Return to Space: Galerie der Gegenwart at Hamburg Kunsthalle, Germany
In their jointly curated exhibition “Return to Space” the Hamburg Kunsthalle and Siemens Arts Program shed light on diverse positions on the theme of outer space in the world of contemporary art. Twenty artists present their work within the framework of this exhibition. Nearly half of the artworks on display were designed and created expressly for this show.
A rediscovery and reevaluation of the theme of outer space began in the 1990s, when artists simultaneously alluded to and distanced themselves from their historical predecessors, who had been active in the 1950s and ’60s. From the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite into Earth orbit (1957) to the successful moon landing by the American lunar module Eagle (1969), this theme enthralled an entire generation of artists. But after the successful mission to the moon, artists’ strongly utopian-influenced interest waned and a more sober phase set in. The contemporary artworks in the “Return to Space” exhibition seem more pragmatic and also more ambivalent than their typically optimistic precursors.
Thomas Ruff’s “Sterne” (“Stars”) series (1989–92) defines one such pragmatic position. Ruff’s large color prints make use of high-quality original negatives from the archives of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
Jane & Louise Wilson take a comparably pragmatic approach in their monumental work “Dreamtime” (2001). These two artists are more interested in the “earthly architecture” of space flight than in its existence in outer space. The real-time and slow-motion images of “Dreamtime” document the preparation and implementation of an actual rocket launch at Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan.
In works created since the 1990s, one can also observe that certain artists occupy a plane of aloofness which interposes itself between the theme and the artwork because the uninterruptedly utopian route of the 1960s is no longer viable today. They distance themselves by alluding to older forms of artistic encounter or by taking the theme of outer space with a pinch of salt.
Humor provides the primary appeal in Sylvie Fleury’s“Baum mit Augen” (“Tree with Eyes”) (2005), which is flanked by Martians. An amusing element likewise enlivens Björn An amusing element likewise enlivensBjörn Dahlem’s “Schwarzes Loch” (“Black Hole”) (2005), which occupies the atrium of the Galerie der Gegenwart. Assembled from long wooden laths, Dahlem’s “Schwarzes Loch” voraciously
swallows up every object in its immediate vicinity.
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Siemens Arts Program
Oliver van den Berg, Glenn Brown, Björn Dahlem, Beate Engl, Sylvie Fleury, Damien Hirst, William Kentridge, David Krippendorff, Ulrich Lamsfuß, Mars Patent, Bjørn Melhus, Angelika Middendorf, Aleksandra Mir, Marko Peljhan, Matthew Ritchie, Thomas Ruff, Tom Sachs, Michael Sailstorfer, Janek Simon, Jane & Louise Wilson
Christoph Heinrich (Hamburger Kunsthalle)
Markus Heinzelmann (Siemens Arts Program)
Hamburger Kunsthalle Glockengießerwall 20095 Hamburg
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