We are very happy to present you with the first issue of re:visions.
re:visions is a journal for transdisciplinary texts on art and visual culture of the 20th and 21st century, which is published in the German and English languages. We endeavor to enable debates on contemporary issues in art history and adjacent disciplines by engaging young scholars and art practitioners. Run primarily as a forum for graduate students, we aim to bridge a gap between cultural and academic institutions.
Our inaugural issue, which is devoted to the theme of Liminal Spaces, explores the complex concept of in-betweenness, examining various forms of thresholds and modes of implication within the field of modern and contemporary art practice. This topic is very fitting to our current situation, as we all lived locked into a precarious state of in-betweenness. Life before the pandemic seems to slowly but surely disappear in the rearview mirror, while the ‘after’ is yet to be determined. Caught in this liminal state, we are confronted with many uncertainties and worries, but, perhaps, this situation gives rise to new potentials and possibilities as well. Liminality is a concept introduced into ethnological and anthropological discourse in 1909 by Arnold van Gennep and then taken up again by Victor Turner in the 1960s to describe the transitional experience of crossing a margin (Latin limen) in the context of rituals. But rather than limiting ourselves to its processual and ritual-based definition, we are interested in its manifestations within the field of art practice and visual culture at large. Within this framework, as this issue demonstrates, the concept can assume diverse spatial structures and medial forms.
Anna Kipke and Congle Fu’s essays discover the liminal through moving image works by Rachel Rose and Wu Tsang. Fu focuses on Wu Tsang’s use of two-channel video projections, soft montage and the spaces created within and between these images and their audience. Kipke takes Rachel Rose’s film Wil-o-Wisp as a starting point to examine the shunned outsider role of magic in truth-based regimes in the 17th century. Whereas Kipke locates the liminal through readings of Michel Foucault and Silvia Federici as a practice resistant to mere reason that would be precluded in modernity, Fu uses a media theoretical approach to demonstrate how disparate screens, images, and narratives become connected as a consequence of Tsang’s collaborative practice and the spaces where her overlapping projections meet.
How bodies may be affected by liminal spaces on a personal or societal level becomes palpable in the contributions of Josefin Granetoft, Imke Gerhardt and Carolin von den Benken. A spatialization of the liminal that is very different to Tsang is found in Josefin Granetoft’s essay: Jonas Dahlberg’s memorial proposal Memory Wound takes shape as a physical border, a gaping void visualizing the loss inflicted by the Utøya mass shooting. Albeit contested and ultimately unrealized, Granetoft explores how the violent monumentality of this unfinished project might have severed the Norwegian landscape, yet reconnects this national trauma to questions around preconceived and sometimes too comfortable notions of collective memory.
Circling around Joshua Hopping’s readymade sculpture Partial Heart, Imke Gerhardt presents a personal take on and against premature endings and conclusions. She argues that the potential to resist neo-liberal, control-driven categorizations lies exactly in the seemingly incomplete that refuses to adjust to the frameworks of a capitalist society. Just as Gerhardt was finishing her text, news reached her that Joshua Hopping died after a tragic accident, leaving his own unfinished story in this world. We hope to honor his memory with her text.
Bouncing between everyday observations, memories and repetitive moments of repose, artist Carolin von den Benken has shared with us a score navigating intimate forms of expression of, in and around her body and its relation towards another.
While Sophie Huguenin repeatedly had to take a step back from Monika Baer’s paintings this past summer at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, she detected a peripheral paradigm in her oeuvre. Looking closely at her two most recent painting series, but also her older works, Huguenin grapples with what she phrases as ambivalent moments of tipping and swaying. In oscillating between different modes of painting, perception and medium, these works manifest ephemeral qualities that aim at continuously fathoming the limits of painted images.
Ananda Siml’s interview with art historian Eugen Blume deals with the changed perception of work and time during the pandemic. They invite us to rethink productivity and the fluctuating value of transformation by using the example of John Knight’s installation The Right to be Lazy, an unkempt green area in front of Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof.
Finally, the reviews in this issue by Hanna Steinert, Sebastián Eduardo Dávila, Franciska JC Schmitt and Josefin Granetoft were not conceived as being tied to the theme of the issue but they nonetheless each connect back to it in their own way.
We feel particularly fortunate about the opportunity to work with Berlin-based artist Julia Lübbecke. Our cover is a design by Julia Grüßing and Jérémy Landes in collaboration with Lübbecke. In addition, this issue includes a portrait of the artist by Laura Seidel, which lets us in on the artistic practice behind Lübbecke’s intricate works that are informed by her notion of the ‘subjective archive,’ a translation of various sources into the visual. With a queer-feminist approach, Lübbecke scrutinizes the assumption of any objective archive, which is ultimately always built on exclusion, as well as her own position as a white female artist.
When we first started thinking about this project, we could not have imagined the year ahead of us. By the time we started meeting as a team in May, our whole lives had already been turned upside down by COVID-19. Undertaking a project like this in the middle of a raging pandemic with no clear end in sight might seem crazy – and indeed, it was.
However, our editorial team has proven to be amazingly resilient and patient and it would not have been possible to do this without them. We would like to express our thanks to every one of them for the discussions we had, the ideas they brought to the table and the perseverance they have shown through all of this. Special thanks go to Julia Grüßing and Jérémy Landes, who did an invaluable job not only designing the cover of this issue, but also developing our website. We would also like to thank Eric de Bruyn, who sparked the idea for a journal run by graduate students and has been a tremendous help throughout the process. We had the possibility to start thinking about and forming this journal in the M.A. course Contemporary Art in Berlin held by Eric de Bruyn during the summer semester. The discussions in and contributions from this course have been very valuable and helpful in figuring out what re:visions should be. It is and will remain a constant work in progress. A place for young scholars to find their voice(s) and make themselves heard.
So for now, we invite you to dive into Liminal Spaces with us and hope you enjoy reading this first issue of re:visions.