On Ropes & Posts
group exhibition with Anna Ruthenberg, Stella Sieber and James Sturkey curated by Theresa Dettinger and Leonie Schmiese
Neue Alte Brücke, Hafenstraße 23, Frankfurt am Main 15 May – 12 June 2021
Ropes and posts regulate the entrances to certain buildings, like cultural institutions or fancy hotels/restaurants. In other places, they close off areas from the public. Either way, social actions are conditioned by the spatial setting. The demarcations open up empty spaces, fully visible and even more desirable because of their exclusivity, enabling moments of concealment and hiding, of imaginations and longings. The exhibition On Ropes & Posts takes this ambivalent moment as a starting point.
James Sturkey’s drawings and sculptures refer to artifices that constitute the built environment. Facades and fences serve as extra boundaries of buildings whose interiors are hidden from our eyes. Contrary to the controlled transparency of architectural plans, Sturkey’s studies propose a deviant iconography of architecture that gives space for alternative cultural practices and desires. In the show, the two works on paper elaborate drawings of theme parks. Rife with false portals that are dusty and dilapidated, the theme park promises experiences often based on some catastrophe or another: alien invasions, volcanic eruptions, apocalypses etc. Themed experiences in themed (architectural) environments turn out to be made of holes that lead nowhere.
In Stella Sieber’s works, painting and moving images begin a dialogue. What you see through the cut-outs is either behind the scenes or the actual outside environment. By combining various subject positions in film and painting, Sieber breaks up conventional concepts of perspective. On screens set into painted surfaces, the recordings show portraits of tourists (and tripods) in the landscapes of southeast Anatolia. The paintings, or frames, evoke feelings of alienation and displacement by emphasizing the ambiguity of position; bodies and color fields dematerialize in a mushy mesh.
Based on the media coverage in newspapers, Anna Ruthenberg’s image series restage the photographic documentation of court proceedings. The depicted individuals hide their faces behind folders, trying to shield themselves from the cameras. It becomes clear that hiding doesn’t mean being absent.
Playing hide and seek very often involves pretending not to know where the hiding place is. Checking behind curtains, shelves, doors, excessively shouting in order to not end the game too soon. I wonder about traces as a compromised type of hiding because what leaves a trace is partially present. Hiding is a way of still being present, or in other words, what is hidden is never really absent.