What patterns, norms and rules influence our behaviour and actions? Questioning the meaning and substance of traditions, as the artists of the gallery do in this exhibition, becomes increasingly important with the current rise of culturalism.
Their approaches to this thematic terrain are both diverse and divergent. Individual experience and biographical details play as much of a role as strictly formal and critical perspectives.
Dennis Feddersen’s object can be read either as a never-ending ladder or a hamster wheel, showing the ambivalence with which the individual artists approach this term. Its closed circular movement shows tradition to be repetitive whilst the steps suggest a potential for development, thus breaking established conventions.
In comparison, the tension between the fractured nature of modern biographies and how personal or cultural contexts shape the individual is examined in a completely different way. In her metal skateboard Jeanno Gaussi, an artist born and raised between Kabul and Delhi, alludes to the traditional artisanal production of richly decorated dowry chests and links it to the idea of freedom and the deliberate abandonment of prescribed modes of living.
The starting point for Ingo Mittelstaedt’s piece – specifically conceived for the exhibition – was his father’s image archive. Rainer Mittelstaedt was one of the most successful press photographers of the GDR in the 1970s and 80s. After the German reunification he moved to the publishing house Springer Verlag and established himself as a police photographer. Ingo Mittelstaedt’s photographic work is shaped by his father’s and yet his images could not be more different. His installation is both an homage and a dispute, reflecting the relationship between father and son in a personal as well as photographic manner.
Katinka Pilscheur’s varnished work on the other hand demonstrates how traditions influence our perception even when freed from their direct biographical context. Its bright red surface, a proportionally enlarged standard paper size, recalls the colour field painting tradition of Minimal Art and yet at the same time references the industrial standardisation of forms and colours.
The Israeli artist Yinon Avior questions the grandeur of tradition in a radical way, exposing it as a construction and a tool to secure and maintain hegemonic power. His work consists of four Hebrew words: Rak Emet Ein Emuna („Only Truth No Faith“). What looks like a biblical citation is in fact the reproduction of a British porn star’s tattoo.
Traditions represents the multifaceted nature of personal and social traditions, which can be understood both as constraining introjections and ties offering security and comfort. What all works have in common is that they do not portray traditions as static and unchangeable, but rather as hybrid and permeable.
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