TEXTS ABOUT MY WORK
CRAMA shows a selection of new works by Berlin-based sculptor Dennis Feddersen. The exhibition illuminates the relationship between men and identity from different angles and raises questions around the theme “THE ME IS MANY”. The ceramic works focus on the representation of physical and metaphorical aspects in order to make possible processes of human identity formation visible. How does identity form and change? How and who are we when we meet? What mechanisms and questions determine our becoming and being? How do we act as individuals and how do we act collectively? What forms result from this?
THE ME IS MANY
Identity is considered to be an active construction effort of the individual to create a functioning self within the framework of social norms or according to one’s own imagination and to keep it stable across changing contexts. However, can this definition of stability and unity be maintained? Feddersen’s new works approach the above question under the aspect of multiplicity. The theoretical basis for the new sculptures was provided by Kenneth J. Gergen (Identity Politics and Social Constructivism), who speaks of a “multiphrenic”, multipartite personality and assumes that the idea of having to order the diversity of modern life into a unity hinders, rather than supports the individual in the unfolding of their personal spaces and possibilities. Feddersen ́s sculptures examine typical tipping points of being and togetherness and the resulting tensions that the construct of our identity is constantly experiencing. What happens when different experiences within ourselves have to be coordinated and different life designs and fragments of other identities have to be united? As our world becomes more diverse, we have more and more opportunities to experience our identity in different contexts, dependencies and longings. The task of coordinating these many ways of experiencing becomes increasingly complex. Accordingly, the probability of achieving successful coordination becomes less and less, as the diversity of the inner and outer worlds increases, because the elements that need to be coordinated become more numerous. But should the construction of identity be characterized by the idea of a unity or is it necessary to rethink the idea that the individual or a collective must experience itself as a unity. In order to make room for the diversity of all possibilities and to turn to a “rhizomatic” identity construct. Feddersen’s ceramics convey a sense of restlessness and testify to a desire to give a cohesive form to an inescapable symbiotic duality of individual fragments. Being, becoming, growing can therefore no longer be seen in a linear way and the result, especially in an artistic context, is a multiplicity of mini-theories, strands – a “multiverse” of context and form. In it, the ego and our momentary identity construct must grow beyond itself and its dwelling, mentally and even digitally, constantly reforming its identity to grow in all directions.
To further explore the phenomenon of the internal “multiverse / identity”, the exhibition presents several multi part interlocking sculptures and individual fragments (ECHOES, ISSUES and ATTITUDES) to question the construction principle of identity formation as conceived above. Figurative elements, outstretched hands, alienated heads and limbs meet biomorphic forms, as well as other non-figurative elements. The sculptures serve as a metaphor for multiple identity and ego constructs unified in each other and possible collisions. The “ME IS Many” – not just a column, a stack of various elements, but a construct acting in all directions, without top and bottom, without hierarchy, without beginning and end. Rather, unity and multiplicity interweave and neither one exists before or above the other. Nor does one cancel out the other – identity in motion, in departure.
“Who am I in my many worlds?” This question is the cornerstone of Dennis Feddersen’s new series of artworks ‘The Third Mind’. The artist responds in the title to the collage technique of William S. Burroughs; a method of giving new meanings to pieces by chance. Personalities are also formed in the same way as a Burroughs’ collage: they arise from experiences, inherited attributes and memories. This ‘ego collage’ is shown – depending on the life phase – in different shapes and colors, which Feddersen portrays in his photographs and sculptures.
The color of the ego
It is also about investigating of which the ‘I’ is ‘woven’. Feddersen embellishes one of the two gallery spaces with striped wallpaper, which aims to signify the eternal repeating patterns as a common thread for the exhibition spaces and human personality in particular. In the second room of the gallery a ‘Baker-Miller Pink’ dominates which is a reference to a very interesting fact. In the seventies, prison rooms in the US were painted in this color as it would bring tranquility among the inmates during their confinement. Yet, when you enter the exhibition space you might as well feel that the presence of this color is a bit off. However, Feddersen associates something neurotic with the pink and he is in fact playing with images that together represent the subconscious and the inexplicable.
The ‘I’ knows many forms
Some sculptures also come in ‘Baker-Miller Pink’ or in other ‘neurotic tones’. A yellow image twists in a curve where an extension grows. When the subconscious comes into play, the stringent life gets a new uncontrollable direction. Another sculpture represents a wounded pink helmet, which a plaster intends to heal and be an emergency solution. So even though the helmet aims to protect, it can no longer fulfill its task – thus protecting the protector itself and throwing firmly anchored roles in that way.. A winding lilac-colored vortex symbolizes the endless spiral of learned behavior, which only breaks out with great effort and self-reflection.
Anti-perfection as a tribute to man
The idea of ??collage technique is expressed in the presentation of each artwork: instead of having smoothly finished layers to cover the sculptures, the artist has deliberately chosen for imperfect constructions. There are works that are connected to one another and also individual ones and they all together refer to the umbrella theme of ‘ego collage’.
Everything can happen – or not?
In addition to the confused and constantly changing patterns of thought and behavior, there are ways to escape and make something new of it. With a white-rising sculpture entitled ‘Ego-Theater’, Feddersen makes an attempt to create a whole of all the pieces from which it is composed. This option is also found in the ‘tree of possibilities’, which while is seeking for higher heights and shines in all its whiteness but at the same time shows clear traces of disappointment: even though the branches are smoothly clear-cut, the sculpture tries to blossom continuously wanting to conquer a place in the world.
Make the hidden construction visible
In his ceramics, sculptures and photographic works with human protagonists who search but also give up, the artist shows what is actually invisible. Fighting between desire and reason, the complex interaction between different experiences and impressions, whose results change daily into what we call personality with the constant hope of finding another truth and conviction. Feddersen hardly puts it into words, which fully contain these concepts. However, he throws light into an exciting field, which has been barely entered since a hundred years after Sigmund Freud: the parts we are made of.
Text Maja Hoock
Dennis Feddersen’s mighty wooden structure sets the tone for the exhibition, nature growing rampant in the form of intertwining knots of wood. In the “Secret Garden“, tangles of vines from an imaginary jungle take over the civilised, sheltered interior of the gallery. Deliberately exposed to humidity and covered in earth, the material is mottled with dark patches, exuding a smell of organic processes and the forest floor. The show stages the invasive moment of a foreign, uncontrollable mass penetrating a confined space – a central part of Feddersen’s oeuvre.
tame the wilderness
Gardens tame the wilderness. From time to time, however, tangles of weeds, wild animals and grasses take over enclosed areas once again. Nature and culture collide. Dennis Feddersen examines the moment in which emotions overwhelm reason in extreme situations. Civilised thinking gives way to primitive drives, passion and rage dominate. Just as the wild fox skulks around the homely garden at night, these drives lie dormant within us, stepping out of the shadows at the opportune moment. This sense of menace is palpable in Feddersen’s photographs. One work depicts an outstretched hand holding a withered plant in a “reversal of Tistou“. Instead of helping everything to grow and blossom with its “green thumbs“, as the protagonist of Maurice Druon’s children’s book does, this hand only yields wilted flowers, denounced like the repressed memories that dwell in the subconscious and influence our thoughts and actions. Another image shows a body with an earthen structure bursting asunder on its shoulders instead of a head in which the viewer imagines they see faces. The clay structure refers back to the wooden installation occupying the same space, as does the motif of explosion, the sense of material expanding forcefully into the space that surrounds it. The formal language employed here is characteristic for Feddersen and can be seen in earlier works too.
A further photograph shows the back of a man in a bathtub – it is not clear whether or not he is alive from the image. The bath is filled with milk, the clear surface arresting the scene, just as amber conserves blossoms forever. The title of the work – “Amber Marat“ – clearly references Jacques-Louis David’s “Death of Marat“. The original painting depicts a stabbed man in the bathtub, taken by surprise by his murderess at the very moment he thought he could relax. A wall expansively painted with black ink forms the centre of Feddersen’s exhibition. Reminiscent of a Chinese landscape painting where the ink has run in the rain, it subtly plays with the disappearance and reemergence of the garden motif. On the wall also hangs a photograph of a man bending protectively over an egg made of clay, as if in an attempt to shield it from the fragile possibility of a new beginning.
Here the positive side of Feddersen’s “Secret Garden“ surfaces – gardens are also nurturing spaces where things blossom and flourish. The title of the exhibition alludes to the eponymous book by Frances Hodgson Burnett where humans find back to themselves in a secret garden – the site of regeneration and new beginnings. Eros and Thanatos, blossoming and wilting, nature and civilization. These are the opposites that Feddersen unites in his garden. “Whoever enters the gardens of the human encounters the powerful layers of orderly internal and external actions” writes Peter Sloterdijk in “You must change your life“. If you leave the protected space you put yourself in danger. But you also might find the way back to yourself.
Text by Maja Hook
I COULD NOT BUILD AN ISLAND
Standing at the center of the exhibition is a life-sized figure which would be reminiscent of a classical statue but for the sleeping bag which envelops it, concealing it from the world. The figure is surrounded by 25 metal sculptures which are distributed throughout the exhibition space, and whose spikes clearly delimit them from the figurative entity, and seem to form a kind of second protective barrier around it. With their aggressive, tetrahedronal structures, oriented toward the outside, they generate a kind of impenetrable shield, and seem reminiscent of root forms. Yet instead of grounding themselves, they close themselves off from the surrounding environment.
Pursued by Dennis Feddersen here in the framework of this exhibition, entitled “From Here To Dystopia,” is less the outline of a bleak end-time scenario, and rather a confrontation with the apparent ambivalence of contemporary models of the subject – a kind of “thinking of the underside.” His point of departure is Nicolas Bourriaud’s concept of the “radicant” for the subject in the 21st century. But Bourriaud’s metaphor, derived from botany, had already exerted an influence on the dynamic and decentralized formal language of Feddersen’s sculptures. Here, the concept of the “radicant,” with its implications for the individual, is subjected to further reflections.
The metaphor of the “radicant – developed by Bourriaud in 2009 in his book bearing the same name – characterizes those plants which put down new roots continually as they grow, and are capable of becoming entirely separated from their primary roots without suffering damage. In a way completely opposed to this, Feddersen’s new works pursue strategies of detachment and isolation. The delimitation of the individual works in relation to their environment which is thematized immanently here testifies on the one hand to a will toward self-assertion, and on the other toward a certain sensation of uprootedness. In this way, they allude to the underside of a “radicant” existence, one whose identity eludes every form of fixation.
As an anti-heroic depiction of the human striving toward autonomy through withdrawal into a private world, the figure is revealed – not least of all through subtle allusions to the formal language of antiquity – as a counter-model to the omnipotent figure of Prometheus. In this context, a photograph of the Belvedere Torso – a Vatican treasure which is presumed to depict Hercules – abandons its original context. In opposition to its conventional reception as the embodiment of the aesthetic ideals of antiquity, this mutilated fragment appears as a retort – one that alludes to the present day – to classical images of strength, purity, and supremacy.
Within the exhibition, the longing for self-determination culminates in the motif of an action which is carried over into abstraction. An image sequence consisting of three black-and-white photographs, in each of which a human figure battles against seemingly oversized wooden blocks, testifies to the utopian project of constructing a private “island,” a metaphor for the utopian space which has long lent wings to fantasies of escape from society. In the process, the ambivalence of the act is exposed by the undecidability of every gesture which resides between supporting and lifting, upholding and falling, impotence and blind actionism.
Instead of putting down every new roots in the here and now in their search for self-identity, Feddersen’s works turn away from the world, attempting to construct private worlds yet testifying in the process to the perpetual failure of this enterprise. But secretly, utopia reverses into dystopia, and the longed-for “island” which promised free space in the context of utopia is transformed into the hermetic space of the absurd.
An installation made of welded light blue painted steel rods is the centerpiece of the exhibition. What appears to be, upon entering the showroom, virtually two dimensional and like a bundle of convoluted struts, unfolds into a third and even fourth dimension when looking at it more closely, creating passages and openings. Branching off, over and over again, from the main strand, which is divided into uneven sections through angles and kinks, are sidepieces, rising above the here and now. No final assumption can be made about its beginning or ending, and instead of displaying a linear flow, the seeking sculpture coils through time and space. The cool, geometrically constructed metal almost appears to be organic.
Feddersen has made the idea of the “lifeline” visible, making the material cater to its needs. The welds are not smoothened, but bear imperfections; via pluggable connectors the object can be disassembled and reconstructed anytime, but must be able to support itself, in order to carry itself. The installation, which the artist has intuitively let grown, remains restless, remains open to changes, never becomes immobile. The title utters what vibrates in the work: “Man zweifelt sich vorwärts” (You doubt yourself forward).
“Against all odds” is the framed print of a self-portrait, in which the artist cannot be seen. A man, almost nude and posing laconically, is semi-covered by a lump of clay that envelopes him, and on first sight even disfigures him. The material, making the face unrecognizable, appears to be of a crushing and suffocating nature, seems to have fallen out of the blue while blocking every view. A second, new face works its way through the material like constant dripping, fighting against the sluggish resistance.
The showroom is penetrated by the steady sound of the slide projector that shows images of the series “Warten auf Wunder” (Waiting for Miracles) on repeat. Through cell phone snapshots the artist captures moments in which, in a state of waiting, he is reduced to himself. Just like the slide that is only shown briefly, waiting is a state of transit that wants to go somewhere else and does not want to stay; at the same time, it gives a moment that is not labeled. Like the seams of the sculpture, in which the direction changes, waiting is the beginning and the end of a unit of meaning, a brief neutral point of the present, in which the past is being pondered on and the future is being planned.
In his newest works Feddersen extends the leitmotiv of the origin of identity and the exploring of the self. He comes closer without any formal rigor, and with a newfound naivety, consciously lets demands of intuition take charge of the modus operandi. Led by the immediacy of the moment and the haptic experience of the moldable material, the artist paraphrases the archaic, the unutterable, that what constitutes the core of one’s own person – with an open ending. The search still continues.
Text by Matthias Bauer
The installation dark matter, is already the fourth “sculptural system” on which Dennis Feddersen has been working. Once more, much as in his sculpture misfit, the young artist attempts a “destabilisation of the perceived spatial structure” (Feddersen) that is as calculated as it is open. In doing so, he has conceived his new piece as an indeterminate structure which is neither closed nor, ultimately, determined in its form. Rather, dark matter presents a kind of sketch which takes on different relations to each location as well as the viewer according to the sites at which it is realised.
But one step at a time: first of all, the artist bundles Styrofoam forms and cuttings together and sticks them together with construction foam. These elements are then coated with parts of black truck tarpaulin made of PVC. Finally, these seemingly “torn” sculptural forms are braced by means of black polyamide string – the material used for tennis rackets – into a sombre and tense constellation. The temporary constellation seems to flutter, as it were, in a paradoxical “motion in rest” (Paul Virilio) through space.
Thus dark matter succeeds in raising anew the question of localising sculpture today in the contradiction of open, even dynamic form and seemingly heavy, dark matter. It is precisely the openness of the work which allows for its further physical transformation, be it by pushing, turning or stretching, namely by refusing an unequivocal assignment in allegedly stable spatial order. This is the reason why the sculpture announces just the sort of sense of space which the French curator and author Nicolas Bourriaud has the formulated as the basis of a “radicant identity”: the subjective rootedness in the 21st century is characterised by “practices of transportability” which allow biographies to nest almost simultaneously at different locations and within different cultures. That is exactly what happens in the piece dark matter for its “destabilisation of the perceived spatial structure” leads to aesthetic transformations which are adequate with regard to the instability of previously firmly fixed (national) localisations.
Text by Raimar Stange
The exhibition juxtaposes new photographs by Ingo Mittelstaedt with a new group of sculptures by Dennis Feddersen. Feddersen explores the abstract idea of the archetype and lends it a subjective shape. In four artworks the Berlin sculptor addresses the eternally unattainable primal image, its anchoring in the unconscious and the changes it is subjected to by the consciousness that pervades it.
Feddersen‘s play with forms draws on the multitude of perspectives. A small head peeks from a metre-high vase while resting on the brittle collar of the vessel. It is a man with the appearance of an exhausted newborn. Next to this fragile place of tranquillity stands a column of unfired clay: a phallus traversed by a fissure. The construction almost threatens to break apart. A discourse on the original gender opens up here at the expense of the material.
The third sculpture demonstrates creation‘s victory over the archetype. A cylinder with a slightly dented wall counteracts the ideal of harmony and wholeness. This renders the Enso three-dimensional, the perfectly rounded circle of Japanese calligraphy. To practice it daily is supposed to bring strength and eventually satori as its production strives for the ideal and illustrates its unattainability at the same time.
The model of a bust, unfinished and raw, eventually approximates a personal archetype of the artist. Ghostly pale, as if scared of the world, it cowers on its vibrantly coloured pedestal. Like a last vestige of a self-portrait it manifests Bergson’s word of the “eternally uncreated” in a mutated form the expression of which remains constantly in motion and contradicts the rigid idea of a beginning and an ending.
In four sculptures Dennis Feddersen illustrates the sculptor‘s tragedy: materialisation will always remain an attempt, an insufficient copy of the primal idea. Yet only in this manner can he bring rudimentary elements of the archetype to the surface, which by expressing a collective past enable the present in the first place. The exhibition thus also addresses the Platonic sense of archetype as a “beginning” or an “arrival”: the artist fathoms his own origin, exposes its replica to the audience – and thus opens up a new reading in the now.
Unweit des Werks von Tea Mäkipää breitet sich die plastische I stallation von Dennis Feddersen aus. Während die Künstlerin mit ihrem mehrfarbigen, gegenständlichen Werk aus verschiedenen Materialien in die Höhe arbeitet, bewegt er sich mit seiner monochromen, abstrakten Installation aus schwarzem Wachs auf dem Boden. Bei allen formalen Gegensätzen gibt es inhaltliche Parallelen zwischen den Kunstwerken. Ja, Feddersens im Gras des Parks ausgebreitete, an hohle Halb kugeln er innernden Module sehen so aus, als habe der Künstler Mäkipääs Überlebenskonzept optisch dramatisieren wollen. Durch die Inszenierung gewinnt seine Population wie von selbst anthropomorphe Züge. Man glaubt, sie sei Opfer einer Natur katastrophe oder eines terroristischen Anschlags geworden. Dabei ist auffällig, dass im Zentrum, wo viele Figuren miteinander zusammenstanden, sie diesen Anschlag offensichtlich besser und unversehrter
überstanden haben als an der Peri pherie, wo sie ihn allein und vereinzelt auszuhalten hatten. Dort sind sie am stärksten
zerrissen, zerfetzt und zerstückelt worden. Einmal mehr stellt sich die Frage, ob man – in der Diktion von Albert Camus – das Leben besser solitaire (einsam) oder solidaire (gemeinsam) besteht. Der Künstler selbst versteht sein Werk eher im Sinne einer lebensnotwendigen Häutung. Im Überlebenskampf gilt es, immer wieder ein anderer zu werden und dabei die Form zu wechseln. Nach seiner Vorstellung zeigt seine Installation die wechselnden Stadien einer solchen Metamorphose.
Neue Kunst in alten Gärten, Hannover, Germany