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Haus der Kunst presents two new art works in experimental format
Monira Al Qadiri, Holy Quarter, 2019. Installation view Haus der Kunst, 2019. Photo: Maximilian Geuter.



MUNICH.- Capsule 11 presents a new installation by the German/Vietnamese artist Sung Tieu (b. 1987 in Hai Duong, Vietnam) forming her largest and most expansive work to date. Entitled “Zugzwang,” this multimedia installation investigates the psychological effects of administrative apparati and the politics of its subsequent design aesthetics.

The interior spaces of immigration bureaus, registration offices and modern penal institutions constitute Tieu‘s point of departure. For example, the stainless-steel seats were produced by a manufacturer of prison furniture in England, and display a striking similarity to those in the waiting rooms of administrative buildings. The exhibition space is dominated by these seating arrangements; two large shelves designed by the artist and framed documents – forms for asylum, residency and naturalization. Based upon anthropological studies of administrative systems, Tieu has edited and modified these documents so they cannot be assigned to a particular state or country, but their underlying logic remains clear: the information an applicant provides within a specific context is subsequently reviewed by the state for possible risks and future costs, which in turn can prove to be detrimental to the applicant. Tieu thus reveals the contradictions, inconsistencies and randomness of these situations and demonstrates how they encroach upon the subjectivity of the individual and how these institutions seek to control all those who do not conform to the rules of these spaces; compelling those seeking refuge to enter into grey zones of legality.

At times intimate, at others bombastic, a multi-channel sound installation blends into this sculptural mise-en-scene: Tieu interposes Richard Wagner‘s overture to “Tannhäuser” with ordinary sounds from both the public and private realm, including keyboards, mouse clicks, chugging sounds, telephones and white noise. The result is a multi-layered soundscape in which disparate elements - such as an elaborate score by Wagner and noise - clash.

In “Zugzwang,” as in Tieu‘s general artistic practice, themes of national historiography and the transnational migration of populations emerge. The abstracted image of a forest area where the artist crossed the border from the Czech Republic to Germany in 1992 has been engraved into large mirrored steel elements. Through her own subsequent naturalization process, the artist became familiar with methods of control and the pressure under which the enormous administrative apparatus puts individuals.

Another part of the installation comprises sounds, texts, sculptures, memorabilia and found objects that are exhibited in two oversized shelves in the centre, creating a site of instability and exposing the way governments of leading industrial nations have perverted the principle of “form follows function” in order to prevent civil disobedience against the bureaucratic apparatus even before it can arise.

The first catalogue of Sung Tieu‘s artistic work will be published by Haus der Kunst and Nottingham Contemporary in the context of her extensive and parallel solo exhibitions in Germany and the UK.

Curated by Damian Lentini

Capsule 12
Monira Al Qadiri. Holy Quarter

With its presentation of Monira Al Qadiri (born 1983 in Dakar, Senegal), Haus der Kunst hosts one of the most important artists of the Gulf region in Capsule 12 in the South Gallery. Al Qadiri has created a multi-part sculpture group and a new virtuoso film for this show. Its title, “Holy Quarter,” refers to the world’s largest desert region, the “Empty Quarter” situated between Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen.

Al Qadiri grew up in Kuwait and belongs to a generation that came of age during the rapid transformation of the young nation state – from its status as one of the world’s oldest civilizations to the dominance of the oil industry, which has been massively promoted since the 1960s, to its current role as an important player in geopolitics. In the visual arts Al Qadiri’s work serves as a seismograph for a forced globalized world. From the beginning of her artistic career she has examined the turmoil caused by prosperity, repressive religious beliefs, and magical thinking.

“Holy Quarter” begins with the story of the British explorer Harry St John Philby, who crossed the “Empty Quarter” desert region in the 1930s, looking for the ruins of an ancient city. Instead of an “Atlantis of the sand,” he found the remains of what he believed to be a volcano, which turned out to be one of the largest impact craters formed by a meteorite. Oman is one of the largest meteoritic impact sites, and many fossils found in the country are millions of years old. The filming locations for “Holy Quarter” are all situated in this region, and some of them are mythical sites. They represent a connection with the universe and the origin of the earth as well as the search for a missing empirical certainty.

As one of the oldest and most untouched habitats, the desert serves Al Qadiri as a place to search for traces of the meaning of life. Here, for the first time, she turns to her country’s past as a countermeasure to economic-political shortcomings and the contradictions between conservative structures and new technologies that are used to drive future visions of society.

In the Al Wabar meteorite crater, Al Qadiri discovered “Wabar Pearls,” beautiful black glowing stones that were created by the heat generated when the meteorites impacted the sand; these are the inspiration for the artist’s multi-part group of glass sculptures. Their pearl-like forms are reminiscent of the time when pearl diving was once Kuwait’s main industry, and their color is reminiscent of oil – a quantum leap that Monira Al Qadiri refers to as “alien technology.” In the film “Holy Quarter,” the black glass beads serve as the narrator. They speak in a computer-simulated voice, as the fictional being Wabar, who has fallen from space to earth, thereby gaining a mythological quality like a meteorite.

Monira Al Qadiri confronts the viewer with ideas beyond those of Western modernity with a spatiotemporal delirium and creates an intermedial work that interweaves music, language, and visually stunning scenes and hits the raw nerve of global issues.

Curated by Jana Baumann










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