Violence, 2013, installation with rubber bands,
wall drawing, 6 channel sound, Museum Marta, Herford –
“Thought was secondary to speech,” argued the 20th century seminal political theorist, Hannah Arendt in her 1958 work The Human Condition. If one chooses to subscribe to that school of thought, then Brigitte Waldach’s predominant use of textual references in her multidimensional drawings and installations, will shed light on the Ciceronian oration flair in visual art. Literature, philosophy and political rhetoric are at the heart of the Berlin-based artist’s practice. The overlay of text organises the ominous ambiance that is emblematic of her unique collection of poignant and visually enticing works. Every line, strategically delineated with pigment pen, every curvature traced with graphite, draws a looking glass into contemporary issues without implying any political agenda to her art. Waldach’s meticulous and methodical technique is built on the need to generate a resonance with the viewer’s personal cultural experience.
At the centre of her most recent solo exhibition, entitled Untouched by Echoes, was History Now (2016) – a series of elaborate conceptual drawings. In the thick of the “text clouds”, as coined by the artist, Waldach’s heroes and heroines become magnetic fields that attract and repel information. Of course, this electric effect is only made possible by the ‘blank’ space of the artist’s handmade paper hung against the white walls. The bareness is not expressionless. Waldach filters the white noise and animates the invisible information into visible motifs. She works consciously up the schematic hierarchy from the gaze of the spectator through the metaphorical windows of the frames and glass into a figurative visualisation that opens up a universe of worldviews and precipitating thought.
History Now – Jesus 2016,
graphite, pigment pen, gouache on handmade paper, 190 x 140 cm
The negative space and the receding perspective in Waldach’s two-dimensional drawings are the first realm of what the artist calls ‘hyperspace’. Hyperspace entails the liberation from the conventional functions of the medium in the viewing experience. It is also the emancipation of senses from worldly perception entrapped by the inherent human disposition. Having said that, the artist recognises that the human body is bound by the axiom of temporal and spatial consciousness orbiting around the notions of the past, present and future. Therefore, with an initial glance at the drawings, the viewer enters Waldach’s concept of infinity, which inevitably evokes a sense of vertigo and anxiety. This Odyssean diversion from the known and the conditioned is central to the constructional minimalism in Waldach’s composition.
Rauschen (Noise) (triptych), 2013, graphite, gouache on handmade paper, 185 x 380 cm
In fact, the infinite expansion of Waldach’s hyperspace owes much to the spectator’s mental imprints and assumptions in correspondence with their intellectual and cultural capacity. In the spatial drawing Brainbox Ideology (2016), the tautness of the rubber bands shows the coevality and codependency of language and thought. Waldach’s conspicuous rhetoric of the hovering entanglement of the knot functions as a bearer of the cultural symbolic and symptomatic of the befuddlement of the modern-day ideology. The artist’s objective is to seize hold of the viewer’s attention so that they linger to ponder. Inspired by Beckett’s plays, Waldach looks at the condition of waiting as an existential activity. In the vita activa, there is an exquisite reverberation unique to the act of waiting that is simultaneously active and passive. Notwithstanding the artist’s choice and the decipherability of the text cited, the moment of suspension becomes a recognition of the art by an outsider.
Such analysis calls to mind her triptych Mother’s Day (9 May 1976) (2014) whose subject is Ulrike Meinhof, a prominent founding member of the West German far-left militant group, Red Army Faction. Meinhof is no doubt a suiting example of the complexity of mankind with our overlapping resume of societal roles. By portraying the moment of her death, all facets of this person are illuminated, the private and political realms merge into one. Yet, the viewer sees a serene face with closed eyes and they are reminded of the somber fact that the human prism shines brightest upon our last breath. This is the reason why Waldach does not put emphasis on the recognisability of her figures.
If the portrayal of the Camusian everyday man is the main narration in Waldach’s artistic expression, then why does the artist include popularised references? In her early repertoire, horror film tropes hold a significant presence. Her recent production has so far departed from the visceral, it seems that established truisms have replaced the blatant violence of the colour red and the “Hitchcockian” allegories. The version of reality presented is more haunting in the silence of Waldach’s manipulation of language and words. Her partiality to analogies, historical references and horror film motives, creates an open form. These figures are proxies, a derivative narrator who is a familiar and relatable predecessor to the visual space.
Brigitte Waldach’s art functions as a device, a pair of binoculars to visualise the convergence of time and space in the human collective consciousness. A study of the artist’s work and career refuses to not be pedagogical and didactic. Likewise, in her two-dimensional and spatial drawings, the understanding of her creative process merits an explosion of imageries and references as understandably, hers is an artistic exercise of humanity.
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