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OF AIR MATTRESSES, STRAW, AND OTHER WEAPONS by CORNELIA HERFURTNER at ALPHA NOVA & GALERIE FUTURA curated by KATHARINA KOCH and SYLVIA SADZINSKI [from 20230422 to 20230603]
[Photos: Ivonne Thein]
The exhibition Von Luftmatratzen, Stroh und anderen Waffen [Of air mattresses, straw, and other weapons] presents new works from Cornelia Herfurtner’s cycle of works Was ist eine Waffe? [What is a weapon?] (since 2020). The large-format wooden reliefs, reminiscent of protective shields, show still lifes of objects that were negotiated in the Federal Republic of Germany as so called “passive weapons” and, due to the spatial installation of the reliefs, oscillate between image and sculpture.
The starting point of the exhibition project is the restriction of the freedom of assembly through the introduction of the so-called “passive armament” in Germany. Paragraph 17a of the Assembly Act (VersG), introduced in 1985, makes it possible to criminalize protective clothing and everyday objects, which in civilian life serve to preserve physical integrity, as ‘passive weapons’ or ‘protective weapons’, when they are worn or carried at political open-air gatherings. Since 1985, court cases have tried items such as bicycle helmets, gloves, swimming goggles, baseball caps, clear plastic sheeting, and air mattresses as protective weapons. An attempt by the police to criminalize protesters for carrying straw at protests was rejected by courts in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Herfurtner’s wooden reliefs highlight the repressive nature and contextual arbitrariness of defining weapons in general and passive weaponry in particular. Who determines what a weapon is? What is protection and shield? And who defends what? The artist questions how violence is produced and simultaneously concealed in the democratic state and examines the power of interpretation over public space. A publication will be released at the end of the exhibition.
[Text: Katharina Koch and Sylvia Sadzinski]
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