Territorium @ EULENGASSE 2015

Opening-reception by Christoph Schütte to the exhibition “Territory”, November 26th 2015

Zur Ausstellungseröffnung von »Territorium« am 26.11.2015 hielt der Kulturjounalist Christoph Schütte die Einführungsrede, die wir hier in englischer Übersetzung wiedergeben. Die Ausstellung wurde kuratiert von Andrea Blumör und Vládmir Combre de Sena und auf der SUPERMARKET 2015 Independent Art Fair Stockholm/Schweden erstmals gezeigt. Katalog zur Ausstellung »TERRITORIUM«

Free Republic EULENGASSE

Well, I might get beat up in a minute or at least I get some disapproval, a look or something like “No, that’s not what I meant.” But alright, I have to start somewhere. I mean, before somebody somewhere starts something, it canʹt kick off.

And, in the beginning, the bible says, the earth was a desert and empty, and it could have been like that – maybe should have – like the Moon and Mars.

Only, the creator had other plans.

So, now we see land here, some ocean over there, sky and earth, plants, fishes, and so on, Adam, Eve, a little apple tree and the snake, and everything was fine, in the Garden of Eden.

Really? Well, it´s hard to tell, no one was there, none of us at least. But anyway, what I want to say is: The garden, the paradise implies that even before the fall of mankind an inside and an outside of a lattice fence and rubble masonry. Who ever visits the Städel Museum in Frankfurt and goes to the little Garden of Paradise can see it. 

Like today somehow in the world of the 21st century: Inside and outside. We just didn’t know anything about it.

And, nevertheless, if our dear god had not been so inflexible with regards to human curiosity, thirst for knowledge and creativity, we would have remained just fine. We didn’t know anything about an outside anyway.

All in a nutshell: A person takes care of the territory only in the real world, in the vale of tears of the earthly existence. 

It is the room, Heidegger says in “Being and Time”, which constitutes the world. And maybe it is true, the room as enclosed and delimited. But who defines the room? And what for?

In Wikipedia we find: A territory is a term for types of administrative division, usually an area that is under the jurisdiction of a state.1 That´s it.

This means, the subject is always combined with the idea of authority and with the demarcation against the others, the enemy, the bad or just against the stranger, the neighbor, the Hun, the Mongol, the Barbarians.

On the one hand, there is also another, an enlightened, an inclusive not exclusive version. A commitment, not a destiny, something which units not isolates: The republic.

In the last 20 years it has changed, even in Europe and one might think about the fall of Yugoslavia. The units become smaller and they want to be marked. And apparently, the others “Huns, Mongols and Barbarians” are becoming more.

In this respect it seems that the topic of this exhibition in time in which people are leaving their homes – have to or want to in order to survive or find a better life – the topic seems to be late-breaking. Political. Crucial. It certainly forces one to take sides.

But: What does this have to do with art? Initially not all too much. At least not necessarily. For  there is a lack of form and the group of artists here know that.

So, back to the beginning. Not only the territory, my garden and national territory are bound to the world. The creative human invents himself after he is kicked out of Paradise.

But the territory of art exists without a toll bar, if it is not Hosanna praising, kitsch or just a predication.

And art is, given, we cut out the disavowals of the art scene, a room without authority.

Sure, normally we put it in its own rooms, in museums, galleries and so on. And often it is the context which makes it visible as art. This also, with permission, an appropriation, an occupation of the territory of the real and the imagination.

Trespassing is generally welcomed and it does sort out the territory.

And I believe this is what the topic here is about. So, not a two-world or more-world theory, but about something else, something beyond everyday business, daily news, human needs, flights, hunger, war and aggression, conquers, migration and the abyss.

What can that look like?

Let´s have a look at these positions. What can we see? Here photography, there painting, drawing, video, installation and sculpture. What do they have in common?

Let´s start with Heide Khatschaturian´s “cave”: We can see a self-sufficient troll-society, where everybody takes each other by the hand, just like in kinder garden. With the work of Helmut Werres we see abstraction, a little nervous looking drawings, paintings by Andrea Blumör, a sort of library by Harald Etzemüller and Sabine Zimmermann´s photos of weeds in the street.

What else? Two wonderful, wondrous movies. In Vládmir Combre de Sena´s “Ehrenmänner” (Men of Honor) two duelists in front of a steady camera in the fields try to figure something out through a striptease poker and one by Marcelo Coutinhos, “ô” from the year 2008.

How can one bring these different things into one context? And why put such works together in an exhibition, which are obviously don’t fit?

But what does fit: The concept of the Ausstellungsraum EULENGASSE. Because it was actually created in order to present a room, an idea.

Naturally this room represents not exclusion, but what there is in common. So to say as the “Free republic of EULENGASSE”. It is, with permission, an artistic attitude, but without question, a decidedly political approach to the world: A crossing the borders.

Or to use a big word: A utopia. A utopia in times of solely used and preferred pragmatism. This alone is already a statement.

And, if according to Heidegger, the world is constituted by the room, then this is what all this is about in every single work: It is about the room and the world, and the image, we create of it and it is therefore about defending the territory of art.

It happens with different means, of course, but for all artists the process is important. A far away horizon that presents the world to us: How it is, how it could be and how we picture it.

I´d like to introduce Vládmir´s “Duel” as an image of the defense of honor, and maybe also as a claim, which ridicules itself perhaps of it´s own territory.

It doesn’t matter where the duelists stand in front of each other, in Hungary, Turkey, Greece, in Berlin or Frankfurt Bonames. The sound by Pierre Boulezâ “Structures pour 2 pianos” definitely plays a role.

A drawing by Helmut Werres, who acquires and verifies the room since he is drawing watching out of the train´s window, sometimes for hours, like on the journey to Stockholm.

And the landscape: Mountains, valleys, villages, train stations and cities, which passing by the train´s window. Sleepers, switches, suspensions, the tired hand, daylight and artificial lighting, feeling hungry or thirsty or a full bladder, in one word: The world, which is passing by, is drawing with him. In the core mimetic, but on the paradox leading into the absolute abstraction of the appropriation of the world.

But first and foremost: A picture. A picture whose lines and lineatures of the room and its space, the journey itself is as with the passing of time is registered in the act of drawing. 

Harald Etzemüller takes photos of different rooms, like a sketch-book, photos of landscapes, resorts for culture and recreation and memorials. He places a selection of reference books in the installation and this opens up a new room. In contrast, Heide Khatschaturian´s trolls do the opposite.

Maybe they see, like in Plato´s Cave Allegory, nothing but shadows and take them for real. And they want to expand their room, while they are touching, thinking and watching to find the idea to do so.

And who knows, maybe that is what they are doing and we just have to believe in it a little harder. Like Marcelo Coutinho, his video “ô” reminds us of the Surrealist´movies, where reality, dream and night-mare are not so easy to differ from one another and maybe it is the same.

What is going on? A man grinds a knife tirelessly almost until nothing remains, a woman dances in ecstasy or has an epileptic attack, and here and there first a donkey, than a cow or a horse are falling from the sky.

“The limits of my language stand for the limits of my world.”, says Wittgenstein.2 This has always been Coutinhos subject: Overstepping boundaries through artistic means is not only present in his dictionary of neologisms, it is also the topic of “ô”. And it is, to say so, the issue of this exhibition.

The work of Andrea Blumör and Sabine Zimmermann look in essence conceptual and both work in series. They are inspired by remembrance, the past and its visualization (realization) maybe more than in the work of the other five artists. 

This is particularly true for the painting of Blumör, who uses very simple often trivial reference materials, shopping lists, receipts, sales slips, she might find them in a pocket or a drawer, official stamps, or a visa in her own passport. 

They always stand for a process, an event or a recollection; for an encounter with things and people. As a marker in a shared but fragmentary narrative.

It is a very long time consuming process in which she uses egg-tempora and various layers of oil glazes. She takes her reference material and recreates it onto a large support. 

I would like to call Sabine Zimmermann´s sequel a narrative as well. A narrative which develops similarly to the painting of Blumör, but obviously in different medium and form.

The title relates to a work by Ian Hamilton Finlay “Les Femmes de la Revolution”, which refers to Anselm Kiefer´s lead-beds with the same title.

Do you need to know that? Well, as always in arts it doesn’t hurt. Because, instead of  lead-like heaviness the observer meets dog violets, dandelion, a jewel weed, ivy, clover, a thistle and many more.

And each of the weed which hold it´s ground in the gutter and the paving they adopt names of famous women: Marie-Antoinette or Charlotte Corday, Albertine Marat or Madame de Städl.

And the narrative emerges as pure poetry by poets like Inger Christensen, Marlen Haushofer or Ingeborg Bachmann, artists like Maria Sibylla Merian and Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse or Charlotte Salomon. She was murdered in Auschwitz, but her gouache sequels “Life? Or Theater?” survived and was shown at the last documenta.

With them also Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt, Alma Mahler or Hildegard von Bingen. Each one of them was a sparkle of hope in the dark universe. An idea and an occupied room, a thought which takes root in inhospitable surroundings, persistent and also holding ground. Once, in the world it cannot be dispersed anymore. 

And it is true, whatever you may think about the pictures: The earth is an inhospitable place. And like long time ago a desert and empty. But any grass, each rib-wort or thistle is an act of resistance, a sign of hope of the occupation of a surrendered territory. And a beginning, time and time again and again. That´s all. And that’s what it´s all about. 

Thank you

Christoph Schütte, Frankfurt am Main, November 2015
opening-reception “Territory”, November 26th 2015
translation Andrea Blumör