Art cannot change the world.
However, by repeatedly representing the world anew through pictures,
I play my part in spelling it out.
With works by Sissa Micheli and Jürgen Klauke, the Alessandro Casciaro Gallery presents an inspiring duet from two highly unusual contemporary artistic positions. Micheli, a South Tyrol artist of international renown, had requested Klauke to be her partner in dialogue for the exhibition; the work of this participant in the Documenta exhibitions is now an integral part of the German art scene. For both artists, photography and film are the preferred media, but the content also reveals a number of points of contact: the staging and aestheticisation of human existence and its identity, the interplay between presence and absence, between materiality and sensuality, the desire for the extravagant and surreal, the enigmatic and humorous.
Since the 1970s, Jürgen Klauke has been concentrating on the human body and its gender identity in photographs, video works and performances. He radically queries conventional gender roles and analyses their social conventions and constructions. In staged settings he deconstructs current sexual typologies and their effects on identity and subject. Again and again his own body serves as a proxy and a surface on which multiple roles and identities are projected, but additionally, he also makes use of models.
Photography is an instrument for questioning oneself and the world. This is also shown by selected photographic works from the 1990s and 2000s that are on display in the exhibition. The works revolve around the aestheticisation of the existential, around the inadequacies of existence and the conditions of life, around the structure of the world, society and inner contexts ‑ for Klauke these are fixed points that accompany us no matter how much the world may change. He never tires of repeatedly creating new images for the same thing. As the artist emphasises, they are intended to trigger a crisis of consciousness in viewers, which can lead to a deepening of perception and a different way of seeing / the world.
The paranoid structure of our present world is presented in melancholic aesthetics. The actors in this choreography appear against dark backgrounds, frozen, mask-like and no longer referring to themselves but beyond ‑ they have left the sphere of subjective sensitivities. A gloomy mood of loneliness and forlornness emanates from “Heimspiel” (“Home Game”), for example. On a construction of table and chairs sits a strangely unrelated yet intertwined couple, the man’s upper body is covered by the woman’s skirt. Isolation, masking and alienation also characterise “Ästhetische Paranoia” (“Aesthetic Paranoia”) or “Vergewisserungstechnik” (“Reassurance Technique”). Using objects such as beds or tables, chairs or ropes hanging from the ceiling, Klauke works his way through worldly designs, arranges typecast people with and on these designs and makes inner experiences visible and tangible. A poetic and melancholic gaze, enigmatic and highly aesthetic, but always served up with fine humour and subtle irony.
Sissa Micheli questions the everyday and the familiar in a variety of photographs, video works and objects and opens up new perspectives. What can be perceived on the surface frequently refers to something else, something behind it, to a hidden story that can only be guessed at, to a riddle that can only be solved to a limited extent. Curious and inquiring, she approaches her fields of investigation and creates a sensual and enigmatic microcosm that moves between reality and fiction, past, present and future.
Beyond their functional attribution, Micheli lends objects highly charged levels of meaning with surreal radiant power. For example, the artist is exhibiting two new photographic works from the series “Objective Correlatives”, in which she combines objects from the Palais Mamming Museum in Merano with each other without there being any compelling relationship between them. Through a sensitive, poetic as well as humorous arrangement, however, they are endowed with new meaning. This results in unusual as well as bizarre objects: in “King of Pins” an old decorated hair clip serves as a hair accessory for a skull, in “Tears of the Past” petrified tears of milky quartz protrude from a chipped marble head of the Empress Elisabeth ‑ associations with the Dolomites come to mind. Set against a black background in a highly dramatic manner, the photographs invite the viewers to continue the stories themselves, to find new meanings and interpretations.
Staging ‑ the mise-en-scène ‑ is an essential part of Micheli’s work in general, the moving, dynamic image is a constant companion. Time and again, the artist blurs the boundaries between film, photography, and sculpture: she captures the smoke of a pipe photographically and transfers it to the floor as a large-scale carpet or transforms it as a lava-like mass into a surreal three-dimensional object. Using flying garments, she stages fascinating temporary sculptures that celebrate the ephemeral and transitory in a sensual and musical game. At the same time, the works also epitomise the basic characteristic of photography, to capture a moment and to freeze it visually in order to give it meaning. In the new triptych “Existenz Ich” (“Existence I”), created especially for this exhibition, mighty textiles reminiscent of animal heads or skulls hover in front of the face of a female figure. The human being, thrown into the world, is vulnerable, at the mercy of finite nature and of death.
Curator and text: Günther Oberhollenzer