October 17, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Curator: Meskerem Assegued
Text by Meskerem Assegued
Inside the late baroque-style Zwinger Palace is the Old Masters Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) in the Semperbau. The walls of the gallery are covered from floor to ceiling in renaissance and baroque paintings with rich, deep colors, intensified light and dark shadows. The thick, decoratively carved frames of the paintings are graceful while giving a sense of imposition.
Baroque art bloomed during a period of religious tension and division between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. It was the Catholic Church that encouraged artists to paint realistic compositions of biblical stories. These were meant to visually educate the illiterate masses and increase church membership. Among these paintings are those in which artists expressed their individual interpretations of biblical stories, ancient mythologies and their sociopolitical and socioeconomic state.
Not far from the Zwinger Palace is the Albertinum, a renaissance revival building in which the New Masters Gallery (Galerie Neue Meister) resides. Here, some of the finest art pieces represent the progression of European art history from romanticism to the most current art. The paintings are set in simple frames (if they are framed at all), and are hung at eye level in a single row. Sculptures and installations occupy some of the open spaces. Unlike the clustered display of the Old Masters Gallery, the New Masters Gallery reflects the curatorial style of our time.
Art as propaganda has been seen throughout the history of art. Repeated artistic representation of the religious stories of ancient Egypt, India, China and North and central America all demonstrate this trend. What is most fascinating is that artists in these contexts have always found ways to either covertly or openly express their own points of view through their commissioned pieces. This clever creative subversion is just as present in the pieces seen here.
Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that a body remains at rest or in motion with constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force. This principle seems to apply to the progression of Western art. The external force may be a governing or religious entity asserting its ideology over the creative impulses of an artistic movement. These can be thought of as concentrations of power that cause the direction of art to bend from discrete entities having a distinct effect on artistic progress.
Despite this apparent linear motion, art history appears to go through cycles. In Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, the mass of the sun distorts or curves space-time causing the earth’s linear path to bend into the orbital rotation we see. If we think of oppression as a mass that distorts the direction of art, then the path of artistry is curved by oppression. Whether sociopolitical or religious in nature, it is the overall mass of oppression that keeps art in this cycle or orbit. The idea that the mere presence of something could cause time and space to curve is as unsettling as it is encouraging. The name of the exhibition stems from this idea.
The exhibition is thematic, based on historical research of European artists who resisted oppressive artistic movements and covertly expressed their individual observations in their work. Selected paintings and sculptures of human activity depicted by artists from 1498 to 1914 are retold by three contemporary video artists, using modern technology to bring these ideas to the present.
Many of the pieces at the Zwinger and Albertinum galleries have fascinating stories behind them. Weaving an entire narrative into a single frame of color and shape is an incredible skill. What would those artists have thought of if they had the means to put those stories into motion? I decided to see how different video artists would be able to take these pieces to the next level.
The video artists of Curvature of Events come from different backgrounds and live in different cities. Choosing from a pool of sixty pieces, they each created eight videos inspired by the artwork. The artists never met during the selection or video-making processes, and they did not know what the other artists selected.
The contemporary video artists for this exhibition are Gunter Deller (1963 in Wasserlos), Barbara Lubich (1977 in Trento, Italien) and Abel Tilahun (1983 in Ethiopia)
Meskerem Assegued was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the height of an Ethiopian renaissance. Under Emperor Haile Selassie, the country had developed a focus on industry and education. When she was a teenager, the emperor was overthrown, bringing the country into a new phase of socialism and military rule. It was a time of fear and uncertainty. Teenagers suspected of instigating a revolution became subjects of brutality. After high school, her parents managed to send her to the US where she attended college, married and had two children. While Meskerem Assegued was still in the US, Ethiopia underwent another revolution and the current government took over. She soon returned to Ethiopia with her family.
Literature, music and visual art have always been a major part of her life. Art stimulates the senses, breaks language barriers and explores the boundaries of time and space. At the same time, art and its interpretation are necessarily subjective. Meskerem perceives art not only through her senses but through her memories and experiences.
As a curator, she sees herself as a storyteller. There is a beginning, middle and an end to all her exhibitions. She also believes in collaboration. Meskerem Assegued curates based on ideas developed through discussions and close working relationships with the artists. From the moment she began sharing her thoughts for exhibition to Katharina von Ruckteschell and Hartwig Fischer, they understood the concept and gave the green light. This trust was the greatest motivation behind all the effort she put into coordinating this exhibition.