Submission
Christine Rebhuhn

The Breeze Will Kill Me

Solo exhibition of sculptures by Christine Rebhuhn


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Christine Rebhuhn, The Breeze Will Kill Me, Installation View 01, 2021, Mixed media.
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Christine Rebhuhn, The Breeze Will Kill Me, Installation View 02, 2021, Mixed media.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Last Bare Chamber (of my heart), 2021, Wood, lacquer, metal, mellophone, 28 x 50 x 40 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Last Bare Chamber (of my heart), detail, 2021, Wood, lacquer, metal, mellophone, 28 x 50 x 40 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Ride or Die, 2021, Chrome bicycle handles, colored porcelain, taxidermy canary, 8 x 20 x 13 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Traits and Cutting Edges, 2021, Mirrored photographs on aluminum, Volkswagen side mirrors, colored porcelain, 15 x 11 x 14 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Traits and Cutting Edges, front view, 2021, Mirrored photographs on aluminum, Volkswagen side mirrors, colored porcelain, 15 x 11 x 14 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Twin Flame, 2021, Motorcycle mirrors, photographs on aluminum, 10 x 6 x 6 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, You, Full of Sources and Night, 2021, Mirrored photographs on aluminum, aluminum hardware, 10 x 6 x 6 inches
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Christine Rebhuhn, The Breeze Will Kill Me, Installation View 03, 2021, Mixed media.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Prey for Some Beast, 2021, Wood, lacquer, plastic, photograph, taxidermy rat coated in rubber, 60 x 42 x 12 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, The Breeze Will Kill Me, Installation View 04, 2021, Mixed media.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Long Wind, 2021, Flutes, hardware, 25 x 120 x 1 inches
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Christine Rebhuhn, Long Wind, detail, 2021, Flutes, hardware, 25 x 120 x 1 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Fastest Way to Reach the Shore, 2021, Wood, lacquer, leather, stainless steel, taxidermy lovebird, 35 x 55 x 4 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Fastest Way to Reach the Shore, detail, 2021, Wood, lacquer, leather, stainless steel, taxidermy lovebird, 35 x 55 x 4 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, The Breeze Will Kill Me, Installation View 05, 2021, Mixed media.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Your Half-Cracked Way, 2021, Wood, paint, photograph, glass, colored porcelain. 42 x 22 x 12 inches.
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Christine Rebhuhn, Words Dry and Riderless, 2020, Piano frame, wood, lacquer, photograph, acrylic, colored porcelain, 52 x 79 x 56 inches.
Christine Rebhuhn, The Breeze Will Kill Me, Installation View 06, 2021, Mixed media.

How to Feel/Kill Something

“The body of someone else is always a kind of glamour—an excuse not to be in one’s own body —and the glamor comes in the form of a death wish, both literal and figurative.”

-Marsha Tupitsyn on Michaelangelo, Picture Cycle

1. Space

We’ll start with four walls and a floor. That sounds right.
At its foundation, art architecture works backwards from emptiness, operating first and foremost as a chamber for the presentation of objects. The experience of space is defined by the way the human body is ushered through it, constrained and directed by explicitly exterior forms of curation. Back in 1979, American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan wrote that the terms “space” and “place” exist along a spectrum. To Tuan, “space” implied an undifferentiated abstraction that could become a “place” through familiarity, through purpose. “Place”, on the other hand, comprised a “pause” in the flow inherent to “space”, a caesura marking the shift from locale into a “special kind of object”. “Body implicates space”, Tuan declared. “Depth and distance are a function of the human sense of adequacy”.

In other words, things are made special by the rooms that house them. Rooms are made special by the things they keep. If space is rhetorical, place is felt, mnemonic, a ghostly grammatology of home.

2. Rot

Poet and professor Joyelle McSweeney coined the term “necropastoral” in her 2015 book of the same name, defining the concept as “the manifestation of the infectiousness, anxiety, and contagion occultly present in the hygienic borders of the classical pastoral”. If “urban” space is coded as a congested failure in the project of health, all things “rural”, in keeping with the white supremacist, post-Jacobean vision of limnal wildness, have too long found purchase with wholesome opportunity for rest, retreat, and an upperclass timbre of “healing” that requires abscondence to function. McSweeney takes issue with that cultural shorthand. Instead, she troubles this dichotomy by exploiting its inherent ambiguity. “…“Necropastoral” re-marks the pastoral as a zone of exchange”, she writes, “shading this green theme park with the suspicion that the anthropogenic epic is in fact synonymous with ecological endtimes”. World War I re- rendered the bucolic meadows of Europe as sites of rotting, inhuman atrocity. Vietnam’s lush foliage was transformed into necrotic jungle-nothing by imperial violence. It’s that self- cannibalizing quality that lends the necropastoral its futuristic potential; “strange meetings”, insists McSweeney, “eat away at the model of literary lineage that depends on separation, hierarchy, before and after, on linearity itself”.

“Strange meetings”, she continues, “will emerge as one the of the necropastoral’s occult political modes”.

How do we even begin to quantify a “strange meeting” in contemporary art? The kind of meetings that comprise the art world’s scaffolding—conferences, protests, trustee engagements, fairs—don’t approach the necropastoral’s generative theory of weirdness. Neither does the sort of work that transforms these meetings into paragrons of space, the bright, flat, market-charming images that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the forefront of visual dialogue. Christine Rebhuhn, on the other hand, doesn’t want any part of that. She wants what’s left when it all falls apart.

In her Thierry Goldberg debut, The Breeze Will Kill Me, Rebhuhn embraces monochrome, finish fetish, stillness, and the presence of absent sound, sure, but most importantly, she gives the viewer rot. If we’re to pinpoint it, she provides the affect of rot, the unctuous residue remaining after the un-done act. The necropastoral—quietly radical, radically quiet—teems throughout Rebhuhn’s pieces, but according to lexicon both searingly personal and emotionally ecological in its dignified fury. The work is neat in that it doesn’t bleed, but, of course, messiness, like “urbanity”, isn’t always the direct symbolic correlation it may seem. Rebhuhn’s sleek, careful installations speak not just to a muffled voice, but a silenced one—a piano transformed into armature, a taxidermied parakeet—the kind of silence that necessitates a question. These aren’t sculptures on trauma, per se, but they hint at the abject underpinnings of coping, of curating individual narrative from the wreckage of experience.

When I look at Rebhuhn’s work, I often laugh or gasp or weep without warning—the response is bodily, immediate. That, I believe, is the necropolitical thrust of the show, this ability to use what Marsha Tupitsyn calls the “glamour” of other people’s bodies as a blueprint for the liminal heart.

3. Difference

Back in 2019, in the eye of a particularly heinous hangover, I projected Playtime, a 60’s film by French New Wave director and former mime Jacques Tati, on a blank swathe of white wall opposite my headboard. My eyes could barely open, but I watched with rapt attention.

The movie follows the physical misadventures of Mr. Hulot, a hapless cypher loosely based on Charlie Chaplin’s iconic “Charlot”, or “Tramp” in English. Hulot, outfitted with a trenchoat and pipe, never finds himself at the center of any coherent plot, but instead moves clumsily through a “cascade of incidents”, in Roger Ebert’s parlance. He slips and slides on a generic showroom floor, he shatters a glass door at a swinging nightclub, he loses his way in a maze of cold grey cubicles. Filmed in crisp, angular monochrome, Playtime is considered a comic masterpiece by most metrics, and not for lack of trying; it was the most expensive project in French history at the time of its release. Tati filmed it in “Tativille”, an enormous set outside Paris that reproduced an airline terminal, city streets, high rises, and a traffic circle among other anonymized landmarks. Hulot’s serendipitous blunders through modernity feel as poignant as they are pointless, composing a gentle, winking treatise on contemporary alienation. To a viewer in 2019, it’s a film about the presumed spatial benevolence of white men—Hulot strides into each new situation seamlessly, never answering for his trail of small destructions. He’s forgiven, forgotten, and onto the next.

To a viewer in 2021, though, it’s a film about airborne droplets, or Kafka, or a harbinger of technological apocalypse to come.

In 2021, Playtime is a warning.

Stay with me.

1967 was a big year for guys named Jacques—Playtime came out the same month as Jacques Derrida’s Voice and Phenomenon, the French philosopher’s foremost articulation on differance, or “deferral of meaning”. A central tenet of deconstructionist criticism, differance is a purposeful misspelling of “difference”, a slippage meant to subvert the traditional privileging of speech over the written word. Derrida was not a fan of Edmund Husserl’s fealty to phenomenological modes of perception, arguing that since human consciousness is always in flux, a generalized theory of consciousnesses can’t exist. “Différance”, Derrida declared, “ is the systematic play of differences, of the traces of differences, of the spacing by means of which elements are related to each other. This spacing is simultaneously active and passive… production of the intervals without which the “full” terms would not signify, would not function”. The subject, the speaker, the maladroit Hulot, is constituted only in being “divided from itself”.

I invoke Hulot not to rant about film, but to talk about warnings, an avid feature in Rebhuhn’s work. There’s a considered relationship between photography and thing-ness in these pieces, buoyed by an explicitly presentational motif. Rebhuhn crops material moments or experiential portals, like instruments, utilitarian hardware, or architectural designs, and re-integrates them in space as foreign helpers, vehicles for imagistic archaeology. A black and white cowboy in the lonely installation Words Dry Riderless or a de-venomed snake in Prey for Some Beast evoke post-anonymous notions of masculinity, a double-bind differance unto itself. Rebhuhn’s slick gestures at removal and negotiation talk around symbology with a wink and smile, trafficking in a certain timbre of material slippage. Gleaming in chrome or haunting in burnished black, a perfectly modeled ceramic flower or a re-fashioned rear-view mirror transforms from a spatial investigation to a sly admission of the project’s limits. Communication, or deification, are not Rebhuhn’s sole aims. Rebhuhn, naturally, has not cast herself as Hulot. We are Hulot, the viewers, watching defamiliarized process bloom into its own contagion. To warn, to forbode, is to create a whisper network, to infuse undifferentiated space with the occult. Rebhuhn has figured out, expertly, how to make a warning beautiful, and how to give differance a heartbeat.