Bildet Banden at SETAREH / Berlin

Bildet Banden

aaajiao, Kate Andrews, Madeleine Dietz, Achim Duchow, Cécile Dupaquier, Philipp Goldbach, Matthew Higgs, Antonia Hirsch, Christian Megert, Otto Piene, Pyrolator, Beate Terfloth, Günther Uecker, B. Wurtz

23.06. - 19.08.2023

Schöneberger Ufer 71 | 10785 Berlin 

Exploring the radical potential of the monochrome, these artists bring a variety of materials together to forge similarly radical images by utilising the mundane to imagine the transcendent. Pulling forward picture making forward while looking back at the history of revolutionary and essentially nihilistic images (Malevich, Zero, Yuko Nasaka, the fireworks of Klein) they experiment with a variety of mediums to move this tradition on in the present, often expressing through their quotidian materials a layered response to contemporary abstraction. Presenting both Modern and contemporary artists, the exhibition brings works together which expunge figuration in favour of figuring nonconcrete positions and hold up the idealistic dimensions of avant-garde image making.

This exhibition presents these essentially disparate practices to reflect on the legacy of post-war abstraction and the value that artists continue to find in making pictures that picture nothing. Or nearly nothing. Or something like what is like the idea of nothing, or disappearance or non-appearance. Bracketed by works from members of the original obliterating artists gang, ZERO, these recent artistic works continue to find purpose in image abolition. What’s common through the exhibition is a lack of specific figure, and therefore the only figure is the viewer. We are here and encountering the works, we encounter their formalized status and from that reductive form, may find space to reflect. In obfuscating the experienced into the abstracted, these artists find ways to picture more than the everyday world. They picture their lived conditions.

Systems of covering and erasure are a central element in Madeleine Dietz’s ongoing investigation into mortality and cycles of existing. Interested in the way that funerary rights obscure the figure through burial, she also recognizes the entropic processes of death, decay and renewal as a part of this larger cycle. In a recent work, presented in parallel to dOCUMENTA XII, she incorporated the collection of soil given to the artist by cemeteries from almost every country of the world. She presented this collection in individual boxes, side by side, and then collectively buried in a circular mound. She describes these formal methods of erasure to be ones of remembrance, that in acknowledging that nothing lasts forever we see ourselves within this infinite continuum. In the recent photo collages, NICHTS IST FÜR DIE EWIGKEIT römisch I - IV, obfuscating thick lines of black are layered over images of Roman antiquity, from behind which we glimpse sculptural figures of a nearly untraceable past. And yet, in burying them behind this veil of mystery, we are moved to search for figures in what is essentially a search for ourselves, for our common humanity.

Kate Andrews Proposition I and II formalize the act of mark making through a sculptural dimension which activates the traditionally two-dimensional surface of drawing. In careful graphic, the artist has captured small explosions of light, the central physical element of all pictures and their chiaroscuro effects. These studious ombre reach towards photographic realism to picture what is essentially an abstract element, pure light. Through the sculptural apparatus of steel poles, the artist further abstracts this production, fictionalizing the wands of steel as the magical source of these illuminations. The image is both all light and all production with no fixed figure, a reduction of image making to its absolute essential elements.

Philipp Goldbach‘s „Sheet Films“ explores photography as a medium and its historic significance in documenting our surroundings. The work consists of two large analog film sheets replicated on plexiglass. Goldbach intentionally removes any form of clear imagery one would expect to be present. The demarcations of a 4x5” negative is enlarged onto 192,5 x 152 cm plexiglass sheets, scaling the work to allow the viewer to be encompassed within the piece. The blank films act as fragments of recollection, evoking nostalgia for a medium that has been gradually replaced by digital technology. Through this, the artist challenges the purpose of representation and its significance in storing memories. The interaction of light with the materials creates a play of transparency and opacity, adding depth and complexity. Through „Sheet Films,“ Goldbach encourages a more active and critical approach to images, inviting us to question how we interpret the world. 

The art of B. Wurtz is confined to using material from everyday life. For more than 50 years he has created diverse bodies of work from the often-outcast objects related to what he sees as the essential human activities of eating, sleeping and shelter. He works these familiar and yet disposable materials into sophisticated formal art which captures the fragility of our human condition. In these recent works, which characteristically play with art history by gesturing to Constructivism as well as Rothko and other rectangular abstractists, the netting used in fruit and vegetable distribution becomes contortions of color which encase the stark white ground. This casing mimics its original use value, containing its precious contents, while becoming an aesthetic field of contemplation. Also stitched and fastened to these white body, the net elements teasingly remind us of Malevich’s isolated shapes on sturdy supports, radical reductions of iconoclasm, here mimicked in the common material of every day consumption. 

Achim Duchow also plays directly with this history of avant-gardist image making, and turns its utopian proposal of social change on its head. Having made works which satirize artistic genius and the potential of high art through-out his career, this theme started in collaborations with Sigmar Polke during the early 70s. In the 1990s Duchow similiarly developed the project Kunst für Arme, in which he created naively crafted works in the style of various 20th century ‘titans’. A direct response to the market inflation of the 1980s art scene, these humorous works of appropriation bury notions of authorship and directly seek to question public access to the ideas of high art and the socially motivated intentions of the early Modernist avant-gardes. In this exhibition we have examples of Duchow’s replicas of work by Christo and Picabia, two artists who often worked with negation to foreground specific histories. In Duchow’s paired down parodies, he opens the flood gates on the complex relationships between author and public and arts role in social and political discourse. Also included is his 1991 newspaper Kunst für Arme which uses the form of a published manifesto to further this satire of revolutionary cultural production.

Beate Terfloth is interested in the space between the observed and the source image she articulates, as well as the truncation of the space in which that image itself is presented. This formal reduction is a process of making an abstraction of the original source and critically conceiving the presentation context as equally contingent to the works purpose. In this way, she places the viewer in a situation that demands close observation, one in which their own physical encounter with the art object stimulates their experiences as they relate to the artist’s marks. Neonkreis originated in a series of notebook lines which were selected for their nuanced dimensions and enlarged in an illuminated circle of white neon glass. The circular orientation of the lines draws us into contemplation of other ovals, other potentials, both real and imaginary. The understated glow of this matte neon speaks more of essence than commerce, not a sign in itself but the phosphorescent matter of philosophic musing. Not a void, but also not a projection. Neither a portal nor a punctuation, its simmering presence offers a point of aesthetic departure from the certain, possibly toward the profound.

Antonia Hirsch‘s enduring concern with the screen as a trope has led to her present research into apparatuses of disappearance. This interest follows multiple paths ways of investigation, from histories of illusionism to decapitation, and explores the techniques of these systems in highly geometric and essentially uncanny sculptures. These forms are somewhere between tool, technique and treasure. Fragility is at play here, and we sense from the rarified material a directed gaze that reflects in the steel, the glass, the shimmering foil. But purpose is also legible, the castrating potential of Blade I and II, the disappearing potential of hOle, the consuming ogle of Cyclopes. We are drawn to their anthropomorphic scale while daunted by their menace. What is highlighted in these forms is the manufacture of control, the mechanical methods of inclusion and exclusion, of deliberately making the inside out.

Matthew Higgs’ project is deeply involved in the history of art and its discourses, both as a reflection on the progress of intellectually motivated art making and also literally, since the bulk of his material is taken directly from art periodicals. Torn from their binding and surrounded by luscious bevelled matte boards and stark contemporary frames, these isolated images are taken out of their initial purpose and given focused resonance. Duchampian in his avoidance of the optical in his selection of ready-mades, he often further teases out associations through titling. David Hockney and George Rickey presents two nearly identical images of a square grid, with four sections, in two different colour schemes. The titles relate to two seemingly very different artists, British Hockney known for Pop and American Rickey for academic formalism. Maybe the four-square grid refers to Rickey’s steel sculpture in front of the Neue National Galerie. Or maybe Higgs encountered their work together in the catalogue for dOCUMENTA 4, but the floating signs remain more open than a singular reference. Encountering them as near identical, if abstracted images, identified only by titles, the work raises questions about how artists are categorized through the lens of history and how history itself is elliptical in its methods of advocation and/or erasure.

Cécile Depaquier’s investigation into minimalist form and color has led to an oeuvre which is almost entirely white (or almost white) or black (or nearly black). In this way, her work brings us to reflect on the effect that form has on light, encountering the shifts of shadow and reflection as we move around her deliberate constructions. Often drawing material from the vernacular of contemporary building supplies, she coaxes a delicacy from these humble origins. Working serially, Depaquier explores these corporeal surfaces and their effects, teasing out their potential as both figure and ground. In the series reprise (obscure) 1-20 the roofing felt’s granular surface is manipulated through tearing, stacking, aligning and repeating, which obscures their refracting surfaces while creating suggestions of other figurations, other potencies. Through this repetition of method, we discover a striking variety of contortions, gesturing to the seemingly limitless potential of abstract thought. 

Pyrolator (Kurt Dahlke) has made a major contribution to the history of electronic music and has consistently pushed the potential of synthesizers, and the methods of playing, them into new artistic terrain. In Der Tag, an dem die Erde stillsteht, he realizes an audio environment which envisions a moment when everything stops and becomes continuous landscapes of horizonal resonance. There is no discernible narrative, no foregrounded melody, only the pulsation of amorphous volumes which fill and move around the room. The body feels this vibration as much as we hear it, extending us in its anarchic extension of time and space. Here, in this abstracted protraction of the real, we find ourselves hyper aware of the intricacies of being.

aaajiao’s Tennis For None is a digital video presented here on an iPad, ready to be handled. However, the work pictures a tennis game that is played out by machines, no players involved or even needed. The mock low-resolution graphics show a tennis ball that bounces about in an endless loop, no score, no match. aaajiao took inspiration from an early video game called Tennis for Two, created in 1958 by the American physicist William Higginbotham. This earliest of computer arcade games version of tennis was designed to be played by the traditional two people, who used joysticks to maneuver they paddles and pass a ball back and forth over a net. aaajiao’s contemporary version needs no such human interaction. His dystopic scenario a clever response to the fear of human activity being subsumed by modern technology.