In the Space of the Beholder – Contemporary Sculpture at Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

Nine rooms in the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich,Germany are currently dedicated to 25 selected works by 20 international artists in the exhibit In the Space of the Beholder – Contemporary Sculpture. Slightly overshadowed at the moment by the success of Women, featuring the works of Picasso, Beckmann and de Kooning, In the Space of the Beholder, is nevertheless an impressive collection of work which has evolved over the 10 year history of the Pinakothek der Moderne.

The exhibition challenges traditional definitions of sculpture and blurs the lines and boundaries by including video, light and film installations as well as wall reliefs and assemblages. Furthermore the term sculpture, is stretched beyond the physical realm that the traditional three-dimensional sculpture occupies to include resonance space, meaning the viewer’s awareness of the object, his or her own movement, associations, memories and sounds perceived as part of the viewing experience.

The artists include found objects and unusual materials as well as readymade objects reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp, as Mark Manders does in Silent Factory, (2000) using shoes, books, pots and glassware. Some apply Joseph Beuys’ concept of the “social sculpture,” to their work by using the creative activity of non-artists as Roman Ondák does in Passage, (2004). Passage, features 500 miniature foil sculptures assembled on a white table. 500 Japanese steel workers were each given a bar of chocolate. After eating the chocolate they were asked to mould a sculpture from the silver foil wrapping, creating unique pieces such as a rose, swan, dragon, spoon, umbrella, spider or the Eiffel Tower.

Video installation is a dominant force in In the Space of the Beholder, incorporating not just a three dimensional object such as a TV or projector but also sound and moving visuals to create the afore mentioned “resonance space,” as in Franka Kassner’s Was Bleibt, (2005) which features a video projection of a young woman singing in a slim box with two sets of headphones to make the viewer hear the song the woman sings. In this case the viewer becomes more than just a silent observer of the art, the use of headphones and the sound experience involve the viewer more deeply with the art and the experience depends on additional factors such as language, as the understanding of the German lyrics alters the interpretation of the art.

Christian Jankowski ‘s video installation The Perfect Gallery, (2010) is a documentary presented in a small screening room. The video follows the artist and the interior designer of a popular British makeover show, making over London’s Pump House Gallery. The film documents the renovation process in a bid to create the perfect space to show contemporary art, thereby addressing the question on whether such a space exists. The gallery is then opened and the empty new gallery is show as the work of art, a sculpture.

The work by Elmgreen and Dragset points sculpture as seen in In the Space of the Beholder, towards the future, literally and conceptually. One of their untitled pieces consisting of traces left on the wall after detaching and conserving the first layer of wall color of the Pinakothek der Moderne, is a work of art in progress. The production process seen so far is step one in a new work which started in 2012 and is yet to be finished. In the meantime the markings on the wall are a sculpture within the museum, revealing the history and a slice of architecture of the building and changing the definition of sculpture, art and space even further.

In the Space of the Beholder: Contemporary Sculpture, 02-03-2012 until 30-09-2012, Pinakothek der Moderne, Barer Strafle 40, 80333, Munich.

1. Mark Manders, Silent Factory (2000)
Photo: Sibylle Forster. Copyright Mark Manders
2. Roman Ondák, Passage (2004)
Photo: Haydar Koyupinar. Copyright Roman Ondák
3. Thomas Steffl, Stills from Naked Nation (2009)
Copyright Thomas Steffl
4. Florian Slotawa, Hotel Nußbaumer, Brennerpaß, Room 5, during the night of 5 January 1999
Copyright VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012
5. Florian Slotawa Hotelarbeiten (1998-1999)
Photo: Nicole Wilhelms. Copyright VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

Text: Heike Wollenweber