RUTH HOMMELSHEIM | Bewahrungen (Perpetuations)
Opening: Friday, 13 April 2007, 7 p.m.
Exhibition: 14 April - 16 May 2007
Ruth Hommelsheim, a Berlin-based artist, has been working on the theme of Bewahrungen (Perpetuations), since 2006. With six large photo pieces and three four-part photography tableaux she examines the idealized values of inherited family collections and the strange organizational systems they represent.
After being presented with an inheritance from a family member who was an obsessive collector of things, the artist launched into a project to examine the complexes that drive collecting through her photography. She engaged the objects—which because they had been collected already contained a personal value—with the further notion of “safe keeping” or “preserving” that she created through her own personal use of photography. Hommelsheim measures time and so documents the particular densities of the collection’s ordering. Through the distance preserved by the camera, she illuminates—one wishes to say, exposes-- an actual slice of life of the collector’s existence.
These analog photographs seduce the viewer through the power of the artist’s selection of images from the collections. Her focus is consistently direct and concentrated frontally on the meticulously arranged objects. Her photographs are reduced to the sparest possible level of description. She reveals the materials and the collected objects, and she investigates time felt through the focusing and concentrating of the act of seeing. One recognizes by precise examination the labeling, for example, of cardboard folders preserving written papers, or of videocassettes, exactly as one might partially be able to decipher the texts on the spines of record jackets. What is essential is that Hommelsheim shows very subtly in each photograph that this work is about a private, personal collection. We recognize the bookcase as exactly as the basement shelves that served the collector to indulge his passion for serial things. One can read the installations as a means of securing evidence and as memory aids of the psychic processes of different levels of consciousness and different frames of reference.
The photography tableaux are another focal point of the exhibition. While inspecting her inheritance, Ruth Hommelsheim came across hundreds of slides taken during the 1970s and 1980s in the Stuttgart Zoo. At the beginning of her work this private treasure trove stood out because of its totally subjective placement that then led to extensive philosophizing by other means: the results are two complex tableaux created from photographic prints of fish and orchids. These serialized ensembles can further develop from presentation to presentation or they can simply change. The artist uses them to comment on the simultaneous nature of that which is hidden and that which is seen.
Choosing, collecting, and archiving is man’s attempt to make the world understandable. The wall installation of music cassettes, accompanied by samples of radio broadcasts of classical music, documents this and lets itself be read as a metaphor. The independent life of these objects belongs as very much to Ruth Hommelsheim’s art as her art is its own contribution to the next stage of her existence.
With this installation“Bewahrungen” Hommelsheim measures space in two ways: she describes time and creates a system of ordering that allows different ways of interpretation. The magic of images is connotatively ambiguous, and the game with reality and actuality is played out not without a subtle sense of humor.