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Manon
Wertenbroek
Self-portrait 3-4-5 [from left to right], 2020, acrylic and ink on paper, each 107x 78cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Self-portrait 3-4-5 [from left to right], 2020, acrylic and ink on paper, each 107x 78cm
Self-portrait 3-4 [from left to right], 2020, acrylic and ink on paper, each 107 x 78 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Self-portrait 3-4 [from left to right], 2020, acrylic and ink on paper, each 107 x 78 cm
Self-portrait 5, 2020, acrylic and ink on paper, 107 x 78 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Self-portrait 5, 2020, acrylic and ink on paper, 107 x 78 cm
Witch, 2020, latex, textile, wig, bretzel, rope, chains, circa 188 x 54 x 15 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Witch, 2020, latex, textile, wig, bretzel, rope, chains, circa 188 x 54 x 15 cm
Witch (details), 2020, latex, textile, wig, bretzel, rope, chains, circa 188 x 54 x 15 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Witch (details), 2020, latex, textile, wig, bretzel, rope, chains, circa 188 x 54 x 15 cm
Heavy Satin, Last Tango — © 2020, Manon Wertenbroek
Clown, 2020, latex, textile, wig, sequins, pigment, acrylic, rope, circa 188 x 54 x 15 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Clown, 2020, latex, textile, wig, sequins, pigment, acrylic, rope, circa 188 x 54 x 15 cm
Clown (detail), 2020 — © Manon Wertenbroek
Clown (detail), 2020
On the left: Manon Wertenbroek, Self-portrait 1 & 2, 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, each 75 x 55,5 x 3 cm, On the right: Roman Gysin, Welcome Home II, 2018, wood, fabric, glue, chalk, 45 x 23 x 17 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
On the left: Manon Wertenbroek, Self-portrait 1 & 2, 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, each 75 x 55,5 x 3 cm On the right: Roman Gysin, Welcome Home II, 2018, wood, fabric, glue, chalk, 45 x 23 x 17 cm
Self-portrait 1 & 2, 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, each 75x55,5x3cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Self-portrait 1 & 2, 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, each 75x55,5x3cm
Heavy Satin, Last Tango — © 2020, Manon Wertenbroek
Self-portrait 1 (detail), 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, each 75 x 55,5 x 3 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Self-portrait 1 (detail), 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, each 75 x 55,5 x 3 cm
On the left: Manon Wertenbroek, Zipper H250, 2019, zipper embedded into wall, 250 x 1,5 cm, On the right: Roman Gysin, Satinbilder [Satin Images], 2019, fabric, wood, 41 x 162 x 3 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
On the left: Manon Wertenbroek, Zipper H250, 2019, zipper embedded into wall, 250 x 1,5 cm On the right: Roman Gysin, Satinbilder [Satin Images], 2019, fabric, wood, 41 x 162 x 3 cm
Zipper H250, 2020, zipper embedded into wall, 250x1,5cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Zipper H250, 2020, zipper embedded into wall, 250x1,5cm
Zipper H250 (detail), 2020, zipper embedded into wall, 250x1,5cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Zipper H250 (detail), 2020, zipper embedded into wall, 250x1,5cm
Cabin, 2020, aluminium and textile, 255x80x80 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Cabin, 2020, aluminium and textile, 255x80x80 cm
Cabin (detail) , 2020, aluminium and textile, 255x80x80 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Cabin (detail) , 2020, aluminium and textile, 255x80x80 cm
On the left: Manon Wertenbroek, Self-portrait 6, 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, 75x55,5x3 cm, From middle to right: Roman Gysin, Hang Out, 2020, fabric, metal, 95x30x15 cm, and Welcome Home, 2018, wood, fabric, glue, chalk, 95x68x25 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
On the left: Manon Wertenbroek, Self-portrait 6, 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, 75x55,5x3 cm From middle to right: Roman Gysin, Hang Out, 2020, fabric, metal, 95x30x15 cm, and Welcome Home, 2018, wood, fabric, glue, chalk, 95x68x25 cm
Self-portrait 6, 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, 75 x 55,5 x 3 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Self-portrait 6, 2020, ink, acrylic and pencil on paper, framed, 75 x 55,5 x 3 cm
Zipper H116.5, 2020, zipper embedded into wall, 116,5 x 1,5 cm — © Manon Wertenbroek
Zipper H116.5, 2020, zipper embedded into wall, 116,5 x 1,5 cm
Zipper H116.5 (detail), 2020 — © Manon Wertenbroek
Zipper H116.5 (detail), 2020

Heavy Satin, Last Tango

Heavy Satin
Lisa Biedlingmaier, Roman Gysin & Manon Wertenbroek
24.01.20 – 14.03.20
Curated by Arianna Gellini and Linda Jensen
Photo cre­dit: Kilian Bannwart

Heavy Satin is an exhi­bi­tion that aims to explore the poten­tial of ambi­guity, be it through the de-pola­ri­zing of ste­reo­types or by tes­ting esca­pist stra­te­gies. The title seeks to conjure thoughts of an impen­ding weight, subtly sug­ges­tive of the aggres­sion and machismo of Heavy Metal yet also evo­king the
volup­tuous femi­nine sen­sua­lity of satin.

In Heavy Satin cate­go­ri­cal divi­sions bet­ween sys­tems such as deco­ra­tion vs. fine arts, tas­te­ful­ness vs. vul­ga­rity, mas­cu­li­nity vs. femi­ni­nity, arti­fice vs. rea­lity are chal­len­ged. Perspectival shifts in han­ging are to be expe­rien­ced throu­ghout. Roman Gysin‘s wall sculp­tures are pla­ced at variable heights. Lisa Biedlingmaier‘s work can be seen from various angles and their see-through­ness creates a laye­red view. Manon Wertenbroek‘s Zippers alters our inter­ac­tion with the wall as the clas­si­cal sup­port struc­ture. In 2013 the cura­tor Uta Ruhkamp wrote in Textile Turning-Point: While Arts-and-Crafts in the 21st cen­tury was a reac­tion to indus­tria­li­zed mass pro­duc­tion, it now seems to be the digi­tal age in the 21st cen­tury that moti­vates a shift towards wor­king by hand and tex­tile mate­rials.”

Currently it seems there is an inter­est in hybri­dity, com­bi­ning tra­di­tio­nally lin­ked mediums of femi­nist defiance art such as cro­chet and embroi­dery with dif­ferent mate­rials and tech­niques be it car­pen­try or digi­tal image mani­pu­la­ting. The artists delve into the com­plexity of arche­ty­pal figures such as the witch or clown (contra­sexua­lity), mas­que­rade as an empo­we­ring device or the valo­ri­zing of aes­the­tic canons that have been pejo­ra­ti­vely conno­ted, be it roman­ti­cism or the kitsch. There is an omni­present sense of the craf­ting and some­times hea­ling hand, with sculp­tures, pain­ted pho­to­graphs, and ins­tal­la­tions having tac­tile sur­faces and tex­tures such as satin, soil, rope, felt, zip, latex and tulle. We come to remi­nisce upon child­hood with its magi­cal memo­ries of fan­tasy and role-play but also contras­tin­gly to the adult world of BDSM with the feti­shis­tic desire to touch, tie and tease. 

Manon Wertenbroek (born 1991 in Lausanne, lives and works in Paris)
In Wertenbroek‘s new body of works of sculp­tures, pain­ted pho­to­graphs and ins­tal­la­tions she has been tes­ting the lack of fixity and allo­wing for ideas to cross-pol­li­nate within a single work, or clus­ter of works. Juxtaposing ima­gery from lite­rary or psy­cho­ana­ly­ti­cal themes her cos­tume-based works Witch (2019) and Clown (2019) are made up of latex casts of the artist’s face and skin. Like a snake chan­ging its skin, Wertenbroek per­forms a dress up, a form of embel­lish­ment as cri­tique. They are alle­go­ri­cal faces, masks to whom the artist has been gran­ting the power to defy expec­ted social traits. 

In The Witch and the Clown: Two Archetypes of Human Sexuality Ann and Barry Ulanov note how the arche­types of witch and clown are points of entry for the out­la­wed oppo­sites within us, the archaic ener­gies of sexua­lity and spi­rit.” Following the Jungian notion of contra­sexua­lity” the witch and clown can be unders­tood as sym­bo­lic iden­ti­ties that represent a com­plex com­bi­na­tion of traits and expe­riences of man and woman. Wertenbroek‘s Witch conveys sexual and irre­pres­sible drive. She has a sil­ver face with par­tially clo­sed eyes make it seem as if she is rising, awa­ke­ning from a lethar­gic trance-like hiber­na­tion.
A rain­bow colo­red sequin tutu is pla­ced as a col­lar sup­por­ting the heart-sha­ped mask of Wertenbroek‘s Clown. A long blond wig is set against a sil­ver, star stud­ded body suit. Relating to the world of emo­tions, the clown breaks down cultu­ral impo­sed ego-boun­da­ries. It plays with ambi­guity. The clown has often been adop­ted as a sym­bol for the col­lapse of man as the achie­ving sex. 

The pho­to­gra­phic self-por­traits of Claude Cahun come to mind. Born Lucy Schwob, she chan­ged her name into Claude Cahun in 1920 beco­ming one of the expo­nents of sur­rea­list pho­to­gra­phy. Her work explo­red gen­der iden­tity and the sub­cons­cious mind constantly pushing the boun­dary bet­ween mas­cu­li­nity and femi­ni­nity. She once said Under this mask, ano­ther mask. I will never finish remo­ving all these faces.” If the eeri­ness of emp­ti­ness behind the mask is present, it is also the risk of what is hiding behind the cos­tume. What is it? What is real or sur­real? Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) addresses these issues concer­ning iden­tity and its cri­sis. As the title denotes the play is about six aban­do­ned cha­rac­ters in search of an author. Similar to Wertenbroek’s Clown and Witch they have no names and are defi­ned only by their func­tions: Father, the Mother, the Step-Daughter, and so forth. As one of the cha­rac­ter announces: a cha­rac­ter, sir, may always ask a man who he is. Because a cha­rac­ter has really a life of his own, mar­ked with his spe­cial cha­rac­te­ris­tics; for which rea­son he is always some­body.’ But a man—I’m not spea­king of you now—may very well be nobody’.”

This notion of the some­body as oppo­sed to the nobody, brings up two dif­ferent pers­pec­tives on the auto­bio­gra­phi­cal. We hold various social masks but we also have a spe­ci­fic image of our­selves. What does it mean having as oppo­sed to per­for­ming a par­ti­cu­lar body? Paul Thek’s The Tomb (1967) seems an inter­es­ting refe­rence. A full-size, pains­ta­kin­gly craf­ted effigy of Thek him­self posi­tio­ned inside a pink zig­gu­rat Thek concei­ved this work as a self refe­ren­tial piece, as a nar­cis­sis­tic joke. This work hints at the end of the hip­pie move­ment and a tur­ning point in Thek’s prac­tice. Similarly, Wertenbroek’s Selfportraits mark a more pain­terly switch in her pho­to­gra­phic prac­tice. Previously known for her inter­est in por­trai­ture as a way to look into human inter­ac­tions, she com­po­sed her works in a multi-step pro­cess. She would place various objects and light sources in front of hand engra­ved PVC mir­ror panels, which she would then pho­to­graph. Her new pho­to­graphs fol­low a pain­ting-prin­ting-pain­ting pro­cess. They are reflec­tions of her naked body, jewelry and ropes which are dif­frac­ted making fore­ground and back­ground col­lide. Printed on pain­ted grainy Hahnemühle paper allows the artist to accen­tuate the contrast of the motifs freeing them from a purely pho­to­gra­phic flat­ness and as a result high­ligh­ting the poe­tics of body and skin. À la Hannah Villiger the PVC abs­tracts her body enti­cing the gaze to her cre­vices and bulges. Wertenbroek seems to harks back to 1960s femi­nist per­for­mances, where the body was mili­tant and inter­es­ted in pup­pe­tee­ring the male gaze. 

In the site-spe­ci­fic works Zipper H116.5 and Zipper H250 (both 2019) zip­pers are embed­ded in the walls. Visual trig­gers they are sug­ges­tive of an entrance, be it to an unk­nown world of fan­tasy or a por­tal to desire, the work also play with the idea of inac­ces­si­bi­lity. Despite their fami­lia­rity they are also enig­ma­tic punc­tua­ting the space in a double play of exhi­bi­tio­nism or chaste retreat.

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