Susanne Wagner

Angelina

29.03 – 11.05.2018

Angelina 1-2

Susanne Wagner, Angelina, 2018, installation view. Photo courtesy Susanne Wagner.

 

Angelina 2

Susanne Wagner, Angelina, 2018, 77 x 40 x 40 cm, painted ceramic. Photo courtesy Susanne Wagner.

 

Angelina 3
Susanne Wagner, Angelina, 2018, 77 x 40 x 40 cm, painted ceramic. Photo courtesy Susanne Wagner.

 

Angelina 4

Susanne Wagner, Angelina, 2018, 77 x 40 x 40 cm, painted ceramic. Photo courtesy Susanne Wagner.

 

Angelina 5

Susanne Wagner, Angelina, 2018, 77 x 40 x 40 cm, painted ceramic. Photo courtesy Susanne Wagner.

 

GiG Munich is excited to present Angelina, the solo exhibition by German video artist and sculptor, Susanne Wagner.

For the exhibition Wagner has produced a new body of work, a large-scale, site-specific floor installation consisting of seventy seven almost identical square ceramic tiles, each 40 x 40 cm individual tile topped by a slightly large than life dome of the female breast. These tiles are arranged in the exact centre of the room in a diagonal grid-like fashion, four or five tiles across, seventeen tiles deep. They are also painted to emphasise this diagonal pattern, again with each tile divided into quarters, or four squares, all in bright, non-primary colours. To stand at the doorway and to look down at the work is to see a pleasing check-board pattern of squares and undulating lines, salmon pinks, lemon yellows and different shades of brown moving across the room.

The arrangement recalls postmodern critiques of originality, best articulated by Rosalind Krauss in her 1986 essay, ‘Originality of the Avant-garde.’ As she argued, any work that makes use of the grid, cannot lay claim to originality, because the grid is a visual device that can only bear repeating. The same way there is no original and unique grid, there is no unique and original art object. Instead, Krauss rewrites the art object as text, whose meaning is determined by the relation it has with other texts. As a text the work of art has no point of origin and no essence; it is only something that can be endlessly reconfigured. In the case of Wagner’s floor piece, even though each tile is handmade and therefore has unique quality, none can claim to be the one original tile, more meaningful than the other.

But what makes Wagner’s work so exciting is that this repetition pertaining to postmodernism’s discussions of originality is complicated by another kind of repetition arising from a very different kind of discourse. For readers of Judith Butler, it has a performative aspect that addresses the ways in which the categories of gender are constructed in a heterosexual normative society. In this way, it is also very timely, considering that in our current era of ♯MeToo activism, many of the norms consolidating sexual and gender hierarchy are being questioned.  It comes down to Wagner’s use of the breast. The female breast is a primary sexual characteristic but it also functions as a signifier of gender. Real women have breasts – and much of the uproar surrounding Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy had to do with our identification of her as the well-endowed Laura Croft, video game sex symbol supreme.  By isolating, enlarging and repeating the form of the female breast Wagner demonstrates that gender is not a given fact. It is neither an expression of some internal essence, nor is it an objective ideal to which we may aspire to. Gender is something we perform, meaning it is brought about through certain acts on our part. And these are repetitive and often mundane, so much so, that they give gender the illusion of a stable identity. The gender identity we take for granted – with all the notions of ‘real womanhood’ that this assumes – are revealed to be nothing more than a re-enactment of a set of meanings already socially and culturally established.

What this means in turn is that the same acts, which give the illusion of stable identity are also the ones that reveal it to be illusory at the moment repetition fails.  Wagner’s work alerts us to the fact that the same process of repetition, which constructs the gender categories binding us, could also be the key to their undoing.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2018

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