The innovative and versatile artistry of Rosemarie Trockel (born 1952) has never previously been shown in it’s full width in Sweden. Partly educated at the Werkkunstschule in Cologne in the 70’s, this German artist set out, under the strong influence of Beuys and Marcel Duchamp, to examine the land-winnings made by viewing modern art from a female point of view. This viewpoint has proven to be self-reflecting, but also incisive, full of humour and versatility. The trivial meets the profound, face to face. Rosemarie Trockel was the official representative of Germany at the Venice Biennale in 1999. Her piece ”Haus für Schweine und Menschen”, which she did together with Carsten Höller at Dokumenta X in 1997, became a topic of conversation.
Earlier this year she received the Kunstpreis München, one of the most prestigious art awards in Germany. In connection with this, a separate show with Rosemarie Trockel was put on in München, at Lenbachhaus/Kunstbau under the title ”Kitchen”. For Trockel the kitchen is a workplace, a studio and a creative environment where ideas are put to paper.
The core of the presentation at Moderna Museet is taken from that in München The exhibition at Moderna Museet is a cooperative venture together with the artist and the whole exhibition may be viewed as an installation. The exhibition will consist of sculptures, videos, drawings and photographs.
The exhibition catalogue is a revised and expanded version of the catalogue produced for the Munich exhibition. The original texts are in German and English; texts added by Moderna Museet are in Swedish and English.
Knitted paintings, stove pictures and wrecks
This year’s spring exhibition at Moderna Museet presents Rosemarie Trockel to the Swedish audience for the first time, in the form of a comprehensive solo exhibition. Rosemarie Trockel, born in Germany in 1952, is one of our most influential contemporary international artists. She lives and works in Cologne, where she also studied at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in the 1970s.
Rosemarie Trockel represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 1999, and exhibited at the art fair Documenta X in Kassel in 1997, with her installation Haus für Schweine und Menschen (House for Pigs and Humans). This work, which was created together with colleague Carsten Höller, received great publicity. It focused on man’s relationship to animals, and allowed the audience to dwell under the same roof as a number of pigs, albeit separated from them by a one-way glass wall – the audience could see the pigs but the pigs couldn’t see the audience.
Rosemarie Trockel has been featured in solo exhibitions throughout the world. In 1998, a large retrospective toured Hamburg, London, Stuttgart and Marseille. Moderna Museet’s major exhibition of Rosemarie Trockel is based on the solo exhibition on the theme of the kitchen that Lenbachhaus in Munich showed in spring 2000 when she was awarded the prestigious Kunstpreis München. However, in Moderna Museet’s exhibition the kitchen theme has been complemented with a number of other subjects. It also includes a broad presentation of the artist’s video art – which is still undeservedly unknown. The selection of works and the formation of the exhibition has evolved in close co-operation with Rosemarie Trockel herself. Here we move through an exciting landscape of video works, objects and installations, characterised by the artist’s idiosyncratic world of shapes and symbols. Some of the works are interactive – they respond to the presence of the viewer.
Rosemarie Trockel is an exceptionally talented draughtsman. Drawing, which is often the starting-point for her work, becomes an instrument to capture ideas and vary shapes in a playful manner. Her drawings, which are almost always figurative, exude a desire to experiment and a kind of immediacy that brings us closer to the artist’s creative processes. In the current exhibition, the artist has chosen to show the drawings as projections.
However, when Rosemarie Trockel made her breakthrough in New York in the 1980s, as part of a German wave, the focus was primarily on her “knitted paintings”. In a culture where originality and individualist expression are praised and linked to the status of the male artist as genius, knitting is placed in the category of activities associated with so-called female virtues. Knitted products are made in the private sphere, they are anonymous, require patience and zeal, but do not put high demands on creative ability or intellectual effort. Rosemarie Trockel twists and turns the prejudices around this trivial, supposedly feminine, material with a low cultural status. Her knitted paintings were created with a knitting machine, and she used a computer to create patterns – thus juxtaposing “female crafts” with “male machine production”.
Since making the earliest knitted paintings, the artist has pursued the theme in several different directions. When the art scene started defining her as “the artist with the knitting”, she did away with that restricting classification by cutting up and tearing her knitted work. Some of these works were then transposed to silkscreen, and thereby demonstrate how the artist processes a theme over time, passing it through different media. In the video À la Motte, breaking down and building up – construction and destruction – become part of the creative thought process. The video shows a moth (la motte) eating a hole in a piece of wool, but towards the end the process is reversed and the hole appears to close up again as if by magic.
In addition to the knitted theme, Rosemarie Trockel has worked with artistic characterisations on the theme of “the kitchen”. To her, the kitchen is a workplace, a studio – the place where ideas are born. It contains the “stove” which inspired her to produce many interesting works in the 1980s and 1990s. In the early 1980s, these stoves were presented as three-dimensional floor sculptures. Later, the hanging stove pictures emerged, which at first glance appear to be abstract minimalist paintings, but on closer inspection turn out to be baked lacquer steel plates into which real stove burners have been inserted. As in her knitted work, Rosemarie Trockel draws our attention to all the values and associations adhering to a material. In her stove pictures she inserts a culturally inferior household object right into abstract “fine art”, which, of course, is still male dominated.
In one of her latest works, in which she uses hot burners, so the audience can actually feel the heat they emit – that is, get a tactile experience – Rosemarie Trockel moves beyond the purely visual dimension and allows art to activate our other senses. In the 1990s, she produced further stove sculptures, in which the burners appear to have migrated from the top of the stove to its sides, giving it the appearance of dice or a loudspeaker. Stove burners also appear in the video Interview (1994) in which Rosemarie Trockel, parodying traditional artist interviews, lets the burners play the parts of both interviewer and interviewee. An interesting transformation act is shown in Playtime, a stove made of soft foam components that can be converted into a mattress and a doghouse, among other things.
In German Romantic 19th century painting, we sometimes encounter motifs whose purpose seems to be to demonstrate man’s exposure to the unpredictable forces of nature. Artists such as Caspar David Friedrich could be inspired by a story of a real contemporary event, as in the well-known painting of the Arctic shipwreck, let the wrecked ship symbolise man’s dashed hopes and the narrow line between life and death. In the same way, the apparently documentary elements in some of Rosemarie Trockel’s works appear to carry symbolic meaning. While travelling through Belgium in 1996, she passed a family house that had been blown up in an explosion. On the basis of photographic documentation, she then produced the gigantic textile print that is shown in this exhibition. What we see is a kitchen interior surrounded by the fragments of the former house. But what had actually been blown to bits, apart from the physical and architectural model? The kitchen, symbol of the secure, private, intimate sphere, is suddenly laid bare; the house itself is in pieces. Perhaps this also applies to the ideal structure underlying the “model family” – that is, the inhabitants of the secure home.
Metaphor and symbol also form part of the work S.h.e. (2000), but here the metaphor appears to be transformed into concrete experience. A large orange circular shape is projected onto the wall, while a milky liquid squirts at intervals from a hole in the middle, forming a puddle on the floor. Naturally, it is easy to associate to the nurturing female breast – and to depictions of this theme in classical mythology and religious painting, but also to abundance in a wider sense.
We invite you to a journey through the Trockelian universe – why not take a seat in the open two-seated car, complete with electric engine, brakes and gearshift, that she built out of four stoves!
Curator: Iris Müller-Westerman