see works from the last 40 years - thus a large part of his extensive oeuvre as a musician, performer, actor and visual artist - solo or in collaboration with friends and colleagues.
Frieder Butzmann, born in Konstanz in 1954, has lived in Berlin(West) since 1975, where he first worked in the legendary record shop Zensor, soon after founded the venue Luna Park and later toured worldwide as a duo with Thomas Kapielski. Even in Japan, he is considered by insiders to be the inventor of German industrial punk; with his Klingon Opera, the Grimassenalphabet, Gobo light installations, numerous radio plays - most recently a lavish production for Swiss Radio on the theme of love, Sieben Weltrekorversuche (Seven World Record Attempts), and much more, he astonishes his viewers, listeners and readers.
Frieder Butzmann has initiated so many experiments, projects and events that only a few can be listed here - more and more detailed information about his work can be found in the extensive [easy to read] volume "Wunderschöne Rückkopplungen", published by Martin Schmitz Verlag, Berlin 2020.
Frieder Butzmann called himself a crachmacheur, but he is an all-round artist, multi-talent, and ingenious dilettante - the emphasis here is clearly on ingenious! Accordingly, the five hours of film in his exhibition "Nebelkerzen in Dauerschleife" provide deep insights into Butzmann's work and oeuvre, production thoughts and conceptual ideas - moreover, this grand tour creates an extremely complex view of the history of art and music since the 1970s and until today in Berlin and elsewhere.
The exhibition is a joint production of the Vincenz Sala Gallery together with guest curator Peter Funken, who will speak at the opening.
Opening 7.1.2023 from 6 pm
LASSO OF TRUTH | Sophie Horvath / Ulla Hahn
20 August to 3 September 2022
'Es geht also um Wahrheit, Göttinnen und Pop. Nicht Marvel, aber DC Comics. Diana Prince, die mit Gal Gadot besetzte Amazonenprinzessin, schwingt als Wonder Woman in der gleichnamigen Comicverfilmung aus dem Jahr 2017 das "Lasso of truth".
Es war William Moulton Marston, Psychologe und Comic-Fan, der All-American Comics, den Vorläufer der DC Comics, davon überzeugte, dass die Welt der Superhelden Platz für eine weibliche Figur machen muss. Wonder Woman sollte bieten: “all the strength of a Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman“. Marston ist zugleich als Erfinder des Lügendetektors in eine noch ganz andere Geschichte eingegangen. Allerdings kann Wonder Woman’s “lasso of truth” auch das: dem männlichen Personal der Geschichte das Lügen austreiben. Ein bemerkenswerter Verschnitt, der da als dezidiert feministischer Kontrapunkt schon in den 1940er Jahren die Welt der Superhelden betritt. Wonder Woman lässt sich nicht auf eine oberflächliche Alibifigur zurückstutzen. Sie ist als Amazonenprinzessin gründlicher als andere Superhelden in der griechischen Mythologie verankert. So aufgestellt, nimmt es nicht Wunder, dass sie in den 1960er Jahren als prominentes Motiv in der Popart Karriere macht.
Die bietet noch andere ikonische Frauenfiguren und darauf bezieht sich Sophie Horvaths malerisches Unternehmen. Warhols Siebdrucke inthronisieren Marilyn Monroe als museumstaugliche 'déesse' unserer Alltagsmythen und Horvath erobert dieses noch immer nicht erschöpfte Motiv der Popart für die Wahrheit der Malerei zurück. Die biographische Komplexität der Figur, die die ikonische Verkürzung in Warhols Siebdrucken trägt, kehrt in Horvaths malerischem Cover der Warhol’schen Drucke zurück. Dabei geht es beileibe nicht um männliche Phantasmen, sondern um ein noch immer und wieder wirkmächtiges Imaginäre. Im Medium von Horvaths Malerei wird aus dem auflagenstarken Druck ein Portrait, das in immer neuen malerischen Varianten den Blick auf weit mehr als die Ikone ausweitet.
… In Ulla Hahns vor allem malerischer Arbeit spielt das Foto schon lange eine prominente Rolle. Über viele Jahre vor allem als Vorlage für Fotoübermalungen, die die im Genre des Familienfotos geläufige narrative Prägnanz malerisch überhöhen. Eine ans Bild gebundene Prägnanz, die bei verblasster Erinnerung ans tatsächliche Geschehen die abgebildeten Figuren sicher verdichtet und glättet, aber zugleich in eine Präsenz hebt, die mitunter noch den olfaktorischen Sinn bespielt. Man riecht in die Vergangenheit.
Aus dieser Arbeit am fotografischen Bild haben sich in den zurückliegenden Jahren teils großformatige Galerien in der print-Welt gefundener Frauenportraits entwickelt. Ein wandfüllendes Kaleidoskop aus 300 Frauenporträts im Postkartenformat hat Hahn bei ihrer letzten Einzelausstellung in der Galerie Vincenz Sala präsentiert (Succes, Juni 2019). Und doch geht keines dieser Frauenporträts in der Masse unter, keines wird in einen unzulässigen Dienst gestellt. Es sind Porträts aus einer anderen, aber gut bekannten Zeit und sie erzählen von dieser Zeit, dabei aber keineswegs auf eine nur dokumentarische Wertigkeit zurückgestutzt. Der Betrachter liest Bild für Bild, meint hier und noch einmal dort eine celebrity zu erkennen, vernetzt die Porträts in die ein und andere Richtung, stutzt auch bei der Begegnung mit lookalikes, und findet sich vor allem eingetaucht in eine unabgeschlossene Vielfalt komplexer Biographien, die greifbar werden. Hahns Frauengalerien blättern die allenthalben präsente ikonische Verkürzung, die das wirkmächtige Imaginäre schöpft, in eine Vielzahl distinkter Porträts auf. In „Lasso of truth“ sind es ausnahmslos rauchende Frauen, die die Galeriewand bespielen. Es gibt diesen Nebel kaum mehr, aber man kennt ihn noch und kennt auch den mimischen und gestischen Apparat, der aus dem Nebel vorscheint. Eine vertraute Welt, die nicht ins Schlüssige überführt wird, sich nicht in eine stringente Erinnerung fügt und wieder als auch olfaktorische Einbildung den Betrachter einnimmt.
Es geht bei „Lasso of truth“ um eine andere Wahrheit als die geläufige, die die Dinge auf den einen Punkt bringen will. Eine sozusagen Lasso-schwingende Wahrheit, die viele Bilder braucht,, um den einen (irrigen) Punkt immer wieder neu zu umkreisen. Dafür stiftet das durch ikonische Verkürzung begründete Imaginäre noch immer unabgeschlossene biographische Pluralität und viele Wahrheiten, die in viele gültige Bilder münden. Davon bietet “Lasso of truth” reichlich.
Opening 20 August from 6 pm
HANS HEMMERT | CHATROOM
9 April to 6 May 2022
Hans is good at making a grand entrance. However, airy, ephemeral and yet baroque at the same time. With the long series of his yellow balloons, he is currently on show in the Kunstmuseum Bonn. Space-filling yellow splendour that drives the viewer into inviting confinement. Hans’ expansive works are of an intimist monumentality.
With Chatroom he invites the visitor to a scaffolding. ‘All Hallows Eve’, the scale replica of the famous walnut pulpit in the Benedictine monastery in Bamberg (a baroque feat dating back to 1756) made, once again, of airy styrofoam, is to be encountered up close, and at eye level. However, the holy staff that adorns the pulpit is found wearing the pumpkin heads of Halloween and equipped with laptops, the insignia of today's communication. A crucified cell phone, literally nailed to the gallery wall, takes up the theme. Above it, hovers a Bell UH-D helicopter, on a scale of 1:20, which proclaims the message "Jesus Allah Buddha loves you" over the Middle Eastern war theatre. These days we’re looking at another war theatre and in our immediate neighbourhood.
Hans’ work lays access points to a (formerly religious) naiveté of understanding long thought lost, which he turns to a pop-inspired secularism. The fact that he lifts the viewer from the depths of the nave to the eye level of the pulpit goes, of course, against all the from-above preaching of the fundamentalists and orthodox of today’s world. The pulpit remains empty (perhaps the tomb, too) and God dead.
Opening on 9 April from 6 pm | Covid 19 restrictions apply.
TILO RIEDEL | Kein Zimmer, Küche, Bad / Heizung Sanitär / Abverkauf / Schichten kälterer Luft / Albtraumschiff
/ Extrawurst / Tobmodells
27 November 2021 to 28 January 2022
To the overlong title, at least this much: Tilo Riedel is on all kinds of stages, including language. It is in this very domain that he has even won a prize for political poetry. (We’d love to provide you with an example but would certainly not want to try a translation of his lyrical work into English; go see the press statement for a German original). On his last solo show in 2012 at Vincenz Sala Paris we said: Tilo is railing (see below). That didn’t change. And there is, of course, no end to railing (the show’s title is a case in point). However, with all these railing chants Tilo is still perfectly soft-spoken. His railing is more like a prayer, evidence of an ironic, by times sarcastic way of reading, and relating to, everyday world. And language, often combined with everyday images, is the stage. But there are other stages and a long history with stages. In the 1990s, Tilo enjoyed quite a carreer in theatre together with his sister, Jutta Riedel. They produced and co-directed their productions and the sets and costumes for these productions were amongst Tilo’s contributions. Most likely key to his conversion from minimalist painter to a “stage worker” constantly checking for the objects, furniture, images and - it’s theatre - the language we’re living with.
We are very pleased that after Paris Tilo is now coming to Berlin for another solo show. It’ll be a stage again. This time a ramp, made of Euro pallets. With a slight incline. So it is sloping and in such a way that the “image-personel” on the ramp is in danger of slipping. The ramp is occupying most of the gallery space hence it does engage the viewer, who feels a bit just from looking at it.
Tilo's work (incl. in the section sculpture/installation) moves metonymically across the ramp, the stage, the linguistic and pictorial space into the seemingly offside. A movement that never reaches a firm end. A work that in its motion draws in everyday words, images, bodies and spaces, and in doing so finds its very own all-absorbing iconography. Eventually, that's how Tilo’s political poetry, his never-ending railing works, and how he creates images of persistingly irritating conciseness. Join us on the ramp!
Opening: 27.11.2021 from 6 pm.
ANDREAS A. KOCH | St. Georg
9 October to 6 November 2021
Mit St. Georg bestreitet Andreas A. Koch seine erste und späte Einzelausstellung bei Vincenz Sala. Spät kann man finden, weil beide, Koch und Sala, zum Personal eines Berliner Kunstbetriebs gehören, das schon zu Zeiten der 'Berlinzulage' - wie Christoph Tannert für seine Rückschau im Jahr 2018 treffend titelte - quicklebendig war. Natürlich ergänzen wir unbescheiden: und immer noch ist. Wir freuen uns um so mehr, dass ein dritter im selben Bunde, Peter Funken, zur Ausstellungseröffnung ein paar einführende Wort sprechen will.
'St. Georg', der Titel der Ausstellung, verweist also nicht allein auf die heraldische Anmutung und St. Georg'sche Farbstellung der mit der Abbildung zur Ausstellungseinladung vorgestellten Werkserie, die es mit der Ästhetik des Fahrradflickens aufnimmt. Es geht auch um das Heroische der Unbeirrtheit, mit der Koch schon seit vielen Jahren die Erforschung des Unscheinbaren betreibt, wobei er trotz der langen Jahre nicht im Traum darauf verfiele, ein (drachentötendes) Martyrium zu beklagen.
Koch arbeitet schon immer an der Entdeckung und Sichtbarmachung dieses Unscheinbaren. Seine Arbeiten sind überraschende Zeugen der Unerschöpflichkeit eines Alltags, der gerade in der Dimension des Unbeachteten kleine und zugleich großartige Sensationen zu bieten hat. Die konzeptionell stringente Fröhlichkeit seiner künstlerischen Arbeit widersteht jeder Versuchung, dem Betrachter mit abgeschlossenen Perspektiven heimzuleuchten. Kochs Arbeit formuliert für den Betrachter einen vergnüglichen Auftrag, für den er nun gar nicht behauptet, er hätte ihn selbst schon erledigt.
Seine Pappkameraden mögen als passendes Beispiel dienen. Es ist Kochs Verdienst, die unendlichen Variationen immer schon übersehener Verpackungen seit nun fast zwei Jahrzehnten zu sammeln. 'St. Georg' präsentiert Exemplare dieser Sammlung, die von einer erstaunlichen minimalistischen Gestaltungswucht zeugen und zugleich an die abstrakt-expressionistischen schwarz-weißen Formeln eines Robert Motherwell erinnern können. Es sind Piktogramme, ungefähr menschliche Umrisse, zugleich vielgestaltige Schatten, die vielleicht auch auf biedermeierliche Scherenschnitte verweisen und jedenfalls, einmal entziffert als das was sie sind - Verpackungen - romantischen Witz zünden.
Der überraschenden Enträtselung dieser kryptischen Formen steht mit Kochs Zahlenbildern eine Werkreihe gegenüber, die einem gegenläufigen Prozess der Verrätselung folgt. Es sind Arbeiten, die die lesbaren und jedermann gut bekannten Ziffern durch Überlagerung zu einer formalen Komplexität und exquisiten Unlesbarkeit verdichten. Dabei entstehen Kippbilder, die der Betrachter, beim Lesen des Titels dieser Arbeiten, sogleich auf die ihm ja bestens bekannten zehn arabischen Ziffern zurückführt. Eine Offenbarung, die dem schönen Zauber der verrätselten Form nichts anhaben kann.
St. Georg präsentiert schließlich einige ausgewählte Solitäre, die mit Kochs unermüdlichen Ausflügen in die Oberflächen und Untiefen der Alltagswelt weiter bekannt machen. Ein schon lange währendes Unternehmen künstlerischen Recyclings, das eine Vielzahl der Zauberwesen, die unseren Alltag bevölkern, aufpäppelt und dabei vielleicht zugleich dem ein oder anderen Drachen den Garaus macht. Kochs Arbeit bietet eine Schule des Sehens, in der man vor allem den gewöhnlichen Blick verlernt - und jedenfalls nie auslernt.
“Writing is drawing” says Tim Ingold (in 'Lines'). Of course, an important reference for the selection of drawings on show at 'Les Écrits' (after 'Verzeichnen' (end of 2019) and 'traumatic lines' (August 2020) the third and final edition of our trilogy of group shows on the extended field of drawing). However, the reference to Ingold, and also the exhibition title, leads astray in one respect: there is nothing to read! One may be able here and there to decipher a word or perhaps a brief sentence (e.g. Katja Pudor, Saskia Wendland). And more generally all the exhibited drawings have a typeface, are handwritten drawings (Isabel Zuber, Myriam El Haïk, and also Pierre Sportolaro's rather more seismographic recordings of a flight from Berlin to Paris). However, they lack the significance that is essential for writing. They are not text, and only rarely a readable word or short sentence shows up. Thus, whilst 'Les Écrits' provides ample evidence for Ingold's “writing is drawing” there is no drawing that would suggest an “… is writing”.
“Reading” these handwritten drawings must do without much linguistic meaning. It’s writing on this side of language and of the order of the symbolic. Writing in the realm of the allographic. Some sort of, obviously autographic, signature, though, not even bothered to put a name. Nelson Goodman (‘Languages of Art’) discussed at some length the distinction between the autographic and the allographic, emphasizing that for the latter the formal properties of what’s written are contingent, completely irrelevant for the meaning. Whether ink, pencil, or felt-tip pen, the color, size, and shape of the letters, all of these features are redundant, not relevant. The drawings presented at 'Les Écrits' offer nothing but that. Thus, the viewer of these drawings is pushed to follow, above all, the physical act of writing as recorded in the written image. It’s again drawing as a purely performative act, as doing, in some cases almost doing nothing (Sportolaro) and finally simply waiting (Isidore Hibou's 'Till Death Dries').
However, the viewer is well equipped for this kind of reading. Having undergone himself the lengthy and laborious exercise of learning to write is there to help. It’s in the dimension of the physical, of the own hand conditioned by that exercise of learning to write, that the viewer relates to these works. A kind of bodily tracing of the recorded act of writing in the shared world of the fine motor skills of the hand. A tuning in and resonating that refers to the automatisms ingrained in the viewer’s body and procedural memory. And one wonders how Roland Barthes' famous question about the romantic ‘Lied’ would have to be reformulated for this kind of drawing. The question was: "What sings to me, who hears, in my body the song?"
Lustrum presents a cycle of square, large-format photographs of magnificent doors of Italian Baroque churches by the Belgian artist Martin Declève. The cycle originates in Carlo Scarpa’s last project realized only after his death: A water feature consisting of a stone threshold and door frame topped by a broken circular pediment, in the middle of a small garden of the Tolentini monastery in Venice. This Baroque ensemble was found buried in the ground during the first restoration work on the monastery, and is now lying flat on the ground, overturned, as if it had just been returned to the surface.
The show’s title, Lustrum, refers to a purification rite that, based on a Greek etymology, was long thought to be related to the use of water. The rite, however, consisted of a procession carried out at dawn, and following the direction of the sun. It therefore appears today that the word, Lustrum, is rather of Latin origin and derives from the very name of light, lux.
Martin Declève's cycle of black and white photographs quotes Scarpa’s simple architectural gesture applying at the same time a work protocol that, as the Lustrum rite, follows an early morning procedure. Aimed at capturing the slow progression of the light of dawn in an empty sky, the cycle shows these monumental doors from an extremely steep angle. The photographs are literally overturning. It is not just the doors that are flattened, it is the viewer. He becomes a Johnny Look-in-the-Air gazing in the heavens on the upper half of the photographs with on the lower half these magnificent doors. Lustrum transports the viewer into some sort of physically experienced vertigo, a delightful dizziness. And please beware: Don’t fall into the water.
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december 2020 - may 2021
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The exhibition proposes a linking of the works on show focusing on the variety of ways they bring layers and levels of the physical into play. The pen that draws, and what in some of the works replaces that pen, becomes a tool that not just draws but also scratches, stitches, and cuts; that becomes part of a process engaging the body, pushing and pulling it into the center of the artistic events. A body that, probably more than anything else, incurs the drawing, is exposed to and befallen by it.
Obviously not just the body of the work, the picture base. The physical assault is also incurred at the other end of the pen. The hand that draws has been physically shaped by the backbreaking repetition of letters, by this physical conditioning necessary to learn the craft of writing. The automatisms in the developed fine motor skills of that trained hand imply forms of control where in many respects the conscious and even the unconscious have not much of a say anymore. Some immediate physical authority is in command, and not just of that trained hand that doesn't write anymore, that is even in some of the works replaced by prostheses (Hendrick's eye-scanner, by the way this time recording the reading of the first page of Freud’s Traumdeutung, Geppert's headsets, Kruse's sewing machine). The drawing happens, is incurred, informed by some choreography (Geppert, Rossignol), or a ritual (Wendland’s big circle, Hahn), or just a set of simple rules (Dittmar, Döbereiner, El Haïk, Jaime-Cortez, Wendland). In particular minimalist repetition by times to the point of physical exhaustion is at work: Hatching for large and small formats in Döbereiner’s and Dittmar’s work; Wendland's small circle of countless, meticulously set points; El Haik's interweaving of equally countless stylized Arabic characters; and also Hendrick’s egg-formed glass bowl with the literally counted (!) 10,258,743 grains of sand in it.
An exhausting, self-forgotten and self-remembering repetition, for which in some way Sportolaro's glowing heating rod may stand. You can watch it through a recessed window, orange-glowing in a freezer compartment, melting the ice until the built-in temperature controller switches the current from the rod to the freezer’s heat pump; which in turn, due to the falling temperature in the freezer compartment, switches the current back to the heating rod; and so on. A slow loop drawing the viewer to engage and not just watch but literally sense the never-ending small-scale drama of that fight between the heating rod and the freezer’s heat pump.
Modes of memory have long been an important topos for the gallery. So far, the focus has been mainly on the medium of drawing, especially as a record of the physical act of drawing. A testimony to a performance without an audience, recalling and retelling that event. In many ways a dance without choreography, drawing out the physical and finding its notation in the drawing. By times, it turns into a sort of inscription like tree rings, that remember the drought of last year’s summer for generations to come.
For Marianna Ignataki too, drawing is the primary medium of her artistic work. And the dance, the performance, is an important, recurring motif for the mostly large-size drawings in her solo show at Vincenz Sala. However, her sculptures, artfully put on from black hair, stand in the foreground. Breath-taking pieces reminding of totems. With bulging dark lips and swellings that emerge from black hulls and the overfilled hair. An only vaguely identified sex is present all over.
The subject of hypertriosis and hisurtism in Ignataki's drawings from previous years returns in these sculptures. The phenomenon is known from the hairy freaks that appeared in the sideshows of the beginning of the last century. Though, Ignataki's preoccupation was mainly triggered by her encounter with hair in the Chinese culture, during the years she lived in China before moving to Berlin. Eventually, hair became the key motif and material of her sculptural work. Again a memory that has become physical, and at the same time a layer of self well before the conscious and even the unconscious. What has happened is physically inscribed in the hair, quite similar to the tree rings mentioned before. But there is also the curl of the loved one carried in some distant past in a medallion. The curl that has grown out of life and the loved one, cut off and yet not dead, driving a hallucinatory often also olfactory recall.The loop in the title may have once tied the curl. It refers to the sprawling yet braided hair, which in Ignataki's drawings reach out for the other as physical extensions in a snake-wise fashion. It stands for the bond, not just a memory but this mysterious physical knowing of the loved one. Perhaps by times also replacing that loved one. The reference of the curl is the 'pars pro toto'.
That it could be hung on the head was Goethe's comment and meant as devastating. A comment on Caspar David Friedrich's ‘The monk by the sea’, which, nonetheless, and to a large extent due to Kleist's enthusiasm gave quite a push to Friedrich's career. Not his monk, but instead the seascape genre and more generally landscape painting got turned upside down by Friedrich. Which over time resulted amongst other things in that the monk or whatever stood in these paintings for the human measure exposed to the forces of nature vanished from the imagery (see Richter’s seascapes in last year’s show in the Bilbao Guggenheim).
In the group show “Seestücke” (seascapes) this human measure may have changed sides, now standing next to the artist and viewer in front of the image. Yet, which way the seascapes have to hang is obvious. That is not the kind of abstraction they are guilty of. But it's still about measuring and, ultimately, variants of miniaturization of shrinking. That is where the somehow surrealistic detail of Hendrik Krawen’s drawing of giant tankers on his oversized, greenish shimmering canvases meets with the almost acrobatic artistry of the seascapes Pablo D’Antoni squeezes on (literally) nail heads. Megalomania of the kind you may know for instance from Hamburg’s miniature wonderland, the world’s largest model railway (see here), blows through these seascapes - and culminates in Tilo Riedel's upfolded paper model of a cruise liner measuring almost 3 meters presented behind a VIP barrier with a fat red cord, which, as it should be, hangs almost down to the ground between two fluffed up, golden posts.
“Seestücke” is about the real and man-made, examining different scales of turning it into this shrinked, megalomaniac wonderland on the other side of the VIP barrier. In the meantime not just the monk but also nature vanished from the imagery.
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