We live in a changing world. The breakneck speed of digitalisation and globalisation processes is putting paid to familiar structures. Polarities fragment into complex diversities, while hierarchical orders crumble, only to meld into a networked coexistence on an equal footing.
How can we understand this new world, which is now beyond the grasp of our old way of thinking? What questions are being asked now and what hypotheses can help us to find answers? Maybe art has the answers? After all, artists have always been the seismographs of society, responding to the challenges of radically changing times and developing alternative visions.
One of the most hotly debated present-day questions is that of diversity, equality and justice. Sociologists and politicians explore this question, as do philosophers, economists and – needless to say – artists. In art, of course, polarised thinking has already been largely transcended and coexistence on equal terms is often axiomatic.
Future structures need openness and flexibility. The exhibitions at PRISKA PASQUER also correspond with these principles, as for most part they devote themselves to a single theme over a longer period of time. Seen as a process rather than a statement, they make no claims, but ask questions instead. The artworks shown there open up new possibilities for thinking and discussion. Repeated exposure in particular often allows new ideas to develop.
In the new exhibition series “ON EQUAL TERMS”, PRISKA PASQUER brings together artistic works and projects that address this thematic issue. The series of exhibitions already illustrates this on a formal level by consciously juxtaposing works of such diverse media as painting, sculpture, drawing, performance, photography and digital art.
“ON EQUAL TERMS” presents works by artists that experiment with the notion of equal status and of a new sense of community in our globally networked world. In doing so, they set off on roads less trodden like lateral thinker Alexander von Humboldt who, with his explorations and contacts around the world, already lived in a globalised world and thought in holistic terms back in the early 19th century.
In a way, the exhibition takes up where the three-part “RESET” (2015-2017) left off in that it deals with artistic reflection on the far-reaching developments of the digital age. Under the maxim “Art in a Changing World”, PRISKA PASQUER compared contemporary art with modernity, Bauhaus, Italian futurism and virtual spaces against the backdrop of the digital age.
“ON EQUAL TERMS” takes this one step further, examining how today’s artists are free to think in new correlations without being constricted by prejudice, how they deal with networked communication models and how they reconcile equality with diversity. artists can ask the right questions and confront us with things that we might not understand at the time but may at some point in the future.
Giulia Bowinkel (born in Düsseldorf in 1983) and Friedemann Banz (born in Mainz in 1980) live and work in Berlin.
Friedemann Banz and Giulia Bowinkel explore the blurred lines between real and virtual space. Their work is based on the notion that the virtual world is not the domain of simulated reality but rather its counterpart, in which computers – as an unconscious force – subject the meaning of our society to a new order. For Banz & Bowinkel, we already live in a semi-virtual environment in which almost everything is pre-calculated and carried out by computers. The artist duo uses computers resolutely as both tools and as an interactive interface where artworks can be created and presented.
While Banz & Bowinkel’s Bodypaintings (2016-2019) series revisited the tradition of gestural abstraction and action painting, their Primitives (2018) refers to the sculptures of Minimal Art. The series consists of various geometric shapes such as cubes, pyramids, cylinders, cones or tori. They have immaculate, gleaming surfaces and a rich, at times almost fluorescent colouring: dark red, purple, deep blue, beeswax yellow. The objects are presented in perfect light on a neutral white background.
The artists of the Minimal Art movement used industrial materials and production methods. Today, Banz & Bowinkel go one step further and use a computer for the complete production process and for presenting their sculptures. This results in images of sculptural shapes with an intense, yet intangible presence. What material are they made from? How large are they? How heavy are they? “What you see is what you see”: this is how Frank Stella summed up his minimalistic concept of art back in 1958. In the light of digital age art, the statement is given a radical new meaning.
Jane Benson, Born in Thornbury, England, in 1972; lives and works in London and New York.
Jane Benson’s works explore the social effects of geo-cultural divisions and divides. While they deal with loss and destruction, they also find hidden (aesthetic) potential in the damage together with possible ways to heal. This principle affects physical materials and aesthetic identities or – on a more topical note – the feeling of uprooting and exile. Jane Benson works in various media such as installation, sculpture, drawing, video, music and literature, often weaved together in a highly idiosyncratic form.
The starting point of her multimedia project Play Land (2015) is the true story of two Iraqi brothers who fled from Baghdad in the early 2000s and now live in Germany and Bahrain respectively. Part of this project is a group of works called Family Portrait. Benson cut various national flags into thin strips and wove them together anew. The woven compositions conceal and reveal emblems from all of the countries in which the two brothers’ direct family now lives: Iraq, Bahrain, Germany, Norway, United Arab Emirates, United States, Turkey and China.
Pauline Fabry, Born in Berlin in 1986, lives and works in Karlsruhe.
An important question – and not just in an art context – is how we perceive things and how we can change or expand this perception. Media artist Pauline Fabry’s work is centred on these expanded perceptual states. A trained hypnotist, she has been conducting research for years with mindfulness-based hypnosis. She has developed her own technique – “HypnoHenKaiPan” – and works together with scientists, philosophers, artists, institutes, museums and higher education institutions.
In her work Transcend (2016-2019) Pauline Fabry combines light installation, sound composition and excerpts from HypnoHenKaiPan sessions. The foundation for this is contemplative trance through the HypnoHenKaiPan method as a portal for heightened states of consciousness. Experiences from these states can be heard through two sets of headphones, while the sound of a gong can be perceived and while the hypnotically pulsating light installation seems to breathe. The installation is conceived as “expanding sphere“, which means that it will be continually extended by adding more audio recordings from trance sessions.
Yutao Gao, Born in China in 1988, lives and works in Düsseldorf.
Yutao Gao studied under Katharina Fritsch at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. Many of his series of works are based on scanned images and objects: “Compared to the aggressive recording features of photography, I found that scanning has a naturally gentle property. Thus, I began to use a scanner to compose my work.”
In Buddhist cosmology, the holy mountain of Meru is held to be the centre of all physical and spiritual universes. Related to this is the metaphor of “the summit of Mount Meru in a mustard seed”. This means that strength is found even in the smallest things, that the largest and smallest things have the same right to exist and can assume the same space in our minds. Yutao Gao devotes his New landscape – Cave(2019) series of works to exploring this relationship between macrocosm and microcosm. The material basis of his photographic works are small fragments and grains of various ores. Having scanned them in, the artist uses a computer to render visible tiny details that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Magnified to monumental dimensions, these images show an overlooked world of surprising, all-encompassing beauty.
Yutao Gao also brings together contrasting elements in his monumental photographic work Zao Wou-Ki’s Cave. The crystalline structures twinkling against a dark background suggest both the mysterious depths of a cave and the infinite reaches of space. Yutao Gao created this work as a homage to Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki (1921-2013). In doing so, he refers in particular to the latter’s large-format painting Homage to Claude Monet (1991).
Fabian Herkenhoener, Born in Troisdorf, Germany, in 1984; lives and works in Amsterdam.
Fabian Herkenhoener paints text images. Sometimes his canvases contain entire poems, other times just individual words. The letters structure the space into compact blocks or small groups and do not always retain the last word in the picture. Some letters are also painted over again by the artist. Or, to be more specific, “sprayed over”, as Herkenhoener uses spray cans to create his work. This technique ties in with his fast, direct approach to work, which transfers the rapid style of the drawing pencil to large-scale formats in a defined space.
This spontaneous process gives rise to a random language that rejects all notions of rational or semantic hierarchy, but paves the way for new horizons of meaning. Fabian Herkenhoener calls this “processed text”. He accords the words and sentences in his pictures an autonomy that extends beyond their literal meaning. In his paintings, he explores how the suitable visual context can be created so that these illogical words can be experienced in their full emotional and spiritual potential.
As the artist himself explains: “I want to keep my writing hidden behind the paintings; all I offer is a fragmented and cryptic visual narrative that continues to evolve. I have always been more interested in things that are broken – things that are raw and incomplete, mythical and mysterious.”
Julia König, Born in Berlin in 1983, lives and works in Cologne.
Social media has spawned gigantic groups of people: Musician and actress Selena Gomez has 157 million “followers” on Instagram, while soccer star Mesut Özil has over 31 million on Facebook. Groups of this immensity do not fit into the imagination yet are everyday occurrences. Julia König explores the phenomenon of extremely large groups in the digital age: What counts as an “extremely large group” today? How do these huge numbers come about? How can extremely large groups be perceived and how do they organise space?
The artist explored these questions in her diploma project Walter Palmer Shot A Lion (2018, diploma with honours at Academy of Media Arts Cologne (KHM)). With 50 performers, she examined the subtle gestural indications of “belonging” and “not belonging” in large groups. The project that followed – Walter Palmer Shot A Lion: The Sequel – concentrates on the individual within groups of this magnitude.
Karen Lofgren, Born in Toronto in 1976, lives and works in Los Angeles.
Never before in the history of mankind has the Western empirical canon been as successful as it is now in the digital age. We are experiencing a veritable explosion of knowledge of previously unknown proportions. Karen Lofgren examines this success story with a critical eye. She considers the history of science from a feminist, decolonial and “hypersubjective” standpoint and would like to (re)gain access to areas of science that were excluded or ignored by traditional research.
The sculptural works What is to Cure (2018) were created after the artist spent several months in the Amazonian rainforest as well as a extended period studying indigenous medicine and its suppression by colonial powers. For instance, the group of works titled Pulling Through (a softer index) relates to a healing ritual whereby a sick person is pulled through an object in order to create a magical barrier around his or her body. At the same time, aluminium-cast structures make reference to another healing method where a disease is transferred to specially cut and prepared branches.
Karen Lofgren sees her sculptural work as being political, social and personal at the same time. In the creative process, she says that “perceptions of the body connect to things we have known, felt, lived, and left unspoken”. Her series Curse and the Cure (Imperial Ghost) consists of enormous leaves from the Victoria giant water lily (Victoria Amazonica). The artist recreated these in their original proportions, moulding them out of epoxy resin and incorporating materials such as aluminium powder, wool, mud, blood and marble dust. This plant was attributed special healing powers in traditional medicine.
Hanno Otten, Born in Cologne in 1954, lives and works in Cologne.
In his work, Hanno Otten asks fundamental questions about how we perceive and think, how we see images and how images function. Rather than seeking answers through intellectual analysis, he finds them through his art. Years spent plumbing the depths of a single topic have given rise to sizeable groups of works such as Colourblocks, Schlachtenbilder (Battle Pictures) and Über Malerei (About Painting).
Because he repeatedly calls into question the mechanisms underlining the pictures, Hanno Otten has an eye for overlooked elements. For instance, he recently found in his archive a series of linocuts that had been made by children in the early 1960s. Based on these, he created his Ohne Sorge (Without A Worry) series of works in 2019. “Carefree” and unbiased, Hanno Otten integrated these linocuts into new pictures. On the narrow canvases, he combines images and text, print and painting, abstraction and figuration, black-and-white and colour, allowing the newly emerged linocuts to reveal their surprising aesthetic potential in his compositions.