Sally Von Rosen at Trauma Bar und Kino / Berlin

Sally Von Rosen / Main body

Curated by Juliet Kothe and Madalina Stanescu

September 16 - October 13

Trauma bar und kino
Heidestra├če 50,
10557 Berlin, Germany

"I would like the work to be non-work. This means that it would find its way beyond my preconceptions. What I want of my art I can eventually find. The work must go beyond this.
It is my main concern to go beyond what I know and what I can know.
The formal principles are understandable and understood.

It is the unknown quantity from which and where I want to go. As a thing, an object, it acceeds to its non-logical self.
It is something, it is nothing.

(Eva Hesse, June 1968)1

"We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body, . . . to destroy that body or to be destroyed by it, to exchange actions and passions with it or to join with in composing a more powerful body”.

(Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Thousand Plateaus, 1980)


MAIN BODY by Sally Von Rosen

Sally von Rosen's exhibition is a biographical excerpt of a new species of creatures, she herself brought to live. In the current status quo of their existence and for the first time they appear as a herd, arranged as a sculptural still life of motionless figures bundled in a scenery rising from a yet unexplored sphere. These physiognomically familiar and abstract headless bodies balance on top of each other in a frozen performance staged on a black square.

Closely observing the individual creatures reveal their connectedness with each other: they are intertwined through a shared skeleton. They expose new sorts of bones that autopoietically grow into each other and finally merge into one grant formation: a MAIN BODY.

A guard-like and rather symbolic frame in the form of five drawings executed by an automatic drawing machine imitating the visual vocabulary of Hieronymus Bosch surround the installation. They depict elusive otherworldly monsters and figures stemming from dreamlike settings, which suggests a relationship to the sinister and strange encounter of creatures to be found in the middle of the space.

Both, von Rosen’s sculptural and Bosch’s pictorial landscapes possess a mesmerizing blend of awe and dread and conjure creatures that teeter on the precipice of reality and nightmare, unveiling the innermost corners of the human psyche.
The grotesque beings in their works un-categorize the known as they are a mutation of the natural and the fantastical. Their bodies evoke an unsettling beauty that lures us into a realm both enchanting and unsettling weaving a web between creatures that challenge our perception of the real and the unreal. They seem to be symbols of the myriad facets of the human condition as they mirror our desires, fears, and obsessions, a vivid reflection of the chaos and wonderment that reside within us all.

Bosch’s re-drawn monsters, the deranged pyramid shape in which the creatures are showing, the black square: this remix of elements in form of a ritualistic looking like gathering seems to have an unknown purpose, a secret to be uncovered.

As in the original Bosch paintings, the organically sculptured creatures in MAIN BODY appear in large numbers. Following the principle of exaggeration through repetition, their mysterious purpose of existence in the multitude asks for being revealed as they might serve as psychic models (Robert Smithson) pointing towards a higher meaning.

1 Eva Hesse quoted in: Lippard, Lucy R.: Eva Hesse. 1976, New York. Published by Da Capo Press, inc.

They are headless yet vital and forceful organisms and can be seen as a symbiosis or an assemblage of an “animated thing” and a “real being”. Each of the same kind, but different in detail in aura and sex. All creatures are operating within an own unknown rationality, through a mystic intelligence on a cryptic mission. They contradict any idea of human belief that intelligence and therefore power and ability of action is fundamentally linked to the organ of the brain. The rigid and archetypical geometry of a black square, from where the creatures seem to arise from, dissolves in a looser formation of the creatures although still recalling the anatomy of the square shaped ground.

There might a possible attempt by the creatures to escape from something to turn towards something new. They seem to move dynamically towards something “higher”. Are they on a mission, whose inherent meaning seems obvious and logical to them, but unclear to us? Rather than an improvised movement their activity seems goal oriented. But answers concerning the actions of this crowd of creatures might not be find in human rational attempts.

The enigmatic and surreal formation in MAIN BODY appears as something familiar and alien at the same time, as something simultaneously ancient and futuristic. Neither the reading as a purely esthetical composition nor as a psychological evaluation can point towards an understanding of such a new reality. All ideas hinting to possibly solve the mystery behind the scenes remain vague and as all elements elude a clear implication caused by their paradox and surreal nature everything stays in the status of associative stimulation connected to a level of unconsciousness within a spiral of just further questioning.

Sally von Rosen’s merge of form and narrative can be read as a picturesque outtake from a serial story of a specific fictional reality to be continued rather than “just” a pure sculpture. It’s the cinematic and atmospheric quality of MAIN BODY that triggers complex emotions and functions as a comment on the absurdity of human existence and our contradictory relationship with our surrounding world and with each other. In her chosen scene she confronts us with a collective activity motivated by something unknown.

A concern for humanism is interwoven in this alliance of non-logical (Hesse) elements of the all-encompassing spacial installation as it results in one clear thing: a possible active power (Jane Bennett) inherent by non-humans. This again leads towards an essential question once raised by Bennett: “How would political response to problems change were we to take seriously the vitality of (nonhuman) bodies?”2

Juliet Kothe

Trauma Bar and Kino’s program focuses on the fusion of visual arts, music, and performance. It opposes classical distinctions between performance venues, museums, institutions, and clubs. The invited artists craft unique and immersive installations. Following this conceptional approach the exhibition by Sally von Rosen creates
an ethereal atmosphere and complex artistic landscape that provides a multi-sensory experience.

The exhibition is curated by Juliet Kothe and Madalina Stanescu with reproductions of five drawings by Hieronymus Bosch with the kind permission of Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. The expedition is part of Berlin Art Week’s special program ”BAW Featured”.