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Susanne M. Winterling at GAK Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst Bremen
Susanne M. Winterling, "Feather Eyes", 2009. ©Susanne M. Winterling.
BREMEN.- Susanne M. Winterling works primarily in film, collage and photography. The various media of the individual installations developed for each of the exhibition contexts lead, altogether, to a whole. Her works produce thereby a system of concrete references, without resulting in the telling of a distinct story or following any clear narrative threads. But instead, meaning emerges in a delicate weave of references; narrative volatilizing and branching out.

Literature, music, art, architecture and in particular film history become artistic materials for Winterling in just the same ways as everyday objects are staged in her works. They can be of a porcelain cup from an erstwhile family manufacturer, a bird's feather that changes colour in differing light, the delicate flying fiery spikes of a sparkler or of the historical inscription discovered at an exhibition site. These elements of cultural history and the everyday encircle and mould each of us. Thereupon they determine the actual moulding both of identity and individuality and general societal realities. Therefore when Winterling implements everyday objects, film, literature and historical references in her works, her choice tells us, on the one hand, of her personal proclivities. On the other hand they refer to material which is also (consciously or unconsciously) known to the observer and therefore can be filled with their own perceptions, without the necessity of attaining knowledge through linked facts that descend too far into detail.

Through a sensitive grasp of the atmospheres and histories of the discovered exhibition spaces Winterling links the references from various areas in poetically charged arrangements. For the exhibition '...dreaming is nursed in darkness' at the GAK, the inscription of a founders crest at the Weserburg building indicating the Teerhof's (Teer = tar, Hof = yard) original significance as a tar works for 15th century shipbuilding, a quote by French existentialist Jean Genet and the explosion of a powder tower on the site of the Teerhof in the 18th century form the starting point for a versatility of works developed specifically for this occasion.

Thus a close up of a burning sparkler is played back in 16mm film format, links to the historical incident of the destruction of the 'bride' as the former powder tower at the Teerhof had been called and refers to the immanent beauty of the destructive incidents of fire and explosion. Various sculptures of tar and feathers and another 16mm film, showing the colour-changing feathers in their dance-like movement in a dark room, refers back to the name-giving history of the Teerhof. But likewise it plays on the custom in the Middle Ages to 'tar and feather' as a punishment and form of torture. Here too, the aesthetic beauty of the motif is brought about in singular contradistinction to the image evoked by their history. Such subsidiary perceptions and the material of tar, so bound up with black, pervades and forms the appearance of the whole exhibition – in frames, film backgrounds or the gleaming fabric panels which accentuate the elongated spaces of the GAK and are thus duplicated by the Weserburg tunnel situated in front of the door.

Another element of the presentation is formed by a modified cast of the crest/emblem inscription fixed above the tunnel entrance of the Weserburg. It alters the original formulation from 'männlichen festen Wollen' (firm masculine want) to 'weibliches festes Wollen' (firm feminine want) indicating at once the absurdity of such gender specific attributions upon which character traits are based. Furthermore it elucidates on the propagation of anachronistic, male and female connotations, which pervade our language to this day and pose questions on societal power structures. The historical crest is countered by a quote by Jean Genet the French existentialist that not only donates the title of the exhibition at GAK but is to be found again as an inscription in the presentation ('A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness'). In this way the exhibition title acts as a copula between the individual elements of the presentation such as the numerous reflecting surfaces, which are to be found in themselves – in the thought, that dreams are not only nurtured from positive and light, but can grow quite equally from the darkness, that 'grandeur' develops only where the debate also admits the violent aspects of things and where beauty is accorded its dark side.

Susanne M. Winterling (born, 1970) lives in Berlin. After taking part in international group exhibitions such as the Berlin Biennial 2008, at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel and the Kunsthalle Malmő and solo presentations in Vienna, St. Louis and Tokyo the presentation at GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst is her first institutional solo exhibition in Germany. The exhibition has been created in cooperation with the Badischen Kunstverein Karlsruhe.

GAK | Susanne M. Winterling | dreaming is nursed in darkness |


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