exhibition view, Galerie im Stammelbachspeicher (Hildesheim), Foto: Jakob Adolphi
Gala Goebel, Lucy König, Julia Miorin, Luise von Rohden, Franziska Paula Wolber
Five artists – five positions: at monthly meetings, they present and discuss their works, ideas, and projects. They engage in exchanges about their artistic approaches wherein they find intersections, points of contact, and recurring themes.
The exhibition at Galerie im Stammelbachspeicher gives the artists space to work out these connections and disruptions between the objects, drawings and videos: What kind of expansion is engendered by juxtaposition, which motions are adopted, modi fied, or ampli fied? The works’ narratives revolve around systems of order, traces of actions, things and their uses, repetition and time. The encounter of the objects in the exhibition brings into question the seemingly fixed. It is reflected in the title: This is not a …, it`s a … .
This is not a picture, it's a trace of a human act.
Luise: Julia, your objects sometimes look like things that I could somehow make use of. You, Gala, call two photographs of different porcelain services Portrait I and Portrait II, or title a series of hotwater bottles as Bellies. You, Lucy, have been preoccupied with human skin for a long time, increasingly broadening your thinking about it: skin, clothes, apartments. For me, human actions and corporeality are very present in your work. What role does human presence or absence play in your works?
Lucy: It is important to me that the viewers are able to imagine themselves in the works. Actual bodies become representatives. Often, my works are so large so as to enable a physical, bodily relationship between the artwork and the viewer.
Luise: The installation you are currently working on shall display a staircase in its original size. I can walk onto it in my thoughts without imagining myself as being smaller or larger.
Lucy: Exactly. I always think through the human.
Luise: And scale?
Lucy: For sure. Often the ranges of my own body are decisive for the dimensions of the work.
Gala: Actual body parts appear in my videos. In the broadest sense, they represent the ego, a body, a human being. It is less about the concrete body than about making actions physically perceptible.
Luise: And what do your titles mean? I perceive Portrait I and II as humanizing the two photographed porcelain services. Their oval and rectangular shapes make me think of portrait medallions.
Gala: Every object is related to a person. It refers to us in size and operability. Everything I can grasp refers to the size of a palm. Everything I can sit on is designed in relation to the height of a lower leg.
Lucy: You use industrial products that have been made many thousands of times and you attribute them to be an individual portrait. How does the focus shift from an industrial object to a rather personal object-human relationship?
Gala: The moment someone really starts to see the thing - it becomes autonomous. And not in a fixed frame, like: 'That's my bowl and I put potatoes in it and put it in the oven', but free of any imperative, free of any direct attribution of function.
Lucy: So what is decisive, then, is only one’s regard unto the object, and not the shared history between human and object?
Luise: But the porcelain service has gaps, it is not complete, and I see that pieces are missing. In this way, I think of the history of the object and its use, whereby something might have been lost or broken.
Gala: My material is found and not made. I wouldn't look for individual plates and lay them on top of each other so that it creates an impression of a history of use. I am interested in the narratives already present in the object. That's what I try to detach and render visible.
Lucy: Julia, have your objects been found or made? How do the found and the made ones come together?
Julia: There are two categories of objects in my work. On the one hand there are the found objects; often everyday things of domestic use. I take them as they are, without changing their appearance. By working with what surrounds the objects, with their direct environment I try to change the way we see things. With function, it's as Gala has just said: every useful object has a fairly precise indication of how it is to be used. A chair is an object on which I can sit. Maybe I'll stand on it, use it as an extension of my body or put something on it. But all these actions I perform with the chair are clearly subordinated to an application. Through repositioning I find out what the object could be – far away from its utility. These exact indications of utility bore me. I look at how the chair can be rotated or what happens to two chairs when they are twisted together in order to free them from what they usually are supposed to be. These are the found objects. The objects I build are very similar content-wise, but I approach that context from a different direction. I bring material, primarily metal, into forms that are reminiscent of use. But at the end of the day, the seeming function fails. I play with expectations, with common knowledge of action. The promise of function that lies in the formal language of the objects I produce is not redeemed.
This is not a knife, it's a balancing act.
Luise: Paula, you use everyday life objects in your work: kitchen knives, paper cups, a model railway, balloons. They are put into a different state by a movement or a fragile balance. This state is sometimes grotesque, sometimes almost enchanted. How important is it that the context of the objects is shifted – or should they remain charged with their original meanings? This would also be interesting in comparison to Julia's works.
Paula: I'm looking for material and objects that interest me because of a certain inherent quality. Then I reinforce or point out individual qualities or interfere with their usefulness. But this does not mean that their original meaning is lost. Their context remains the same. The clock, for example, ticks and measures time. I stop its hand with an obstacle. The hand tries to overcome the barrier anew every second. The function of the clock is obstructed. Its meaning is obvious but it is disturbed. I don't always disturb processes, though. I also make use of functions and contexts of objects and combine them with objects from other fields. These combinations engender new situations. The similarity between both approaches is that it is always somehow about failure.
Lucy: I think the objects you use are becoming symbols.
Luise: ... or metaphors for human relationships or conditions.
Paula: How do you deal with things that surround you?
Lucy: In my work, everyday life only appears as a quotation. I always create something new, even if the objects refer to familiar things - such as clothing or living spaces. The everyday life is only the starting point. Then it is no longer about the particular place, but about an image for places we remember.
Luise: It used to be important for me that my pictures refer to nothing outside of themselves. Now, what fascinates me can become the point of departure. These beginnings usually become unimportant again in the course of the process, as you, Lucy, describe it. Many recent works, for example, deal with waves. The starting point for this is my fascination with water surfaces which are constantly changing. In drawing, however, I'm not interested in depicting them, even if they're very abstract. I develop something out of it that becomes independent. In effect, the essence of the surface of the water is no longer the yardstick, but the image itself.
This is not a wave, it's a welcomed accident.
Gala: In the wave is the movement and the form, and the form in its repetition. An almost infinite repetition. But I also see the process of making by following the traces of the brush with my eyes, and imagining the hand drawing these traces with ink. What is your relationship to the process of creating and to the completed drawing?
Luise: Both are connected because, as you describe it, you see the making in the drawing. This gives the pictures a temporality. I'm interested in the variable, the imperfect, the living, which at the same time is so precise that it first seems like a repetition.
Lucy: Rules become evident.
Luise: Yes, rules and systems. But also their disturbances.
Lucy: When do you eliminate a process? When do you decide not to show something?
Luise: I always work in series, each of which follows a certain line-system. Usually it takes a lot of pictures and a lot of time for a system to concentrate in such a way that the picture becomes a picture and not just lines joined together. Drawings are often good when they are reduced and precise but still show irregularities. They should have a certain presence and be very concentrated. I decide when I look at them. I think you can see in the end which picture is really good.
Lucy: Are there processes that require a large format and others that can only unfold on a smaller scale?
Luise: In the beginning I only drew large formats. I intend the drawn surface to become the counterpart, to have a volume similar to my body. Many series are large because I want to be able to see the edges less clearly. Because they tend to orient the eyes the most.
Lucy: Yes, I recall a rather large work which starts to shimmer when you look at it longer. You suddenly become insecure about your own position because the picture starts to move.
Luise: Yes, and it doesn't work as well in a small format because I always see the saving edges.
Julia: Laughing often is the first reaction when we meet in one of our studios and show each other our works.
Gala: I think ambiguity and otherness are important. Everything that is somehow absurd, grotesque, funny, laughable puts you in a situation of uncertainty. Laughter is often an expression of surprise or is unsettling. This uncertainty has the power to question the existing. Something begins to wiggle or softens. Perhaps a thought or the idea of something. At first glance it may even seem ridiculous or primitive, but in this moment you are able to leave the familiar, and have the chance to playfully dissolve something and rearrange it. Humour makes this freedom possible.
Lucy: It also protects against pathos.
This is not a repetition, it's a thought on time.
Luise: My artistic work is characterized by repetitions and very slow changes while you are constantly using new material and are less able to fall back into routines. Nevertheless, repetitions play a role in your works. Can you describe where? What do they trigger?
Paula: I create loops. Almost all of my works have an element of movement and always perform the same action. Changes in the movement of my objects are not intended. They are endlessly travelling in circles, trying to overcome obstacles or growing beyond themselves. But they never set something new in motion.
Luise: It comes with some kind of persistence and futility.
Paula: Exactly. And maybe there's something funny about that in a sublime way. My objects simply don't accept their failure. Loops make for a beautiful symbol of futility in my opinion. However, I don't mean that negatively at all. I rather look at loops with a loving understanding.
Gala: There is something rhythmic about repetition. It makes me think about myself in relation to time.
Lucy: I'm just thinking of Gala's work with the spinning leg. You don't know how often it spins in one run. Once? Fifty times? The loop leads me to perceive the leg as something exposed. The viewer observes the fine lines between the muscles or focuses on the bruise. The leg somehow gets detached from the physical context. I myself use the movement in the kinetic sculptures to give the inanimate things an intrinsic quality or liveliness. A case in point is the work Habitant, which is moved from the inside by electric motors, and therefore twitches and trembles.
Luise: The liveliness also plays an important role in the repetition in my drawings. At first glance, it looks as if the lines and line systems are repeating themselves. But because the repetition is not carried out mechanically, but with the human hand, it is not possible at all. I expect change. Without it, I wouldn't be interested in the pictures.
Gala: I also find the liveliness of repetition an interesting point. The first repetitions or rhythms that we perceive, are steps, heartbeats, breathing... So repetitions are something very inscribed. Your work Observer, Lucy, is definitely animated. Not because I suspect a person behind the curtains, but because the Observer itself moves.
Luise: Gala, why do you conceptualize most of your videos as loops?
Gala: As Lucy expressed earlier, for me it is a kind of close observation. At some point you see the veins on the leg that turns, the structures in the crackling of the foil and the reflections of light. At some point you see the difference between two breaths.
Luise: Is it about the duration of the observation?
Gala: The duration - but also like in your work, Luise - the minimal differences in repetition that suddenly become important and make small things big so that we can see them differently, or look at them for the very first time.
Luise: The slow or the minute makes something visible that would otherwise often be drowned out. Does boredom play a role?
Gala: Very much so. In the medium of video, we are used to narratives and certain expectations. In the moving image you expect action and a classical arc of suspense. If this expectation is not ful filled, it could prove very unpleasant and annoying and sometimes dif ficult to endure. But if you succeed in getting involved, it can be very enriching.
Julia: I think time or repetition are most likely to occur within my work in the context of traces of use. So, it's rather subliminal. A dirty rag that shows you that a lot has been scrubbed with it has a completely different character than one that comes out of its packaging as clean as a whistle. It alludes to action and usage. To abrasion and to time that elapses until a bright red-white colour turns into a muddy grey-brown.
Lucy: Time interests me in its presence, not as something that elapses. It's about the history that things carry within them. Highlights. In the project Das Haus der Familie M., I follow the spatial inscriptions of different generations. I am interested in the different stages of one and the same place, and I try to visualize them.
Gala: Time levels that then emerge parallel to each other?
Lucy: Yes, exactly.
GALA GOEBEL (*1991, Stuttgart) usessmall snapshots and microscopic actsin her reduced videos and photographs to distil individual situations in order to observe them separately. It is a permanent attempt to counter the visual and content-related flood of the environment (a kind of environmental catastrophe). An attempt to cope with the overwhelming situation.
LUCY KÖNIG`s (*1988 in Berlin) sculptural interest is in border areas of bodies in the form of figures, covers or architectures. What role do these extended self-spaces play in the interplay of the individual and society? Her sculptures made of textile fibers often address the interplay of narrowness and security, protectionism and voyeurism.
JULIA MIORIN (*1989, Memmingen) deals in her installations with things of domestic use, with their formal, narrative and dialogical potentials. She questions the possible spaces of these objects and the gestures associated with them in the course of spatial repositioning. With simple, smiling settings she undermines the carrier role of displays and functional furniture and reveals their sculptural independence.
LUISE VON ROHDEN (*1990, Gotha) searches in her drawings for depictions of distinct simplicity that display how complex the deceptively mundane may be. By the continuous sequencing of the similar, the many variations of a single brushstroke become visible. The resulting drawings float between the calmness of precise repetition and the shifting of subtle irregularity.
FRANZISKA PAULA WOLBER (1987, Berlin) uses objects from everyday life to often add a slight movement to them. The resulting images are of a fairy-tale mysteriousness, seem to fail at set goals or try to overcome hurdles. Her installations and objects tell of their efforts to achieve something, of dependencies and relationships.
"This is not a picture, it’s a trace of a human act. This is not a repetition, it’s a thought on time. This is not a cheese, it’s a humble luxury." / exhibition 2019 / Galerie im Stammelbachspeicher, Hildesheim
Thanks to Mihir Sharma and Lisa Wolber for the translation.
© Gala Goebel, Julia Miorin, Lucy König, Franziska Paula Wolber, Luise von Rohden
© 2021 Luise von Rohden, VG Bild-Kunst