Troubled Times – Works from the museums collection
21.06.2020 – 16.08.2020
Parallel to the special exhibition “Otto Fried- Heaven can wait”, which also focuses on his flight to America and his artistic career in exile, the Ludwig Museum is presenting a selection of works from its own collection.
Suffering, exclusion, remembering – these three generic terms form the thematic framework of the presentation “Restless Times” with exhibits from the Ludwig Museum’s collection. The exhibited works reflect in different ways on how we deal with pain, torture, internal and political boundaries, exile, separation and loss, and the questions of how to deal with memory. The works of the artists Magdalena Abakanowicz, Pepa Hristova and the artists Christian Boltanski, Jochen Gerz, Pierre & Gilles, Patrick Raynaud, Milos Sobaïc as well as the group of artists Inspection Medical Hermeneutics (V/O Medhermeneutica) formulate these different facets in their individual ways of expression and also transform them into a supra-individual language.
The works of Christian Boltanski, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Milos Sobaïc impressively illustrate questions of how to deal with remembering individual and collective fates and atrocities. That memory can also manifest itself in external things is demonstrated by Christian Boltanski in two very different works: In a drawer cabinet he archives objects he has reconstructed himself, which allow him to recall certain moments of his childhood, whereby memory occurs in the actual act of reconstruction and the viewer experiences the two levels (reconstruction/archiving). Whereas in “These children are looking for their parents” he relates, as it were, the motif of research to that of fading memory. The causality of war and loss are the two tragic levels of the work, to which he assigns an ordering, scientific principle of categorisation.
Magdalena Abakanowicz’s works, which are almost always extremely oppressive, bear witness to oppression, pain, suffering and torture. She contrasts the purely individual with the collective, making her torsos appear like armies, but in their ambivalence of brokenness and resistance. Her “armless backs” seem like galley slaves and yet in the mass of bodies they are a robust, resistant formation.
The Russian artists’ collective Inspection Medical Hermeneutics (V/O Medhermeneutica) deals in its “Partisan” work with the transfer and storage of knowledge by means of a wide variety of books written in different languages, of which only one double page is ever visible. The books on sand, arranged as it were in a sandbox, counteract the traditional library, reducing knowledge to something arbitrary and one-dimensional.
In his photo collages, Jochen Gerz, on the other hand, presents the demarcation of the inner-German borders during the time of the GDR in a restrained simplicity. The viewer sees only nature and a raised hide, which allows the hunter to wait silently for the shot. The connotation of the death zone between the two German states is made clear by the text and the red and black panels that illustrate “erasing” as empty space.
The exclusion of the intellect here and political exclusion in Pierre & Gille’s photographic work “Le triangle rose (Laurent)”, which deals with the stigmatization of homosexuals, but also with the persecution to which they are subjected in many places, are just two of the countless moments of social exclusion and compartmentalization. Pierre & Gilles rework the subject with iconographic and historical motifs, exaggerating and exaggerating the motif of the persecuted and imprisoned with Christian motifs of intercession (candles), the altarpiece and the Man of Sorrows. In its interpretation it offers direct links to the large photo and slide work by Patrick Raynaud “Version Originale” (1995), in which this Hans Holbein’s (the year before) famous dead “Christ in the Grave” from 1521 (Kunstmuseum Basel) is cross-faded by slogan-like voice messages. The encounter with the almost hyper-realistically painted corpse, whose radical depiction would never have been conceivable before Holbein, is here paired with the cross-faded, seemingly contextless sayings from everyday life and the world of advertising. Raynaud thus opens up a view of the contemporary use of digital media, the combination, but also the overwriting of memories that lead to moments of the ephemeral.