XVII. Rohkunstbau - Atlantis II - Hidden Histories - Imagined Identities
Over the years, the Rohkunstbau arts festival has become a byword for contemporary art in Brandenburg. At Rohkunstbau XVII, this year's edition, ten international artists are showing works based on the theme of 'ATLANTIS II - Hidden Histories – Imagined Identities’. As in all Rohkunstbau exhibitions, this year's artists have created specially designed, site specific works.
The exhibition, again located in Schloss Marquardt, idyllically located on the shores of the Schlänitzsee lake, explores the ideas in Plato's Critias. This dialogue includes a description of Atlantis's hierarchical government. However, rather than just considering Atlantis as a fictionalised island state destroyed by a legendary natural catastrophe, Plato initially presents it as a vibrant and advanced independent culture. The human mind has always been fascinated by creative conjecture over future worlds and their imaginative designs. In such speculations, the past can never be totally erased. Instead, it is newly created, since the future can only evolve through a constant process of re-integrating historical events into the present. In this second part of the ATLANTIS exhibition, the main focus is on the question of what the identity and political self-image of a new European culture might look like in future.
Johanna Smiatek has designed a pavilion welcoming visitors to the impressive entrance hall at Schloss Marquardt. Although at first glance the exterior seems solid, the interior seamless mirrors make it appear almost transparent to the viewer inside. Entering the space, viewers only see their own reflection then trigger a mechanism showing a panorama landscape behind the mirrors where strange buildings evoke associations with another world.
A wall seems to block the visitor's way into the garden room. But the wall opens out towards the front of the garden and reveals two large-format paintings by Sean Dawson. Inspired by the possibility that something mysterious is concealed under the most ordinary everydayness, he creates apparently three-dimensional objects which, in their energetic explosion of colour, seem to flow across the surface of the canvas playing with hidden details, transformations and metamorphoses.
For the next room, Wafae Ahalouch el Keriasti has built a carousel from her spatial installations of large-format black and white sketches of everyday life. But the playful, almost fairytale nature of her objects turns out to be an illusion. The horses revolving around the carousel are caught in the process of a fall that can no longer be stopped, symbolising the downfall of Atlantis.
In his Evaders video, Ori Gersht depicts a person's journey on the 'Lister Route’, a passage along the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain. In his film, the journey is accompanied by the words of Walter Benjamin, who tried to escape by this route without avail. Gersht's work commemorates this historic path used to rescue many intellectuals, political dissidents and artists during the Second World War. Now, in today's united Europe, it is just a route through some spectacularly beautiful landscape, only symbolically representing a border between two countries and a place that once decided between life and death.
Elisa Sighicelli is showing photographic works in two separate rooms upstairs. In their transparency and luminosity, these works seem to resemble "light drawings". Her photographs of Old Master paintings have had the figural removed and show only the landscapes, transformed in a light box, as fictional and dreamy as the landscape of Atlantis might appear in the viewers' imaginations.
Mat Collishaw's 'Vanitas’ video installation explores the idea of transience. Fittingly for the subject of Atlantis, he creates fluid borders between the shocking, fictional and transitory. Here, the romantic reveals its morbidity, and the aesthetic morphs into a nightmare in a work consciously harnessing the power of the provocative.
Wilhelm Sasnal is showing three of his paintings inspired by photographs. Borrowing from either his own or other's photos, he creates replicated images of banality, consumerism and intimacy. He raises the banal to an iconic status, employing a simplified visual language to deal with themes ranging from straightforward everyday objects to the Holocaust.
Cathy de Monchaux's works frequently juxtapose soft and hard materials to heighten their contrasting haptic qualities. At Rohkunstbau, she is showing works which, at first glance, seem delicate, dreamy, and fragile. When the beholder looks more closely, though, s/he discovers they are ornamentally constructed battle scenes or outsized, scarred wounds, so aesthetically and playfully presented that the violence only gradually shimmers through.
Niklas Goldbach is showing a video work created especially for Rohkunstbau in the suite of a Berlin luxury hotel. Inspired by Atlantis, his work engages with and questions utopias that highlight menace in a fictional space. He depicts a disturbingly beautiful yet icily cold world, seemingly rigorously controlled both politically and socially.
Next door, Stefan Roloff has created a room-in-room installation in the shape of a cathedral extending upwards and opening out into the surrounding space. The series of interior gothic windows provide a projection surface for simultaneous video and sound installations. In interviews, different people from around the world take the Atlantis theme as an impetus to narrate their own visions and ideas of the future in their own language.
The tour of the art works offered a comprehensive insight into the utopias of Atlantis and visions of the future. Schloss Marquardt provided an ideal setting for such an exhibition since, during the house's long history, it has itself witnessed the most diverse systems of government.