GEOSPIRIT by CÉLINE STRUGER at SHE BAM! [20230114 to 20230218]

[Photos: DOTGAIN]

Céline Struger’s latest in situ work GEOSPIRIT was conceived especially for the space on the Spinnereigelände and is the Austrian artist’s first solo exhibition at Galerie She BAM! and also in Leipzig. The title GEOSPIRIT is borrowed from a passage of text in the publication Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts of the Anthropocene and is composed of the Greek word geo (earth) and the English spirit. Struger’s preference for the contemporary reception of antiquity is already evident in the title, which takes on a profound meaning when viewing the complex, detailed and opulent installation:

Two equally large, kidney-shaped water basins rest on the floor, each with 2.30m high gargoyles attached. The mannerist-symbolist gargoyles eloquently combine familiar cultural-historical motifs with contemporary industrial forms. The gargoyles are crowned by ominous heads: a gargoyle with a Janus head as a tricorn opens up three visual axes to the room. One face is still, one screams, the third sticks its tongue out along with the black water. The other spittoon head is a false cyclops; in the sculptural elaboration of the seemingly endlessly repeating eyes, Struger cautiously quotes Old Testament iconography. The mysteriously dark spectacle is complemented by casts and ceramics on the walls. Their fine workmanship shows Céline Struger’s inclination toward allegorical decoration and archaic formal language. The cast stone is polished to resemble marble. The artist brings ancient fossilised souls to life with her cast gargoyles. Despite the silence in the room, you can hear the grotesque mixed creatures cawing like sirens. The vengeful spirits are awake and angry, for they have been burdened, poisoned and exploited. Beautiful but fearsome harpies on the wall circle the action and take aim at the viewer. Sublime bird of prey claws illustrate the sharp warning. The earth spirits want to draw attention, to show the limits to the appropriation of nature and its resources, which has been increasing since industrialisation. In the contradictory use of graceful ancient symbols and arte povera, the artist makes clear the unwelcome connection between high culture and decay and hints at premonitions of the end times. How far will we go? Are we working single-mindedly towards our own demise? And how will nature react?

[Text: Sarah Jürgel, translation: Liam Floyd]

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