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"Hand Work: Senta Connert, Jochen Flinzer, Leni Hoffmann, Charles Long, Peter Rösel"
2000-12-02 until 2001-03-18
Haus der Kunst
Munich, , DE Germany

The explicit and sovereign use of the hands - apart from classical artistic activities such as sculpture and painting - is the main theme of the exhibition. Here, both the activity of the artist's hands and the activity of others, e.g., of the visitor, play a role. The spelling of the title (hand work) implies an ambivalence: it covers not only classical handicrafts - which belong to art in history - but also activities such as plasticine moulding, gluing or other types of handwork that are not normally considered as 'high' art but rather as children's play activities. In the last few years, many artists have demonstrated a new sovereignty with these techniques. These techniques are valued highly because they enable direct contact between the material or the work and the hands.

The exhibition attempts to show artistic positions that give these 'handicraft' or 'children's' activities an equally modern, radical and conceptual meaning as work with the video camera and the computer. The old cliché that defines these techniques as an expression of delicacy, complaisance, amiability and diligence, or on the other hand as occupational therapy, diversion, childlike or female expression of creativity and thus as 'lower' art forms, is now being playfully tried out at the beginning of the 21st century.

The 'feminist approach' in the history of art drew attention in the 1980s to the fact that the idea of autonomous creativity is linked to an 'autonomisation' of artistic practice, which at first distinguished itself from handicraft. From this identification of handwork and/or handicraft with femininity and lack of professionalism, artists such as Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Sonia Delaunay suffered just as much as representatives of the Russian avant-garde. For this reason especially, female artists such as Rosemarie Trockel, Judy Chicago and Eva Hesse took up classical handicraft techniques. Their aim was to fight against the cliché of 'typically feminine' activities by ironising, exaggerating and thus neutralising it.

In the case of the artists selected for Hand Work, both male and female, the conflict between 'typically masculine' and 'typically feminine' patterns of activity is no longer a central issue. This is not a rebellion against clichés: what is more, these become interesting facets of embroidery, sewing and moulding. This knife-edge act between order and disorder, concentration and monotony, sensuality and dry occupational therapy, between obsessive ritual and bored pastime, are characteristic of these activities. What they all have in common is a technique rediscovered for art in which the time factor plays an essential role. The artists value the flexibility and the unpretentiousness of their techniques. It is important that the methods used are known to all and contain no secrets.

IMAGE:
Jochen Flinzer,
Klein aber oho!, 1991
Goldfaden, Stoff, gestickt,
Elisabeth-Schneider-Stiftung, Freiburg
© beim Künstler


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