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Issue 12


Susanne Pfeffer shares what interested her in preparing her first exhibition at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum

BY Susanne Pfeffer in Critic's Guides | 03 NOV 13

photograph: Susanne Pfeffer

Speculative Realism

The topic of Speculative Realism came up continuously in almost all the conversations I had with artists in preparation for my recent show, Speculations on Anonymous Materials. It seems this movement has finally heralded a shift beyond the Postmodern. The Speculative Realists break with Kant, liberating thought from its dependency on the subject and enabling an individualization of anonymous things. The sensory field is the only thing a subject can be sure of; all else is left to speculation. In theoretical proximity to this, many artists in the exhibition divest themselves from the centrality of generating original images. Engagement with pre-existing images, objects and spaces becomes a desubjectivized site of reflection. The artists attempt to derive an understanding of the world from abstraction rather than an understanding of abstraction from the world. They approach things, and reflect these things through process and seriality – it is only in variational speculation that the anonymous materials of technological flux can be conceived and contemplated.

Josh Kline, Creative Hands, 2013 (detail), courtesy: the artist & 47 Canal, New York, photograph: Nils Klinger


Hands are a central component in works by Michele Abeles, Trisha Baga, Aleksandra Domanovic´, Josh Kline and Sachin Kaeley. Hands mark the boundary between background and foreground, material painting and digital painting, photography and Photoshop – in Baga’s 3D films or Abeles’ pigment prints, for example. Kline’s silicone hands, which hold various devices, function simultaneously as both portraits and prototypes. Kaeley’s paintings are literally digital in the sense that his images, which initially appear as if they have been digitally manipulated, are pastose canvases made with an index finger. Kaeley’s method harks back to the Latin origins of the word digital: digitus – the finger. The use and meaning of our hands have changed over the last two decades. Manipulating a range of devices, they permanently occupy our field of vision, and fingers are in constant motion. The old differentiation between our body and its technological extensions grows noticeably hazy, just as the dividing line between corporal and intellectual labour, hand and head, seems to diminish.

Pamela Rosenkranz, Firm Being (Solar Beige), 2009, courtesy: the artist, Karma International, Zurich & Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York

Water Bottles

The current range of bottled water brands is immense, from Fiji Water (‘Perfected by nature. Untouched by man’), to SmartWater (‘Vapour-distilled. Inspired by the clouds …’); from Volvic (‘A sip of nature’) to Evian (‘Live young’). As these slogans demonstrate, bottled water can be counted as one of the beverage industry’s most psychologized products. Regardless of their astronomically long shipping routes and the presence of plasticizers in bottles, suggestions of purity and the unspoilt manage to shine through. In the works of Trisha Baga, Josh Kline and Pamela Rosenkranz, the transparency and corporeality, ideology and materiality of water bottles are played against each other. Rosenkranz’s symbolic expansion of natural purity coarsely deranges this painstakingly designed transparency – which becomes filled with a viscose mixture of silicone and skin-tone pigments used in the film-industry. The disconcerting result confronts us with the reification of a split consumer body: esoterically attuned to self-optimization and scientifically measured, regulated, and dosed.

photograph: Susanne Pfeffer

3D Prints

Recent years have seen the use of 3D scanning and printing in artistic practice. Oliver Laric is presently collaborating on a mammoth project with The Collection and Usher Gallery in Lincoln, England. Using 3D technology, he is scanning the museum’s entire collection, from archaeological to contemporary artefacts. Laric considers it fundamental that all art historical and material hierarchies be ignored, giving equal importance to each work. The real difference, however, is in making these 3D scans accessible to the public. The works will be available to view on the museum’s homepage, download and use unrestricted. In February 2014, the patent on laser sintering will expire, and the cost of purchasing a 3D printer will plummet. It will be fascinating to see how people react, not to mention whether – and how – the reception of art will be changed by the physical and haptic appropriation of artefacts.
Translated by William Wheeler

Susanne Pfeffer is the new artistic director of Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel. Prior to this, she was chief curator at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin from 2007–12. Her first exhibition at the Fridericianum, Speculations on Anonymous Materials, runs until 26 January 2014.