At first, the phrase “Not a civilization, but you,” seems to lead nowhere. In the context of the exhibition that artist Ellen Martine Heuser is showing at Kunstverein Göttingen, however, the half-sentence that forms the exhibition title is an invitation to us as individuals. It is an invitation to see ourselves as part of a civilization in which we are active participants – as part of a civilization that we can help shape and for whose social order, successes and failures we bear responsibility.
From this point of departure, Ellen Martine Heuser’s exhibition in Göttingen’s Old Town Hall takes a look at a civilizational past, while analyzing the here and now in equal measure. The work Dorf [Village] (2015), for example, is the artistic analysis of a living space that still exists today. The individual elements of the work – well, trough, house – establish a connection to the immediate environment of the exhibition space and form a reference to the civilization that surrounds the exhibition. At the same time, works such as Mausoleum (2022) and Nekropolis (2020) refer to the antiquity of western historiography and invite the question of how these societies, their customs and achievements, shape contemporary coexistence.
Physical labor is also part of Ellen Martine Heuser’s artistic approach. The artist carries out excavations herself and takes up traditional crafts, such as bell casting. Through these actions, she brings to the surface the very forms and histories that otherwise remain hidden. At the same time, the artworks help us to order our environment and to consider our civilization.
Ellen Martine Heuser (*1990 Copenhagen / DNK) presents her first institutional solo exhibition in Germany with Not a civilization, but you,. She studied fine arts in Hamburg and Warsaw and has participated in exhibitions both in Germany and internationally, including in Belgium, Poland and Austria, among others. Her intensive and process-oriented artistic engagement with places, as well as her questioning of sculpture as a purely physical object, has been widely recognized. Heuser has participated in residencies in Copenhagen, Vilnius and Vienna, among other places.