September 16th - October 13th
Flyer by Flavius Augustin Budau
MAIN BODY by SALLY VON ROSEN
Curated by Juliet Kothe and Madalina Stanescu
September 17 - October 13, 2023
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 accedes to its non-logical self.
It is something, it is nothing.
Eva Hesse, June 1968*
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 it in composing a more powerful body.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 1980 *
Sally von Rosen’s exhibition is a biographical excerpt of a new species of creatures she has brought to life herself. In their current state of existence, they appear for the first time as a herd, arranged in asculptural still life of motionless figures bundled together in a scene rising from a previously unexplored
sphere. These physically familiar yet abstract headless bodies balance on top of each other in a frozen performance staged on a black square.
Close observation of the individual creatures unveils their connection to each other: they are intertwined by a shared skeleton. They show new kinds of bones that autopoietically grow into each other and finally merge into one overarching formation: a MAIN BODY.
Standing guard over the exhibition is a rather symbolic framework: drawings, in the style of Hieronymus Bosch made by an automatic drawing machine. These works depict elusive otherworldly monsters and figures emerging from dreamlike settings, suggesting a relationship to the sinister and strange encounter with the creatures in the center of the space.
Both von Rosen’s sculptural and Bosch’s pictorial landscapes possess a mesmerizing blend of awe and dread, conjuring creatures that teeter on the precipice of reality and nightmare, unveiling the innermost corners of the human psyche.
The grotesque beings decategorize the familiar as they are a mutation of the natural and the fantastic.Their bodies evoke a disturbing 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 inherent within us all.
Bosch’s redrawn monsters, the distorted pyramid shape in which the creatures are presented, the black square—this remix of elements in the form of a ritualistic-looking gathering seems to have some unknown purpose, a mystery to be unraveled.
As in the original Bosch paintings, the organically sculpted creatures in MAIN BODY appear in large numbers. Following the principle of exaggeration through repetition, the mysterious purpose of their existence en masse needs to be revealed, as they could serve as psychic models (Robert Smithson) that point towards a higher meaning.
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, aura, and sex. All creatures operate within their own unknown rationality, driven by a mystic intelligence on a cryptic mission. They contradict any human assumption that brain power and agency are fundamentally linked to
neurological activity. The creatures might be attempting to escape from something. They appear to be dynamically striving toward something “higher.” Are they on a mission whose inherent meaning seems obvious and logical to them, but unclear to us? Their gestures seem purposeful rather than an improvised movement. But reasons for the actions of this host of creatures might not be found in rational human behavior.
The enigmatic and surreal formation in MAIN BODY appears familiar and alien at the same time, simultaneously ancient and futuristic. Neither its interpretation as a purely aesthetic composition nor as a psychological evaluation can bring an understanding of such a new reality. All ideas about a possible solution to the mystery behind the scenes remain vague and on the level of associative stimulation, connected to a plane of the unconscious within a spiral of nothing but further questioning.
Sally von Rosen’s fusion of form and narrative can be read as an artistic excerpt from a serial narrative of a specific fictional reality to be continued rather than “just” pure sculpture. It is the cinematic and atmospheric quality of MAIN BODY that triggers complex emotions and comments on the absurdity of human existence and our contradictory relationship with our surroundings and each other. In her chosen scene
she confronts us with a collective activity motivated by something unknown.
A humanistic concern is interwoven through this alliance of non-logical (Hesse) elements in von Rosen’s all-encompassing spatial installation, for it results in one clear thing: a potential active power (Jane Bennett) inherent in nonhumans. This again leads to an essential question originally posed by Bennett:
“How would political responses to problems change were we to take seriously the vitality of (nonhuman)
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 conceptual approach, Sally von Rosen’s exhibition creates an ethereal atmosphere as well as a complex artistic landscape to provide a multisensory experience.
MAIN BODY is curated by Juliet Kothe and Madalina Stanescu. It features reproductions of five drawings by Hieronymus Bosch with the kind permission of Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. The exhibition is part of Berlin Art Week’s special “BAW Featured Program”.
*Eva Hesse, quoted in Lucy R. Lippard, Eva Hesse (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc, 1976).
*Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (2010), preface viii.