Praha 6 Praha
Zurücksehen im Vorangehen / Jdu a ohlížím se
LOOKING BACKWARDS WHILE GOING FORWARS by Eliška Žaková, Prague 2018
Mirrors and reflections play a special role in Gisela Weimann’s oeuvre, which spans over half a century. Rich in symbolism and metaphorical meanings, they have been repeatedly employed by the 75-year old German artist to establish relations between past and present, national and personal history, inside and outside. This is true also of her 1994 installation Looking Backwards While Going Forwards, which gave name to her first Prague solo exhibition. It consists of Trabant car rear-view mirrors mounted in a plant-like manner onto the outer window frames of the exhibition hall at Künstlerbahnhof Westend in Berlin. While not devoid of certain irony, this multi-layered work is serious at its core. It evokes two episodes in Germany’s modern history, both very important in regard to Weimann’s personal biography: World War II and the deportations of human beings under the Third Reich (which started from the Westend station) and the socio-political changes and search for new identity following German reunification in 1990. A critical approach toward recent German history, usually coupled with activistic subtext, is the golden thread that runs through most of Weimann’s works. As an activist and feminist she has been influenced by the cultural milieu of late 1960s‘ Berlin, where she studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst (now UdK).
Even though she originally trained as a painter, Weimann moves with great facility across different media, including photography, video, sound installation, performance and experimental music theatre. Thanks to her life-long interest in other cultures and her desire to „break down [...] national boundaries“, she spent many years living and working outside of her native Germany (in London, Paris, San Francisco, Instanbul, Mexico City, among others), networking and collaborating closely with other artists, poets, composers, musicians and researchers from all over the world. Her belief in art „as a form and vehicle for communication and as a shared process“ pushed her to work to become more site-specific—often in public space—and invites the audience to participate in and complement her installations and performances. Her biggest collaborative project to date has been the Opera for Four Buses. It premiered in Berlin in 2001 and presents the highlight of the Prague exhibition.
At the Villa P651, the former home of the Běhal and Fejér families, where cultural gatherings took place before the World War Two, Gisela Weimann shows sketches, objects, costumes and sound installations related to her music-theatre-productions.These have been the focus of her work since 1980s and next to the Opera for Four Buses include Olbrich’s Four Winds Ballet I (Aurora) and Toledo’s Four Winds Ballet II (Notturno), Oliveros‘ Pea(ce Soup from Weimann’s projected Kitchen Symphony in Five Courses With Service and Kubo’s meditative ballet Izanagi or Orpheus. In an interview for the feminist magazine n.paradoxa Weimann describes her music-theatre-productions as follows: „What most of these works have in common is my attempt to find an artistic form that unites art and everyday experience. A familiar everyday situation—like the trip on a town bus or a meal—are transformed into a complex art event with the audience as an equal partner.“
The exhibition will be enlivened by a series of (music) performances, all of them taking place at the exhibition venue (Villa P651) on 27 November 2018. These performances aim to pay tribute to three deceased composers with whom Gisela Weimann collaborated many times: the Polish composer Witold Szalonek, the American soloist and pioneer of electronic art music Pauline Oliveros and the German avant-garde composer and trombonist Friedrich Schenker. A recording of Szalonek’s music and Oliveros‘ and Schenker’s experimental compositions will be presented alongside recent works by two contemporaries: Berlin-based Japanese Mayako Kubo, one of the most prominent contemporary Japanese composers, and the young Czech composer Martin Klusák.
This Czech-German exchange is organized bythe NEIRO Association for Expanding Arts and supported by ifa (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations), the Berlin-Prague City Partnership office of the Berlin Senate Chancellery, the Czech- German Future Fund, the City of Prague and the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.