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Nusser & Baumgart, Munich

pening, Friday 26 October
Exhibition,  26.10.2012 until 8.12.2012


Thomas Weinberger: beautiful

"The Bechers, too, didn't really do anything else but take pictures of sunsets." This comment by Thomas Weinberger, with reference to his new works, is a provocation. The reference to the Bechers first becomes apparent through the means of accumulation and the characteristic hanging of the works. Yet what is surprising in light of Weinberger's remark is that the motif of his works is not to be found in an industrial context. In fact, the exhibition is comprised of an installation encompassing 99 sunsets.

With his presentation, the photographer actually calls attention to a phenomenon in human perception: despite countless attempts to specify the conditions in order that something be categorized as "beautiful", there is no universally valid definition of beauty. However, there are certain phenomena that society more or less collectively considers to be beautiful. In the search for criteria that appear to determine this canon, Weinberger's sunsets prove themselves to be paradigmatic. On the basis of the multitude of presented sunsets and their specially chosen motifs, the intention is to induce visitors to call in question the sensation associated with "beauty" per se. Why exactly is a sunset inevitably perceived aesthetically? For Weinberger, one characteristic in particular associated with the setting sun is of great importance: the closer the sun is to the horizon, the more it loses its actual function of generating light. Only when it is divorced from this defining function, can the sun be seen in its most immediate manifestation and perceived aesthetically.

A visual theme that is generally perceived as beautiful by most people is considered kitsch or romantic: qualities that carry a strong negative undertone in the photography scene; it is often proclaimed that photography should possess a socio-critical, documentary or political element. Romanticism conjures up the exact opposite of this reality, which is so highly prized in photography.

This emphasis is, according to Weinberger's thesis, closely connected to the history of the Enlightenment: the dreaminess and egocentricity of romanticism is considered to be detrimental to a society that has been shaped by rationality and efficiency. In "Stress und Freiheit" (stress and freedom), Sloterdijk notes: "Since it has been proven that reality can be forgotten, it needs lawyers who can make a case for its return. In point of fact, the history of ideas and mentality in Europe for 250 years has been, essentially, a battle against the consequences of Rousseau's discovery. Since that time, it is all about the endless skirmish of reality against what has been scornfully or premonitorily called romanticism".

Winter / Hörbelt

Winter/Hörbelt became well-known in the mid-1990s through their sculptural structures they constructed from mineral water crates, which they installed at various venues around the globe. The assembled sculptures are always walk-through, thereby inviting visitors to experience the space for themselves. Immersion is, in all their works, an important instrument employed by the artists to provide visitors with an alternative view of the environment. The bottle crates, in contrast to their prior perception, form a new, synthetic space - a new experiential world for visitors. The mass of plastic which shapes new surroundings only becomes visible through this transformation.

The artists' focus is essentially on the everyday objects that surround us. They use industrial mass-produced products that they compose into new perceptual territory, presented for the most part in public spaces. For the installation created at the gallery, Winter / Hörbelt resorted to a new material: Bonnell innersprings.

They first created a work from this material in China in 2011: numerous interconnected spaces that begin to undulate when entered by visitors. The gallery space at Nusser & Baumgart will be filled with the same inner spring cells. Similar to a labyrinth, visitors must navigate their way through the space, which in turn sets individual ripples in motion, and which then, through interconnection, merge into a large-scale composition. The inner springs, which were taken from normal mattresses, were newly formed for the objects and combine to create a dense pattern that covers the walls of the gallery spaces. Upon entering the installation, this pattern is set in motion and a feeling of indistinctness arises in the previously systematically organized scheme. At the same time, the undulations pass into the body of the viewer and add to the visual effects through physical sensations. The more visitors there are in the space simultaneously, the more intense the sensation. Through the collective experience, connections are established between spaces and people, without directly linking them. Visitors are inclined to closely explore the space and its richly varied effects and playfully come up with various compositions, thereby consciously "performing".

Through the use of everyday articles that have been removed from their usual context, the artists provide the impetus to more intensively take notice of the materials that surround us. By experimenting with the material, visitors arrive at a new understanding of materiality. The springs and the characteristic that defines them - elasticity - are brought to a new level of perception, and are thus removed from pure functionality.

Nusser & Baumgart, Munich

Image: Thomas Weinberger. Sunsets, 2012.VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

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