alles im eimer, alles vorbei (en: all down the drain, all over)
photography | installation | film
Opening: Friday, 6 June 2014, 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Exhibition: 7 June - 19 July 2014
Opening Times: Wed - Sat from 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
The oca-gallery-berlin is pleased to present the latest works by Hedwig Hoppe (b.1984, Cologne) in the alles im eimer, alles vorbei exhibition. In her new photography cycle milk, 2014, we see the artist in a series of self-portraits (half-figure) in front of a dark background. She wears a plain linen shirt, her arm is stretched upwards, and she is holding a sword; a porcelain cast, like a prosthesis, sits on her exposed left breast. Both the pose, taken directly from classical antiquity, and the prosthetic breast, allude to the Greek myth of the warlike amazons (more directly to a statue of an amazon by the Greek sculptor Phidias, which has been handed down as a roman copy of the original). Amazon women are said to have amputated one of their breasts in order to be able to stretch their bows (like men) and defend themselves (as a free people). According to the legend, they gave their children horse’s milk rather than their own milk “to instill in them courage, the love of war, and vigour, and to avoid any awkwardness if they should have to go into the field and into war.” (c. m. guyon: history of the amazons, 1763). While the ancient Greeks understood the amazons as martial with the ability to inspire dread, 19th century art portrayed them more as femmes-fatales, while in the 20th century they became emblematic of the self-confident, independent woman. The giving of milk is reminiscent of the Mary Lactans pictorial tradition and therefore, in the broadest sense, of a completely different, christian tradition of painting the nurturing and ultimately suffering mother. In milk, Hoppe shows the image of a deep (self) rift between two extreme archetypes of “woman”, whose conflicting values only seem to have been resolved in today’s society.
The photo works bobby (2012) and electrical banana (2013) also reflect this unresolvable contradiction between (artistic) self-realization and freedom on the one hand, and routine household practices on the other. In the former, a pregnant Hoppe sits in sparkly boots on a disco speaker in some pictures, on a bobby car in others. In electrical banana, she is wearing hip street wear and dancing ecstatically between the dining table and children’s chairs in her own living room. the focus alternates from a domesticated family idyll to a “contaminated” atmosphere in which life only seems possible with a gas mask.
In alles im eimer, alles vorbei (2013), after which the exhibition is named, Hoppe presents, in a glass display case, a collection of love letters from an amour fou in the gdr of the 1970s and 80s. in an audio installation, the artist reads the man’s words to his “sweetheart” far away with great empathy. Full of insecurity and anxiety about the fidelity of his wife, he confesses his true love for her over and again in clumsy poetry. At the same time, his descriptions of everyday scenes portray a gloomy, at times inescapable work life in the former gdr. The life he describes now seems strangely antiquated, just like “traditional” wooden glass cabinets in the context of 21st century museums, but it is nonetheless, or precisely for this reason, very touching.
In an earlier work, friendly fire (2009), Hoppe shoots a series of self-portraits on super-8 film. in a completely darkened room, we only see a frontal view of the artist flash up for split seconds at a time against a neutral background. She holds a flash device in front of her with both hands that in turn beams directly into the camera and acts as the trigger for a lighting device positioned behind the camera. each scene is only illuminated for a second, which splits the series of images on the film roll into individual shots, the moving image thereby acting as a series of photographs. The photography is itself alluded to in a space that reminds us of a darkroom in which the chemical compositions of the photo emulsion of the negative film are developed. In this space, the artist is both the trigger and object of her own image “development” process. The flashes are a visually grueling experience for viewers, reminiscent of a specific series of optical stimuli, like the stroboscopic effect in a disco. Seen this way, the “self-illumination” plays with the traditional self-portrait genre that emerged in the renaissance. Hoppe ironically questions the portrait’s claim to represent a personality “under the surface”. Instead, she uses the film as a serial producer of the portrait, setting the one expression-projecting image against a series that is constantly in process and which the viewer has trouble following.