XVIII. Rohkunstbau POWER

The artistic content of ROHKUNSTBAU XVIII revealed many faces of the transformative aspects of “Power” as derived from the Alberich theme in Richard Wagner’s “Das Rheingold”, part one of the four-part German saga of the Nibelungenlied that was the first of an intended four-part exhibition cycle. The intention of the first part was to show the relevance of power today, its forms and manifestations, which might be either affirmative and/or coercive in their application. It dealt with issues of human creative energy since they are linked immediately and symbolically to the political, economic, social, and cultural forms of power and influence that operate in the world of today. In doing so they reflected the Alberich theme of the unconstrained limits and self-destructive impulses that people will advance and orchestrate in their pursuit of different types of power. The participating artists broadened these themes in a remarkably diverse number of ways. These ranged from advancing popular logo images into transformed painting practices (Nitsche) to the extended influence manifested by popular cultural icons such as Michael Jackson (Brandenburg).

Other examples were of raw power as in nuclear weapons and environmental catastrophe, or the literal pursuit of gold as material economic power (Neudecker). The issue of narrative power was illustrated in the updating of the immediate Alberich theme, and given a unique video-to-sound and filmed-structured contemporary reading (Faithfull). Conversely, the abstract power of the binary function as seen through number-letter computer code technologies was scrutinized and questioned (Sander).

The simple nature automotive power (literally “horse-power”) as a vehicle of power and coercion was addressed in a unique foyer exhibition installation (Vassileva). A formal installation emphasized the power to organize space and perception. Although it reflected an expression of high-minimal art in different ways in the works, it was in fact realized by using commonplace mass-produced materials (Pilscheur).

Within the formal language of painting the power of gesture and expression was used to address its abilities for transformation and mediation into other material means (Millar). At the same time the power of nature and its subtle ability to alter visual perception through filmed reflections was beautifully expressed (Brech), while the re-directing of understanding of the olfactory sense of smell, cast in the context of another form of simulated power, namely “oil” made the viewer question their own immediate sensory experiences (Maciá). However, the subjectivity of interpretation as used by the contemporary artists who participated in MACHT/POWER must not be read in terms of merely adapting narrative descriptions and/or creating material illustrations. It is a set of personalized and rethought commitments by artists about what constitutes power and transformation as it is experienced in the practice of creating contemporary art. At the same time the exhibition revealed that the theme taken from the first Wagner theatre drama “Das Rheingold” can still create a strong intellectual and emotional resonance today.

Mark Gisbourne

ROHKUNSTBAU XVIII was funded by the Ministery of Science, Research and Culture Brandenburg and the Municipality Potsdam.