VERITAS VERMIBUS by EMMA ADLER at CAPRII by SIES + HÖKE [from 20240308 to 20240405]

[Photos: Tino Kukulies +  Nina Weimer] [Courtesy the artist; MARTINETZ, Köln; Caprii by Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf]

Worms are masters of camouflage.
They often live covertly—underground, inside humans—and oscillate in their natural function between benefit and detriment. In the exhibition Veritas Vermibus, they act as a key to the truth.

Seemingly discarded and yet shimmering with promise, an overturned gaming chair—a recurring element of the artist's work—lies on a dark pile of sand. The scene exudes an apocalyptic atmosphere and, thanks to the unmistakable design of the furniture, refers directly to the possible worlds of the digital, while at the same time a mysterious narrative unfolds through the pure setting.

At the core of German conceptual artist Emma Adler's work is the progressive interweaving of virtual and physical reality, the boundaries between which appear increasingly irrelevant. The newly discovered digital domain for, in particular, political indoctrination is spreading almost unchecked into the minds of people, often generating concrete action in the real world. The gaming chair symbolically becomes a pulpit from which a radical world view is preached, from the homely living room into the infinite expanse of the internet.

The increasing tendency to postulate a subjective truth without any proof of the claims it contains has become socially acceptable, at the very latest since the popular term "fake news" was coined. In this vein, Emma Adler draws from AI-generated images of various Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD) campaigns, whose obvious errors—for example in the form of a hand with six fingers—do not seem to bother the creators any further. Rather, the slogan Mut zur Wahrheit (Courage to tell the truth) is advertised. What could initially be considered satire serves as a serious means of opinion formation. The artist takes these miscalculated "glitches" from campaigns and transforms them into devotional images. Adler plays with borrowings from Catholicism and forms the motif of a six-limbed hand etched on steel, set in a frame with cross-shaped cut-outs. In its staggered arrangement and open-bottomed frame, the work is reminiscent of altar niche architecture. Does the hand appear as an idolatrous image of an inexplicable miracle or as a relic? Immediately below the hand, the letters Die Wahrheit (The Truth) are emblazoned in clumsy handwriting. Adler evokes a pseudo-religious motif that withstands the first fleeting glance and deliberately leaves critical reflection to the recipient. This is rewarded by the artist, as the cut-out crosses reveal themselves to be a four-person urinal from an aerial perspective and the spiritual authorship of the image is placed in the vicinity of human excrement.

The Truth lies here…

The artist elaborates further on the conundrum of the physical and the digital in the spatial installation for the Caprii exhibition space. Inspired by Emma Adler’s recently completed three-part series of works (2020–2023), in which she explores the connection between conspiratorial concepts, the pandemic and populism, her multimedia work can be understood as a symbolic burial of truth. On a screen in the room, giant worms crawl over a gaming chair that lies overturned and abandoned on a pile of sand. Somewhere between disgust and fascination, the visitors watch these invertebrate bodies as they slowly squirm over the chair and burrow into the sand. An aura of abandonment and decomposition surrounds the scene, although it remains aseptic and distanced due to the glossy protective layer of the screen. Only a moment later, visitors are confronted with a mirror-like scene—the mound of a real sand hill with a gaming chair tilted to its side. But instead of teeming worms, in the distance stands a cross bearing the inscription The Truth lies here. Adler vividly visualises the symbiosis of digital and physical, in which the worms become the key to truth. They appear as the sole distinguishing feature between the two dimensions. While they are tiny in the physical world, they mutate into invasive giants in the digital world. This play on their size subtly refers to the veracity of the content and messages of self-proclaimed 'preachers', which are ascribed to them by people—VERITAS VERMIBUS.

[Text: Nadia Ismail]

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