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Ulla von Brandenburg at the Irish Museum of Modern Art
Ulla von Brandenburg, Tarot: Roy de Deniers (King of Coins), 2008, Screen-print on paper, 78 cards, each: 120 × 63 mm, Design: Clemens Habicht, Courtesy: The artist and IMMA, Dublin, Edition of 100.
DUBLIN.- The first solo exhibition in Ireland by one of Germany ’s most innovative contemporary artists, Ulla von Brandenburg, opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 28 May 2008. Whose beginning is not, nor end cannot be presents new and recent works that explore recurring themes and new subject matter through a wide range of media including film, drawing, installation and performance. Brandenburg’s practice reflects her training in set design and the visual arts and is inspired by a wide range of historical elements, many reverting back to the late 19th-centruy, sourced from literature, the visual arts, expressionist theatre, Hollywood films, photography, chess and magic, as well as pre-Freudian psychoanalysis. Brandenburg has created a new specially designed wall installation for IMMA and has produced a magazine based on a Danish photo-book which will be available to visitors throughout the show.

The title of the exhibition, Whose beginning is not, nor end cannot be, is taken from the work Angel-talks by Magus John Dee (1527 - 1609), a noted mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, occultists and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. As the title suggests, many of Brandenburg ’s installations present uncertainty. It is never clear whether the show is over, or whether the performance has just begun. The entrance to the exhibition space itself is adorned with a theatre curtain, installed on the façade which visitors must pass to enter. In the interview from the catalogue with Rachael Thomas, Head of Exhibitions at IMMA, Brandenburg describes the use of the curtain: “The pattern of the curtain is the same as the backside of the tarot cards which I developed. In this sense, what is behind the curtain is like the image of a tarot card. Of course, every tarot card has a different, very personal meaning and can be read in different ways, just like everybody can find a different interpretation behind the curtain in the exhibition”.

The exhibition is structured into four different chapters. Moving through the exhibition space each chapter explores recurring themes and images which relates to one another. In the first chapter the newspaper magazine IV, 2008, acts like an archive of Brandenburg ’s collected images and is surrounded by drawings relating to them and other images in the exhibition. Leading into the next chapter the film Geist (Ghost), 2007, explores themes of past and present, life and death and reality and illusion. In the second chapter a wall drawing, specially designed for IMMA, Forest, 2008, of a forest by night covers all four walls. Inside this dark space only the long trunks of the trees are visible, enclosed in the space visitors are brought into another world where the inside becomes outside and day becomes night. In the third chapter the installation Karo Sieben (Seven of Diamonds), 2007, comprises a chess-board with various props, made to give the illusion of perspective it acts like an empty theatre stage where anything can happen.

In the final chapter the new film work 8, 2007, refers to Brandenburg ’s adaptation of the the tableaux vivants from earlier works but approaches them in a new way. The tableaux vivants or ‘living pictures’ are shot on a Super-8 film, in which a seemingly motionless arrangement of people hold their frozen staged positions for the entire duration of one reel of film. Popular in the 19th-century, the tableau vivant was a combination of fine art and theatre, with live models carefully posed and lit in a composition akin to that in a painting or photograph. In the work 8 the film’s narrative is constructed through a single shot that gently pans and flows through a French castle inhabited by all the tableau vivants from Brandenburg’s past works, threading together numerous theatrical scenes and layering historical characters such as chess players, ghosts and a sleeping man. The film leads us in an endless loop of images, objects and tableaux vivants, with no specific beginning or end.

Born in Karlsruhe , Germany , in 1974, Ulla von Brandenburg currently lives and works in Hamburg and Paris . Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, 2008; Project PS1, New York ; Art: Concept, Paris , 2007; Produzentengalerie , Hamburg , 2007; Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2006, and Kunsthalle, Zürich, 2006. Group exhibitions in 2008 include Biennale’s in Jerusalem, Bucharest and Sydney; in 2007 group exhibitions include Performa 07, New York; The World as a Stage, Tate Modern, London; Against Time, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm; 3rd Prague Biennial, Prague, and Pale Carnage, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol.

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