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Large, Space-filling Installations by Italian Artist Monica Bonvicini Fill Kunsthalle Fridericianum
A man stands next to the light installation 'Built for crime'by Italian artist Monica Bonvicini is on display at Fridericianum Art Hall in Kassel, Germany. The work forms part of the exhibition 'Both Parts' on Italian artist Bonvicini. EPA/UWEZUCCHI.
KASSEL.- Monica Bonvicini is one of the most influential artists of her generation. Her often large-scale installations invite the public to direct participation. Since the mid-1990s she has made videos, sculptures, drawings and text-based works that explore and redefine the notions of space, architecture and power, and deal with political issues often by questioning the very essence of art production. Since the beginning of her career Bonvicini’s works have been distinguished by her sharp wit and directness.

In her art, Monica Bonvicini raises issues regarding gender and power relationships in all kinds of contexts. At the centre of her work are architecture and public spaces, the world of labour, sexuality, as well as politics and representation, whose close connections she reveals. Bonvicini investigates the inner logic of public and private spaces, examines the interrelationship between physical and social space, and deconstructs the connection between function, addressee and aesthetics in architecture. In this investigation, the identity-defining aspect of people’s perception of the space surrounding them plays a key role. In Bonvicini’s eyes, buildings as well as urban and suburban infrastructure are by no means neutral, but on the contrary obsessive, politically ideological, and sexualised.

Sexual determination of specific spaces, professions, and certain modes of behaviour is repeatedly a focus of Monica Bonvicini’s work. The artist engages with architecture as a traditionally male domain, with the occupational image of construction workers and the resulting clichés, and explores the mechanisms underlying stereotypes. She puts materials such as latex, leather, steel and concrete — which due to their properties have social connotations — in unexpected contexts, creating new links. In her series Leather Tools, 2004- 2009, Bonvicini had different tools clad with black leather and thus transformed them, due to the purely associative power of the material, into a fetish.

Bonvicini often creates situations in which the viewer is called upon to act. Under the title Don’t Miss A Sec.’, 2004, she put a portable toilet in the middle of the forecourt of the Art Basel fair grounds. The mirrored walls of the cabin were designed so that people outside could not see inside, but the person inside could see out. The construction aroused insecurity and anxiety in users, because the boundary between participation in public life and the intimate moment of going to the toilet was blurred. While not as participatory, the work NOT FOR YOU, 2007, confronts viewers just as directly: in metres-high illuminated letters attached to a steel scaffolding the title of the work was emblazoned across the corner of two walls in the otherwise empty exhibition room. The lettering was not illuminated by neon light, but rather the surfaces of the oversized letters contained two rows of light bulbs which lit up garishly in a rhythm. While on the one hand visitors were unable to escape the visual stimulus, on the other they were rebuffed by the literal message “Not for you”. In this way, with both verbal brutality and conceptual subtleness Monica Bonvicini hinted at a class society in the cultural sphere in which contemporary art has become an exclusive status symbol of an at once hermetic and elite circle. NOT FOR YOU addresses the problem of the role of the viewer, as well as the function of the exhibition space, which, despite the fact that there was nothing on the floor, seemed overloaded by the size and bright light of the lettering. Bonvicini makes the location of art — including the institution and its protagonists — a subject of art, and in this particular case, a target of artistic criticism denouncing the prevailing conditions of the institutional system.

At the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, conceptual works, sculptural works and large, space-filling installations will all be presented. The combination illustrates the artist’s formal diversity and continuity in terms of content. While her oeuvre reflects an explicitly political attitude, it never simply conveys her position using artistic means. Rather, Bonvicini repeatedly seeks a confrontation on an artistic level as well, by breaking with routine representations and traditional viewing habits. The show BOTH ENDS features many works that have never been shown in Germany before.

Monica Bonvicini was born in Venice in 1965. From 1986 till 1993 she studied at the University of Arts in Berlin and at the California Institute of the Arts. Since 2003 she is Professor for Sculpture and performative Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. She lives and works in Berlin.

Among her most recent solo exhibitions are Focus: Monica Bonvicini-Light Me Black at the Art Institute of Chicago, Monica Bonvicini/Tom Burr at the Kunstmuseum Basel and at the Lenbachhaus, Munich (all in 2009), NEVER MISSING A LINE, at the Sculpture Center, New York, Monica Bonvicini at the Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (all in 2007), No Erection Without Castration at the Kunstraum Innsbruck (2006), Monica Bonvicini at the Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (2005), Monica Bonvicini: Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset at the Sprengel Museum, Hanover and Monica Bonvicini/Sam Durant: Break it/Fix it at the Secession in Vienna (both 2004).

She was the subject of numerous group exhibitions in museums and institutions such as The New Décor at the Hayward Gallery, London (2010), The Porn Identity at the Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna and Scorpio’s Garden at the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin (both in 2009), Political Minimal at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Female Trouble. Die Kamera als Spiegel und Bühne weiblicher Inszenierungen at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (both 2008), The Expanded Eye at the Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, 2006 and Exit, Ausstieg aus dem Bild at the ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, 2005. Her works were also shown at several biennials, such as the Venice Biennial (already three times, last 2009), the Sao Paulo and the Gwangju Biennial (both 2006), the Berlin Biennial 2004 and 1998, the Istanbul Biennial 2003 and the Shanghai Biennial 2002.



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