Low Affinity

Johanna Strobel




Johanna Strobel, Low Affinity, 2021, installation view

Johanna Strobel, Low Affinity, 2021, installation view

Johanna Strobel, Low Affinity, 2021, installation view

Johanna Strobel, Low Affinity, 2021, installation view

Johanna Strobel, Low Affinity, 2021, installation view

Johanna Strobel, deep connectedness, 2021, usb 2.0 extension cords, paraffin, LEDs, plugs, size variable

Johanna Strobel, deep connectedness, 2021, USB 2.0 extension cords, paraffin, LEDs, plugs, size variable (detail)

Johanna Strobel, Low Affinity, 2021, installation view

 Johanna Strobel, low affinity (blue), 2021, USB 2.0 extension cords, paraffin, LEDs, size variable, approx 200 x 30 x 30 cm

Johanna Strobel, low affinity (blue), 2021, USB 2.0 extension cords, paraffin, LEDs, size variable, approx 200 x 30 x 30 cm, (detail)

 Johanna Strobel, low affinity (white), 2021,  USB 2.0 extension cable, paraffin, LEDs, size variable, approx 200 x 35 x 35 cm (detail)

Johanna Strobel, low affinity (red), 2021, USB 2.0 extension cable, paraffin, LEDs, size variable, approx 200 x 30 x 30 cm (detail)

 Johanna Strobel, the duration of the present (red/blue), 2021, oil on wood, microcontroller, minimotors, acrylic mirror, USB cable, plug, 30 x 20 x 20 cm

 Johanna Strobel, false friends,2021, acrylic mirrors, glass, aluminum, clockworks (clockwise and counterclockwise), LEDs, USB cable, each approx. 25 x 25 x 5 cm 

 Johanna Strobel, figures, 2021, oil on wood, microcontroller, motion sensor, USB cable, LEDs, plug, acrylic mirror, rubber bands, 30.5 x 46 x 10 cm




The word ‘plane’ conjures up an image of a brightly lit field, on which everything and anything may stand.The field in this image is squarish, with a mathematical axis, ‘x’ cutting one way, ‘y’ the other, and ‘z’ upwards and downwards, together mapping out a grid with each thing in its own little box. To make connections between things we draw (mostly) straight lines, from one point to another.

Deleuze and Guattari would argue that we have this image of the plane because of the link between ‘plane’ and ‘plan’. When we think of a plane this way, it acts as a hidden principle.We may not see the grid itself, but the grid is what makes things visible to us. It causes the given to be given by giving things their structure, organising them, charting their development and growth. It is a plan(e) of organisation and development, a genetic plan(e) of evolution. Because we do not see the principles by which it organises things, only the result of its labours, the plane is transcendent to us and things, and likened to an idea in the mind of God.

For us the viewers, marked as we are by the ‘confirmation and selection bias’ and victim to the ‘clustering illusion’ we look for these hidden principles finding patterns where there are none, making connections between things that are not in any way related. One such idea is central to the work Johanna Strobel shows at GiG Munich, the idea of aether, the fifth element of a classical world of four, in which everything can be divided into fire, earth, air and water. It was used to explain how stars stayed up in the sky, and moved across the heavens.

But there is another idea of a plane, in and on which there is no form or structure, only activity and its lack.This plane is populated by sub-atomic particles always in the process of transformation, but with no specific aim in mind. Depending on their activity, their speed and slowness, they compose assemblages, as Deleuze and Guattari write, ‘compositions of speed’. But they do not develop, organise according to a principle.They connect, disconnect, transform, reform.What happens, happens, in endless proliferation. Instead of development there is constant dissolution.

Johanna Strobel’s work conjures up both plan(e)s.There is a longing for principle, apparent in her systematic approach, plug going into socket, light being red or blue, going on or off.We can map this world quite easily on a grid. It is clean, white, metallic.There is also the understanding of a far more dissolute world in which entropy rules, of information lost through USB cables and mnemonic devices of knot-making failing.This world is unstable, reckless, and somehow also inexplicably present.




Low Affinity

Johanna Strobel

14.10 – 14.11.2021

GiG Munich is happy to present the next instalment of the series Thinking Nature, featuring new work by Johanna Strobel. For her solo exhibiton low affinity, Johanna Strobel creates rhizomatic macramé-like structures from USB extension cords, using them to power her plexiglas and paraffin sculptures. 

Enthropy, the fact that once the USB 2.0 cable exceeds a certain length information gets lost while power still remains, forms the central component of this work. It ties together the ancient idea of ‘ether’ as a medium through which light travels, the fluid physics of translucency, and the decorative and practical craft of knot-making. Her practice is informed by her background in science, and explores such unwieldy concepts like time and space, information and entropy, language, the creation, attribution or suspension of meaning and the everyday perception and precipitation of these concepts in mundane life. 

Johanna Strobel is an interdisciplinary artist from Germany, currently based in New York. She holds degrees in Information Science and Mathematics and graduated in painting and graphics from the Academy of Fine Arts Munich with Honors (Meisterschuelerin of Gregor Hildebrandt) in 2017. In 2020 she received her MFA from Hunter College New York (New Genres). Since then she has participated in numerous exhibitions in Germany, Italy, Taiwan and the US, with a solo exhibition at the Municipal Museum Cordonhaus Cham, 2019. In 2020 her work has been included in The Immigrant Artist Biennial, New York, USA, Jahresgaben, Kunstverein Munich, Germany and featured online by Hauser & Wirth. Johanna was a fellowship artist in residence at NARS Foundation, Brooklyn in 2021.  

The exhibition will include an online discussion event with Dr. Beth Lord, Professor of Philosophy, School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History at the University of Aberdeen.    

STEFAN LENHART, fruits of the dawn, first pictures and press release


The landscape Stefan Lenhart constructed for GiG Munich could be described as a landscape of the mind. There is a path winding down the middle of the room, lit up on either side by brightly coloured lamps. The path leads up to a large mirror, which is framed by white acrylic columns. We see that the lights are also made of a similar acrylic material, painter’s palettes, that the artist cut up and then reassembled into a jagged spiral shape. The wall to the right is papered over, covered by large printouts of the same painter’s palettes in close-up. Dotted around are small, abstract paintings.

To go down the path marked out for us is to follow a narrative. We are asked to wonder down the length of the room, to pause at the points of interest, and then to stop when confronted with our own reflection and the room behind us. The random patterns on the lamps, the paintings and the posters are designed to capture our attention and allow our mind to drift.

The work has surrealist qualities, in that it shares surrealism’s interest in psychoanalytic concepts – like the unconscious or the expressive power of dreams. It lends itself to André Breton’s definition of surrealism as psychic automatism, as it incorporates into its structure the two means for capturing psychic processes: automatic writing and the irrational narrative of the dream. The uncontrolled production of Stefan Lenhart palette paintings is comparable to the meandering lines of Masson’s automatic drawings; the physical landscape Lenhart constructs, dreamlike, full of symbolism waiting to be uncovered.

But “fruits of the dawn” should not be seen as a historical anachronism. As much as the work shares surrealism’s interest in psychoanalytic concepts, it is very much post-Freudian, anti-oedipal in the sense of Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Stefan Lenhart sets up a surrealist narrative in order to disrupt it. He shows its version of the unconscious is as tightly constructed as the controlled, conscious domain of reason. So the path we are meant to follow, is broken up; the lamps, instead of guiding us, distract and frustrate, providing insufficient light to see the paintings; and the destination too, the large mirror in which we see our reflections, is a kind of dead end. All we can do is turn around and walk back.

As the random configurations of paint on the wall and on the lights signal, to step onto the path Stefan Lenhart sets out for us is to enter a very different kind of unconscious space, one that Deleuze would compare to Murphy’s mind, Murphy being the central protagonist of Beckett’s same-titled 1936 novel. When the preconceptions constraining our understanding of the unconscious, are done away, nothing other than the “darkness of absolute freedom” remains. Here forms are in continual flux – commotion – with no principle to guide their actions. Through this ever-changing darkness, we can only travel, mere motes or points on the “ceaseless unconditioned generation and passing away of line.”

Magdalena Wisniowska 2016