How do people relate to the “other”? How do they perceive the “other”; and what happens when they recognize that the “other” is looking back at them? To examine these questions, the metaphor of the mirror is the central concept of this year’s XXIII. ROHKUNSTBAU – The Beauty of Difference.
From the beginning, the mirror and one’s reflection in it are central to the development of one’s identity as a human being. Young children first see themselves ? mirror images of themselves ? in the eyes and gestures of their parents and carers. By reacting and answering to the needs and to the emotional expressions of the child, through mimicry, the faces of significant adults become the first mirror of the child.
In his influential descriptions of the “mirror stage”, Jacques Lacan explores why the self can only develop in contact with and through the other. To see its own reflection in the mirror enables the child to see itself as the “other”. In this way a child can construct a “self” and understand itself as somebody that is also being seen by others – a crucial step in the development of the social “self”.
So if development of “self” necessarily needs the “other” then the reflections that we experience in confrontation and in exchange with the other are far more than mere reflections; they are essential for the construction of our “self”.
The artworks on display at ROHKUNSTBAU engage with the question of otherness, alterity, or difference, against the backdrop of increasing nationalist positions in Europe and worldwide. The revival in nationalist positions in Europe is accompanied by the increase in xenophobia and racism, as well as by simplified ideas of identity, that consciously exclude many people. After wide public support for refugees in Germany, which in many places still persists, it has become clear that racist structures and practices of exclusion still persist and are exacerbating the situation of refugees.
This year’s ROHKUNSTBAU sheds light on the beauty of difference. The participating artists show in their work the creative forces that lie in the examination and appreciation of difference. And they ask: What would be necessary to deepen the discussion and turn the often simplified ideas about “difference” into a deeper dialogue.
Amélie Grözinger has used the metaphor of the mirror for her artistic contribution to ROHKUNSTBAU. This allows visitors to see themselves, multiplied, in many facets. In her work, Grözinger fragments, combines, and rearranges the reflections in the mirror alongside pictures and scenes that seem to come from high-fashion magazines.
Walking through the exhibition visitors will also encounter a large installation by Elmgreen & Dragset. The Norwegian?Danish artistic duo has designed a satirical artwork that comments on the seriousness and importance of the exhibition topic “difference”.
In her multilayered video work, Pélagie Gbaguidi’s research reveals the traces and the meanings of trauma in relationship to colonial occupation, and examines the role of the artist within these interweavements. The historical narratives and the writing of history are still not finished, and Gbaguidi in her artwork endorses the extrapolation and interpretation of her own narratives.
Emo de Medeiros art is similarly dedicated to the telling and rewriting of narratives and history. In his work he develops non-linear, powerful, and colourful motifs. His artwork speaks of his concept of transculturality, using traditional materials as well as new media and techniques, to which he constantly adds new aspects.
Toshihiko Mitsuya’s shiny sculptures made out of aluminum foil are impressively fragile and precise. They are presented in stark contrast to the surrounds where the original décor can still be seen in some rooms of the palace, enriching the history of the place by reference to international myths.
The 11 participating artists all individually interact with the palace and position today’s urgent questions in relation to historical narratives.
The participating artists:
Elmgreen & Dragset (Denmark/Norway),
Simon English (Great Britain),
Shahram Entekhabi (Iran),
Jeanno Gaussi (Afghanistan/Germany),
Pélagie Gbaguidi (Benin (Senegal)),
Andrew Gilbert (Great Britain),
Ivan Gorshkov (Russia),
Amélie Grözinger (Germany),
Tatiana Macedo (Portugal),
Emo De Medeiros (Benin),
Toshihiko Mitsuya (Japan).