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06 Oct 2015

Mathilde ter Heijne at Rotwand, Zurich

Installation view, Rotwand, Zurich, 2015
Photo credit: Ueli Alder

Mathilde ter Heijne - Ontology of The In-Between


August 27 - October 10, 2015 Opening hours: Wed-Fri 2-6pm, Sat 11am-4pm or by appointment

Sabina Kohler & Bettina Meier-Bickel
+41 (0)44 240 30 55
+41 (0)44 240 30 56

Rotwand / Sabina Kohler & Bettina Meier-Bickel
Lutherstrasse 34
8004 Zurich

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The work of Dutch artist Mathilde ter Heijne (*1969 Strasbourg, lives and works in Berlin) addresses gender-specific phenomena from different cultures and eras. By investigating the sociocultural, political, and economic origins surrounding contemporary and historic gender discourses, the artist sets out to broaden perceptions aiming for a queering and hybridization of identity. Through her work, ter Heijne questions how pre-existing social structures can be altered through a more complex understanding of woman. For her, woman is a multivalent process of becoming rather than simply a negative formation.
Mathilde ter Heijne works with various artistic media, including installation, sculpture, video, performance, and photography, and draws on elements from literature, film, and science in her practice. She is internationally acclaimed for her artistic oeuvre, and she has presented solo exhibitions at the Museum für Neue Kunst in Freiburg i. B., the Lentos Kunstmuseum in Linz, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, the Goetz Collection in Munich, and the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich.

In the series Experimental Archeology: Ontology of The In-Between Mathilde ter Heijne deconstructs given and accepted gender signifiers across the fields of literature, art, and mythology where gender has often been coded into simple binary limits. Thus, her sculptural works perform a reordering of these given realities in order to construct something resembling a fictional in-between space where identity can approach a fluid state.

The installation at Rotwand begins with sculptural forms resembling prehistoric finds—artifacts from the Stone Age that are up to 40,000 years old—which the artist has translated into contemporary objects. She has based these contemporary interpretations on smaller prehistoric originals that range between two and 20 centimeters in size. Thus the magnitude of the enlarged objects, often measuring up to three meters large, emphasizes her transcription of archaic sources into the present. These reconstructions are made out of clay and are fired in an open fire through a highly complex process that relies heavily upon ritual participation. The produced ceramic forms are created during a ceremonial full-moon ritual, in which the participants are closely linked to the sculptural outcome. All of the works shown involve cultural depictions of physicality, which show sexually charged characteristics, such as female and male genitals, broad hips, and breasts. At first glance, the figures seem to be clearly male or female, but then these gender identities begin to blur and ultimately dissolve completely. For example, the sculpture The Ontology of The In-Between; G., 2014 shows a long, stretched out figure with full breasts and a column-like body. The female-connoted figure could just as easily be interpreted as a male figure with scrota due to its phallus-like form. This blurring of form is meant to puzzle the viewer and provoke reflection. This work, like all the others in the exhibition, functions as a Trojan horse.

Overall, the sculptures negate binary logic such as true/false, nature/culture, subject/object, and male energy/female energy that have had deleterious affects upon construction and comprehension of gender. Through the use of extreme enlargement of figures that were originally only a few centimeters, ter Heijne sculptures overpower the viewer and allow them to be encapsulated by the figures. Furthermore, the reconstructed sculptures, which are sometimes as large as human scale, allow one to compare one's own body with these 'figures from primeval times.' The lighting and transport systems conceived by the artist form another reference to the present. The modern, altar-like cases pose a stark contrast to the 'prehistoric' clay sculptures and lend the works and additionally quizzical and magical expressive character.

Text Ladina Hurst
(Translation Laura Schleussner)