Helmut Hartwig

Gathering in the woods
Mrs Forester expects your presence

The title of Christine Schmerse’s installation opens up a world that is normally ruled by trivial ideas. “What will she make of them?” we may ask ourselves. Our own ideas are burdened with the songs and myths, the ready images and plots, the examples in arts and in kitsch that we know.

However, as visitors to her exhibition will instantly recognize, Schmerse’s ideas are not burdened with this legacy. She plays with objects, thoughts, figures, materials and processes freely. Her art starts out from what is tangible, from leaves, from a Black Forest cuckoo clock, from objects found (the real feet of a wild boar), and Schmerse sets about establishing links between all of these things in one work of art. To this end, she invents visually concrete metaphors which transform the moves between meanings, that are at work symbolically with each and every metaphor, into real links. In her metaphors, these moves become noticeable in a way suggesting that visual things precede symbolic reality.
The transformation becomes possible by the means of the installation.

Installations are a highly compound genre of art. While traditional art genres, such as painting, drawing, photography and sculpture, work with reduced media of representation – and, as some would say, with media focussing on only one material – installations produce specific and unique rooms and combinations to which genre-specific styles, which normally stress their own independence, must adapt. Drawing, painting, modelling, constructing, taking photographs are all part of the work of installation artists, but they combine with other creative activities, which are not necessarily rooted in one of the traditional genres (maybe not even in art itself). Installation artists use quite different materials to construct, create and experiment – and the wit of an installation originates in places where unknown characteristics of materials are revealed and where known qualities of materials and objects are brought about to disappear. It originates where there are shifts in meanings or new links between old themes and unfamiliar settings.

Lets have a more detailed look at some things; even though Schmerse’s work calls for more than just a look. Her metaphors nest in a garbage bag from inside which they make sounds resembling those of a rustle or the grunting of pigs. This sounds quite “foresty”, and many things in Schmerse’s installation keep links to what is “foresty”, but they do it in a playful way which our perception enjoys following.

There is a cuckoo clock fastened to a rack of roofing battens. “Branches” grow from one side of a “trunk”. This must be put into inverted commas because it really is a quite unusual and bare representation of a “tree”. On the other side of the tree, there is a bucket dripping water ...

a drop of water drops


and evaporates on a –
on a ...
The name is already rusted. There should be a new name to it. Still, we will use the old one: hotplate, a hotplate that is hidden in a “nest” of roofing battens.
So, what does this mean?

First of all, it means what we see.
But, while we are seeing, there is something to our perception, quite faint at first, more forceful after a while, something like an incomplete concept


And then, we see, there are two times: one time hanging from the cuckoo clock, and another one dripping from the bucket.
Close by, there is a manger. Too high to reach. There is no feed in there, but plates are already set. And the feet of the manger resemble the feet of an animal ...

Of course, there are also things we expect to be there: stuffed animals in a showcase marked with labels (e.g. “Brown Hare”); antlers casting a beautiful shadow; a bird house, from which ... No – not every one of our expectations is met. They are shattered suddenly. The bird house is battered. Its door is open a crack. There is no birdie greeting us with a nod. An aggressively piercing electronic „bird voice“ disturbs the children’s book idyll. However: this (we) will pass. Well, there’s enough space from one object to the next.

It is especially this sense of appropriate spaces that belongs in Christine Schmerse’s art.
She unravels and condenses situations. Some objects catch our attention only for a glance, others have a strong grip on us. Examples are the tap-dancing feet or the ivy ruled by a mysterious power of motion. And there is also this strange musical clock with wild boar feet that rotate on plates covered with flowers while we hear an old children’s song ...

Christine Schmerse is an artist who fills her objects with meaning and takes away meaning from them with as much ease as consideration. Visitors enjoy her installation because it includes things from forests and fields we are familiar with and – in the midst of our recognising them – these things slip through our fingers. While we stroll through the installation, our perception chooses over and over again to remain with those occurences that are visible and audible.

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