Sue de Beer
Harry Dodge & Stanya Kahn
Luis Gispert & Jeffrey Reed
Erik van Lieshout
Stephen G. Rhodes
Ryan Trecartin & Lizzie Fitch
In her latest solo show at her Berlin gallery, Kirstine Roepstorff took the phrase “presents of absents” as a starting point from which to explore the theme of identity construction in today’s Western world. “Present of absent” is a play on words in the form of an oxymoron that Roepstorff complicates further through the use of the plural form, which doesn’t actually exist. By associating our own experiences, starting with the fragmented character of everyone’s perception of the present, with traces of the past, the unspoken and undone that usually pop up out of nowhere and are woven into and intertwined with that which we all perceive as our own more or less homogenous personality, the pun becomes readable, or at least comes to offer an entry into the body of work that is gathered in association with it for the show A Handfull of Once. One might guess that the plural form of the phrase hints at the interdependency of the paired concepts, each influencing the other in not only one, but multiple ways—the past and the present, the unspoken and the spoken, the undone and the done, the subconscious and the conscious.
Roepstorff is concerned with the notion of the void which lies between all of these antagonistic pairs and which constitutes every person’s identity. As hard as one might try to find it, there is no core of the subject; rather, the subject is an empty kernel around which subjectivity is built in layers like an onion. In other words, the present and the absent are always connected through diverse channels and interdependent, but there is not even one point at which the two meet.
In psychoanalytical terms, whenever I speak, the personality with which I confront the world and which the world perceives as “me” becomes visible. However, at the same time, my perception of myself is not, of course, the same as that of others. My self-image is necessarily fragmented, as I can see myself from outside—in the mirror—yet also experience my thoughts and emotions from inside. This is why the subject is always split; you cannot make the social and the imaginary parts of yourself merge into one. This deficiency that cannot be filled up is, I suppose, what Roepstorff perceives as the void which creates one of the major drives in our lives: desire.
By connecting desire, in the sense of the basic drive described above, with commodity fetishism as a critical stand against our capitalist society, Roepstorff has manifested her investigation of the rhetoric of the language of power and the dialectics between the individual and society in the collages that make up most of her work. They are detailed montages in which images taken out of today’s and yes- terday’s media coverage, showcasing exploding bombs, the exploitation of nature, and major political and economic events of the last decades (or even centuries), are brought together with stereotypically girlish—or better, feminine—materials woven into the images almost everywhere, including floral elements, shimmering jewelry, and strongly colored strips of fabric or paper. The result may seem paradoxical, but it mirrors, in the first place, what the phrase “presents of absents” and Roepstorff’s works in general imply—that the production of meaning and the construction of identity is always dialectical, which means it can only be constructed through its own context and in negation of and differentiation from the other. The poetical/“female”/handicraft/subjective worlds will always exist parallel to the political/“male”/technology-based/objective realities; they cannot be separated. Along the way, Roepstorff, of course, gives a very light-handed commentary on post-feminist art production and female political engagement.
For her new work in this show—which is not yet made and which is why we can only speak generally about it now—the artist uses a different phrase as a starting point. Thinking about the title of the show, between two deaths, and bringing it together with her own themes, she came up with the idea of the nine lives of a cat. Again, as in her previous works, this seems to be more like a concept that might link the single pieces rather than a theme that is literally translated into a thesis on the subject of the show.
A hint about where the concept would take her may be found in the quote by Mark Twain (from Following the Equator): “The principal difference between a cat and a lie is that the cat has only nine lives.” If you have not only one, but nine lives, there seems to be a possibility for repetition, for trying again, for working through neurotic structures. But at the same time, in contrast to a lie, there is an end to it all, which could be death—the real one—from which there is no coming back. However, it could just as well be that through this repetition, there might be truth, as the opposite of a lie, somewhere in this (in)finite circle. And how can truth be found? Through dying, which means by giving up what your previous life has been about in order to start anew, or being aware that a final end is in sight—there is no additional life after the ninth death. But this one is the essential one, because only knowing that something has an end forces you to seize opportunities now.
Lives and works in Berlin
|2008||Match, Esbjerg Kunst Museum, Denmark |
Aros, Århus Kunst Museum, Denmark
|2006||Artissima 13, The International Fair of Contemporary Art in Turin, Italy |
A Handfull of Once, (touring) Peres Projects, Berlin;
Arnolfini, Bristol, England
|2004||The Queen of Diamonds, Galleri Christina Wilson, Copenhagen|
|2007||Fuck Off Macho Painter Scum, Prague Biennale 3, Prague|
|2006||Sea-Change/Undo Redo, Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany |
Fantastic Politics, National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo
Panic room, Deste Foundation, Athens
|2005||Populism, (touring) Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania; National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Kunstverein Frankfurt, Frankfurt/Main, Germany|
Max Andrews, “Cut, Copy, Paste,” in: Wonderland
Magazine, no. 6 (November – December 2006).
Andreas Schlegel, “Kirstine Roepstorff. Portrait der dänischen Künstlerin,” in: Liebling, no. 6 (October 2005).
Cecilie Hogsbro, “Queen of Diamonds”, Galleri Christina Wilson (Copenhagen, 2004).
Kirstine Roepstorff, Who Decides Who Decides (Berlin, 2003).