This secret, underground camp has been established by the Nazi regime in 1943 to support production for the armaments industry. About 2000 female prisoners were stationed here and used as forced labour. The living conditions have been described as inhumane and horrible, and many women have died.
When I researched the history of this place, one small detail grabbed my attention: several combs or pieces of combs were found hidden here. Ex-prisoners who described the conditions, shared, that they were not allowed to have combs in these camps. Being found with a comb could be punished with death. The women secretly made their own combs out of leftovers from the production materials and these were shared amongst them. Unfortunately the self-made combs were not helpful against the fleas – the big problem in the unhealthy living conditions. One lady was able to smuggle in a fine comb and one had to pay half a ration of bread for the use of this comb.
This story of the combs made me aware that the women, despite all their suffering, still had the will to try and create ways to make their lives a little better. Through my art I wanted to restore some of their dignity and also commemorate their strength. It was also important that visitors could relate to these women as fellow human beings on a very personal level.
Therefore my eight life-sized female figures, which have been installed in small groups at different places in the forest, seem to dissolve on one side into the shape of a broken comb.
The women stand proud and strong, while at the same time they fade into the background and are only clearly visible from a certain angle. Making us aware that history can be forgotten quickly, if we make no effort to remember.
Visitors at the first public event – I love how the “historic women” stand silently amongst the guests:
Die wenigen Fundstücke, die direkt auf die Frauen deuten, bestehen aus Resten von Kämmen. Durch die Kämme, die eingeschmuggelt oder vor Ort heimlich aus Produktionsmaterial hergestellt und versteckt werden mussten, haben die Frauen sich ein klein wenig ihrer Würde zurückerobert.
Mit dem Kunstwerk möchte ich den Frauen symbolisch die Achtung zukommen lassen,die sie damals nicht bekamen. Mein Wunsch ist es ihnen ein positives Andenken zu setzen, an dem man aber auch das durchgemachte Leid erkennt.
Angelehnt an die Fundstücke der oft zerbrochenen Kämme, die sich heute im Regionalmuseum befinden, stellen meine abstrakten Frauensilhouetteneine Verbindung zwischen Frauenkörper und Kamm her.
Diese etwa lebensgroßen, abstrakten Silhouetten erinnern an einfach erkennbare, weibliche (Ur)Figuren. Sie sind wie ein Kamm flach gehalten. Die Auflösung der Figur in die Zähne der Kämme deutet auf die Vergänglichkeit, das Leid und auch unsere verblichene Erinnerung an diese Frauen und ihr Schicksal hin.
Als erste Installation die am Waldbau Gedenkort errichtet wird sollen die Silhouetten neugierig machen und auch schon auf die Geschichte des Ortes hindeuten.
Initially I felt overwhelmed by the rainforest and how unfamiliar this environment was to me. I spent the first day getting to know the forest and made small, quick artworks to introduce myself to the forest and ask its blessings for me to work there.
Small creative offerings to Banco forest:
Following is a short meditation which I have written in my sketchbook on the first day in the Banco forest:
“Introducing myself to the forest.
A desert girl coming from the cold. Feeling fragile and overwhelmed. It is noisy. My headache is slightly better. I think it is raining. I can hear it, but not feel it.
I feel a lot of pressure. And some loneliness…
I must trust that Banco will also introduce itself to me. Open up and invite me in. Share its secret and let me know why I have come here. Why are we brought together?
I feel a certain sadness. I don’t belong. But that should be obvious. This is a foreign place. Africa, but far away from home.
I am here. In the rainforest. The lungs of Abidjan. The heart of the rain.
I am here for a reason.
To bring a gift and to receive some. As a pioneer. As a creator. As an African and a German – I meet in the middle (of my two homes).
I am coming to the source of the rain. To learn, to understand, to transform and be transformed.
There is something the forest needs from me. That is why I am here. I am open to all I can be and listening and feeling into what needs to happen.
Desert. Contained. In a rainforest.
I witness. I create. I play. I move. I am moved. “
By the end of the day the forest invited me to this space and I knew this is where I should start. A few initial ideas were considered and offered to the forest, but then discarded, when I realised it is not what wants to happen there.
Working with no plan and with this kind of careful dialogue with the nature around me is exciting and yet always a challenge too. I am challenged to trust, to become quiet, to hush my ego and to ignore my inner critic (and she is a real tough one).
The dialogue happens on a soul-heart basis. I imagine a next step and then feel it in my body. Does it feel good? Is there a YES? Are there any other images coming up?
As soon as there is a yes-feeling, I start with that step. Even though I usually do not know where the road leads to or how the final artwork will look like. I have learned, that the idea, which I form in my mind, of how it should be, usually gets tumbled over pretty quickly. Unless I try to hold onto it, then the artwork does not flow along, but gets sticky, like stepping into old bubblegum.
All the time I had this idea to work with clay. Yet, that did not want to happen. At least for now. The idea of a circle felt good, so I mapped it out with some fallen branches. Then I found more branches and thought, ok, I can just as well add them.
Part of the benefits of the AGA was, that there were several art students who would assist us artists with our work. Having an assistant, especially an enthusiastic and hard-working student, who is curious, open and friendly is a real blessing. I still had no idea where this will be going. Silue, my assistant, wanted to know what he can do. After asking him to wait a few times, I realised that I needed to just give him some task. So I asked him to collect some more branches.
And I too collected some more branches and slowly this nest-like structure grew. As I worked on it, I realised that not only is it positioned between 2 large trees and enveloped by their roots, but also that there is a small tree at the entrance to the ‘nest’. I also realised that one of the large trees was in actual fact dead.
While I placed the branches along the circle, I saw the resemblance to life: we are born (small tree) then grow up (large tree) and then die (second large, dead tree) and that this cycle continuous endlessly. That is how it got its title.
As I finished, I also noticed that during the two days working, I started to feel more at home and at ease in the forest. It was as if the forest has invited me to consider it as a friendly home, by allowing me to create this nest-like structure and protective circle.
I heard it whisper to me “Now you have a home in the forest too. When you are mindful, you recognise that you are part of nature and therefore always safe and protected. Similarly nature needs you to help raise the awareness, that this, our all home, needs to be protected too.”
View more works created during the Abidjan Green Arts Biennale HERE.
Kreis des Lebens – den Regenwald kennenlernen
Am Anfang fühlte ich mich überwältigt von dem Regenwald und wie fremd ich mich in dieser Umgebung fühlte. Den ersten Tag verbrachte ich damit den Wald zu erkunden und ein paar, kleine, spontane Arbeiten zu erschaffen um mich dem Wald vorzustellen und um seinen Segen zu bitten, damit ich dort arbeiten kann.
An dem Tag entstand auch der folgende meditative Text, den ich in mein Skizzenbuch notierte:
„Mich dem Wald vorstellen.
Ein Wüstenmädchen das aus der Kälte kam. Fühle mich zerbrechlich und ein wenig überfordert. Es ist laut. Meine Kopfschmerzen sind etwas besser geworden. Ich glaube es regnet. Ich höre es, aber fühle es nicht.
I spüre einen großen Druck. Und etwas Einsamkeit…
Ich muss Banco vertrauen, das er/sie sich mir vorstellt. Sich mir öffnet und mich einläd. Seine/ihre Geheimnisse mit mir teilt und mir zeigt warum ich hier bin. Warum wurden wir zusammengeführt?
Ich verspüre eine gewisse Traurigkeit. Ich gehöre nicht hier her. Aber das ist ja offensichtlich. Dies ist ein fremder Ort. Afrika ja, aber sehr weit weg von Zuhause.
Ich bin hier. In dem Regenwald. Die Lungen von Abidjan. Das Herz des Regens.
Es gibt einen Grund warum ich hier bin.
Um mein Geschenk zu bringen und etwas zu erhalten. Als Pionier. Als Schöpferin. Als Afrikanerin und als Deutsche – wir treffen uns in der Mitte (von meinen beiden Heimaten).
Ich komme zu dem Ursprung des Regens. Zu lernen, zu verstehen, zu verwandeln und verwandelt zu werden.
Es gibt etwas das der Wald von mir braucht. Darum bin ich hier. Ich bin offen für alles was ich sein kann, höre und fühle was passieren soll.
Wüste. Eingegrenzt. In einem Regenwald.
Ich beobachte. Ich schöpfe. Ich spiele. Ich bewege. Ich werde bewegt.“
Am Ende des Tages hat der Wald mich zu diesem, einen Platz geführt und ich fühlte hier soll ich anfangen. Ich hatte ein paar erste Ideen, die ich dem Wald anbot. Aber sie wurden verworfen, sobald ich merkte, das sie nicht passten.
Es ist spannend und gleichzeitig eine Herausforderung so ungeplant zu arbeiten und mich dabei auf einen sensiblen Dialog mit der Natur zu verlassen. Ich bin angehalten zu vertrauen und still zu werden, meinem Ego und inneren Kritiker auf stumm zu schalten. Gar nicht so einfach.
Dieser Dialog findet auf einer Herz-Seelen Ebene statt. Ich stelle mir einen möglichen nächsten Schritt vor und spüre dann in mich hinein. Fühlt es sich gut an? Ist da ein JA? Kommen irgendwelche anderen Bilder hoch?
Sobald ich ein JA-Gefühl habe, fange ich mit der Umsetzung des nächsten Schrittes an. Meist habe ich aber keine Ahnung wohin er führt oder wie das finale Kunstwerk aussehen soll. Ich habe gelernt, die Idee, die ich selber davon habe, was passieren soll, meist sehr schnell übern Haufen geworfen wird. Es sei denn ich halte zu stark daran fest, dann will es nicht fließen und die Arbeit wird zäh, als sei man in ein altes Kaugummi getreten.
Die ganze Zeit meinte ich, ich solle mit Ton arbeiten. Aber das wollte nicht passieren. Immerhin vorerst nicht. Die Idee eines Kreises lockte mich, also fing ich an, mit heruntergefallenen Ästen einen Kreis auf den Boden zu legen. Ich fand noch mehr Äste und legte sie auch auf den Kreis.
Einer der Vorzüge der AGA war, das es einige Kunststudenten gab die uns geladenen Künstlern assistieren sollten. Es ist wirklich ein Segen, einen Assistent zu haben, noch dazu jemanden, der enthusiastisch, fleißig, neugierig und offen ist. Allerdings wusste ich immer noch nicht was genau ich machen sollte und Silue, mein Assistent, wollte natürlich gerne etwas tun. Nachdem ich ihn einige Male gesagt habe, er solle einfach noch warten, bekam ich ein schlechtes Gewissen. Ich musste ihm eine Aufgabe geben. Also bat ich ihn, mir erst einmal noch Äste zu suchen.
So entstand langsam ein nestähnlicher Kreis. Während ich immer mehr Äste einbaute, merkte ich, das der Kreis zwischen den Wurzeln zweier großen Bäumen war. Außerdem stand ein kleiner Baum am sich entwickelnden Eingang zu dem Kreis oder Nest. Und mir wurde klar, dass einer der großen, starken Bäume eigentlich tot war.
So wie die Wände des Kreises wuchsen, verstand ich die Verbindung zum Leben: wir werden geboren (kleiner Baum), wachsen auf (großer Baum) und irgendwann sterben wir (zweiter großer, toter Baum). Dieser Kreislauf wiederholt sich unendlich. So bekam die Arbeit ihren Titel: Kreis des Lebens.
Nach vollendeter Arbeit fiel mir noch etwas auf. Während den zwei Tagen, in denen diese Arbeit entstand, fühlte ich mich immer mehr zuhause und wohl in dem Wald. Es war, als ob der Wald mich eingeladen hat, ihn als ein freundliches Zuhause zu erkennen, indem er mich dazu anhielt diese nestartige Struktur und einen schützenden Kreis um mich zu bauen.
Es war, als wollte er mir sagen: „Nun bist du auch im Regenwald zuhause. Solange du Achtsam bist, erkennst du dich als Teil der Natur und bist sicher und beschützt. Genauso brauche auch ich deinen Schutz und Hilfe diese Botschaft mit anderen zu teilen.
Hier sind weitere meiner Arbeiten die während der Abidjan Green Art Biennale entstanden sind zu sehen.
The Seven Gates of the Rainsnake / Die sieben Tore der Regenschlange
Ephemeral Installation, approximately 10m long x 1,70m heigh. Bamboo, Sisal rope, branches, talcum powder and sunflower oil. / Vergängliche Installation, ungefähr 10m lang und 1,70m hoch, aus Bambus, Sisal, Äste, Talkum und Sonnenblumenöl.
(Deutsch weiter unten) This work was created during the last two days of the Abidjan Green Arts Biennale. The original idea was to create a work directly linked to the title of the AGA Biennale ‘DÉCHIFFRER LA FORÊT’ (Decipher the Forest) by creating mysterious signs or codes which seem to float on an almost invisible line. As I worked these signs slowly took on the idea of a mythological snake which protects the rainforest and the rain. Hence the title.
During the opening I introduced this work to the audience under blue sky. As everybody passed the rainsnake to continue to the next work, there was sudden and unexpected deep and long rumbling of a thunder. A few minutes later the rain started to pour down on us – just maybe the rainsnake wanted to remind us of her magical powers…
To see more works created by me during the AGA 2019 click HERE
(Deutsch) Diese Arbeit entstand an den letzten 2 Tagen. Ursprünglich hatte ich die Idee nach dem Titel der AGA Biennale ‘Entschlüsselung des Waldes’ eine Kode / geheimnisvolle Zeichen zur Entschlüsselung in den Wald zu setzten, die auf einer fast unsichtbaren Linie zu schweben scheinen. Während der Arbeit wurden diese Zeichen immer mehr zu einer Art mythologischen Schlange, die den Regenwald und den Regen beschützt.
Bei der Eröffnung war strahlend blauer Himmel, als ich dem Publikum diese Arbeit vorstellte. Als das Publikum dann an der Regenschlange zur nächsten Arbeit vorbei lief, donnerte es plötzlich tief und lang. Kurz darauf fing es an in Strömen zu regnen – als ob die Regenschlange uns vielleicht wirklich von ihrer Magie überzeugen wollte.
HIER gibt es weitere meiner Arbeiten zu sehen die bei der AGA 2019 entstanden sind.
A short video of the work with the original sounds from the forest
Recently I had the honour to take part in the first Abidjan Green Art Biennale. Only twelve international artists have been invited to participate in the two-week event in the Cote d’Ivoire, which took place between the 25th of November and the 10th of December.
The artists were invited to create new artworks in the Parc National du Banco, one of the last primary rainforest in the country. The works should raise awareness about the danger of deforestation and the necessity to protect the environment. Banco is unique, as it is a protected area of about 3500 hectare in the middle of the coastal city of Abidjan.
An exciting prerequisite of the AGA Biennale is, that the artists were only allowed to make use of materials, which they found on site to create their works. If they needed any additional material, it had to be natural and biodegradable. They were also not allowed to cut or damage any living trees to create their works.
As a multidisciplinary artist I am known for my artworks created in and with nature. Already in 2012 I have started to raise awareness about environmental issues in Namibia with my art project and exhibition ‘An Infinite Scream’, commenting on the dangers of the ever-increasing uranium mining and plans for marine phosphate extraction.
For the Abidjan Green Art Biennale I have produced four new artworks. One work is a huge nest made of branches, titled the Circle of Life. The second work is made of bamboo, branches, and a natural paint made of talcum powder and cooking oil, it is called ‘The Seven Gates of the Rainsnake’. While the third work, The Passage, is made with clay on a dead tree trunk. The fourth ‘Magical Rain Collector’ is a less obvious object made of Bamboo and local seeds – and used in a performance
The initiator of the AGA 2019, Jems Koko Bi, famous Ivorian sculptor, commented that the new artworks are a welcome and poetic tribute to the forest. All works are ephemeral and will sooner or later return to nature.
You can find an overview of my artworks created at the Abidjan Green Arts Biennale HERE.
Vor Kurzem hatte ich die Ehre an der ersten Abidjan Green Arts Biennale teilzunehmen, die zwischen dem 25. November und 10. Dezember in der der Elfenbeinküste stattfand.
Aus aller Welt wurden 12 Künstler ausgewählt, in einem geschützten Regenwald in Abidjan Kunstwerke zu produzieren. Diese Arbeiten sollen auf die Bedrohung der Regenwälder durch Abholzung und die Wichtigkeit des Umweltschutz aufmerksam machen. Der Parc National du Banco ist ein etwa 3500 Hektar großer, streng geschützter Urwald mitten in der Meteropole Abidjan. Hier wurden die Künstler kreativ.
Mir liegen solche Projekte sehr am Herzen und ich bin inzwischen ja auch schon bekannt dafür, dass ich mich mit meiner Naturkunst immer wieder gerne für den Schutz der Natur einsetzte. Gleich vier Arbeiten produzierte ich direkt vor Ort.
Die spannende Voraussetzung der AGA Biennale ist, das die Künstler nur Materialien die sie vor Ort finden oder natürliche, biologisch abbaubare Materialien in kleinen Mengen gebrauchen dürfen, um ihre Arbeiten zu produzieren. Ausserdem durften auch keine Bäume gefällt werden oder oder die natürliche Umgebung sonst irgendwie zerstört werden.
Der Initiator, Jems Koko Bi, ein international bekannter Bildhauer aus der Elfenbeinküste, nannte die entstandenen Werke eine poetische Bereicherung für den Wald. Alle Werke sind vergänglich und werden nach und nach wieder Teil der Umgebung werden.”
HIER findest du einen Überblick von meinen Arbeiten die bei der Abidjan Green Arts Biennale entstanden sind.
Visitors in my artwork ‘Circle of Life’: (from left) Jems Koko Bi – artist and initiator of the AGA Biennale, unknown, me, the Italian Ambassador H.E. Stefano Lo Savio, the Swiss Ambassador H.E. Anne Lugon-Moulin, artist Karin van der Molen, (not visible) the Spanish ambassador H.E. Ricardo López-Aranda Jagu, the Italian ambassador’s wife Valeria Lo Savio and artist Elena Redaelli)
Abidjan (AFP) Ephemeral carvings of international artists in the middle of the rainforest is the challenge of the first biennial Green Arts which has invested the Banco National Park in Abidjan.
“Deciphering the forest instead of clearing it.The idea is to create, while sensitizing to the protection of the environment,” says the artistic director of the event, the famous Ivorian sculptor Jems Koko Bi, who played with his relationships to attract fellow sculptors from all over the world for a 12-day residency: Senegal, Canada, South Korea, Namibia, Italy, the Netherlands … (…)
C& (Contemporary&) By Cédric Vincent, 18. December 2019
In Conversation with Illa Donwahi In just over ten years Illa Donwahi has transformed her family home in Abidjan into a space dedicated to an ambitious artistic, cultural, and educational project. With C& she talks about the launch of her artistic complex in the midst of Côte d’Ivoire’s political and social crisis in 2008. (…)
My talented husband, Steffen Holzkamp, has once again created a video to document my latest site-specific nature art installation. A big thank you also goes to Hans-Peter Wollmann, who has kindly provided us with his video material to use in combination with mine.
In this short video clip (1:49min) you can the ‘making-of’ and get an impression of the artwork itself.
But – it is still much better to experience it in person! If you can, please go and visit it.
I got so much wonderful feedback from the visitors while I was working there and even afterwards. All saying what a lovely surprise it was for them when they first noticed it on their walk through the forest. And then as they came closer and realised how long it was, how it was winding its way down the hill and crossing two paths, they got even more excited. It brought them so much joy, they said.
For those of you, who cannot go and visit the forest and my installation yourself, this video gives an impression, adding to the photographs in my previous post.
Enjoy! And do let me know in the comments what you think. I would appreciate it.
106 Red branches seemingly floating about half a meter above the ground. Flowing down the hill, winding its path through the forest. The total length is approximately 70m and the width varies between 1m and 4m.
The environment is comprised of energy and energy is always in motion. We can see many of these energy streams or sense them in one way or another. Many other such streams we are not as aware about, as we have unlearned to sense them. When we understand these energies better, we know how to flow with them or understand why crossing or opposing them might be more difficult.
When thinking or talking about nature, we often forget, that we are part of nature and we are nature too. We bring our own energy to the world, just by being who we are and doing what we do.
Usually I work in a very ephemeral way or I take my works away after I have documented them. This is the first time that I will leave a work in nature for an unknown period of time.
How will my energy and installation impact on its surroundings? And how will other energies of the forest react to it or interact with it? Will the wild pigs manoeuvre around it or destroy it or not even bother? What kind of energy will the visitors to the park bring to it?
Before I installed the work, I walked around the forest to find a suitable place. While I kept some necessary artistic criteria in my mind, I mostly looked for a place that felt right.
Once I had the right place I spent quiet time walking around, sitting, listening, noticing and feeling into the place, to know where the energy comes from and where it wants to flow.
There is a special fountain of energy at the beginning of the energy flow of my installation. It starts from a large beech tree, but the real fountain is only noticeable from close by and for visitors who are willing to look and listen a bit closer. There is a root hole in which there is a lot of life and activity. Mosquitoes are buzzing around in it, seemingly in a constant energetic flow. Because of this very strong natural concentration of energy I decided to start my installation from here. From the starting point or well, I used my senses to feel how the installations energy would best flow, and followed this intuitive path.
Water offering at the beginning
Mixing the water for the two points
Water offering at the end of the energy stream
After completion of the installation, I have been able to spent lots of time in and around it, to feel and understand the energy that was created. Once I was satisfied, I placed an offering of water at the origin of the flow and carried a second bowl down the ‘river’ to place it at its end. This way I hope to create even more of a flow and a connection throughout the installation.
I also believe that giving an offering to the forest and its spirits/energy/beings is a way of showing them (and myself) that I am aware and respectful of their existence as equal to mine. I chose water, as it emphasis the flow and also, as it is desperately needed during this very hot and dry time. While I was installing my work, I also realised that the red branches emphasise a warm, fiery energy. I felt a bit apprehensive about this, in a time where the danger of fire is a very real and everybody is on high alert. Water would symbolically cool down the fire energy – I hope.
The energy stream crosses two paths. Here the energy seemingly disappears into the ground and reappears on the other side, so that anybody can cross the stream easily and safely. I have connected the separate parts with a small water ceremony.
The Colour and Materials
I have used Signal Red spray paint for the beech branches, which make up my installation. I consciously choose a colour that symbolizes energy and which is very noticeable in the forest. Especially noticeable as something that was introduced by humans.
It was important to show that we are not separate from nature and everything we do is part of nature. There is only one nature, one energy. This installation is an attempt to better grasp this idea in its complexity and meaning.
Thin metal rods hold the branches up.
…but, is it Environmentally Friendly?
I have used graffiti spray paint from Montana, and doubt that it would be considered as really environmentally friendly. Once the work is starting to decompose, the organisers from the Waldkunstpfad will de-install it and dispose of it through the right channels.
I do hope that this artwork raises the question with everyone who sees it. While contemplating about the environmental friendliness of the paint, I hope we ask ourselves how environmentally friendly our own lives are? The plastic that our food is wrapped in, the cars we drive, the flights we take, the washing powder we use… Even the energy of negative thoughts we bring into this world.
Hopefully each of us is doing whatever we can to live more consciously and I do believe that making people happy through a beautiful artwork adds a lot of positive energy to the bigger equation.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this artwork! Do you have questions? Let me know in the comments below.
I am very excited that I have been invited to install a site-specific land art installation for this event. The large-scale installation which I will be creating is entitled ‘Energy’. I will post progress pictures on my Instagram account and here if I find the time.
From next week on I will be in Darmstadt and creating alongside a wonderful group of 23 artists from 9 countries.
I thought I let you know, just in case you are in or close to Darmstadt and want to come and say Hi.
There are a few official dates where you can learn more about my art:
Wednesday, 25th of July, 20h00 I will be speaking at the Wednesday Forum Artist Talks at the International Forest Art Centre. Ludwigshöhstr. 137
Tuesday, 31st July, 20h00 I will be giving a presentation about the ‘Creative Secrets of Rainmaking’ at the International Forest Art Centre. Ludwigshöhstr. 137
And the official opening of the 9th International Forest Path will take place on Saturday, the 11th August 2018 at 15h00 at the Ludwigshöhturm.
Hope to see you there. But you are also welcome to contact me to arrange to meet me in the forest while I am working. (between the 23rd of July and the 10th of August).
Click HERE for the full program and details (PDF in German).
I will also be revisiting some of my old works, which I have created in this forest in 2017 during the Global Nomadic Art Project Germany – Urban Nature Art.
Here is a list of the other artists who are participating and whom you might like to meet too:
431art– Torsten Grosch und Haike Rausch (Germany) Isabelle Aubry (France) Emanuelle Camacci / Fulvio D’Orazio (Italy) Rebecca Chesney (UK) Mark and Beth Cooley (US) Georg Dietzler (Germany) Kim Goodwin (South Africa) Joachim Jacob / Florian Schneider (Germany) Daniela di Maro (Italy) Anke Mellin (Germany) Imke Rust (Germany/Namibia) Noboyuko Suguhara (Japan) Kevin Sullivan(USA) Vera Thaens (Belgium) Stefanie Welk / Bianca Bischer (Germany) Susanne Resch / Christoph von Erffta (Germany) IMD Projekt Julia Mihaly, Stockhausen Konzert
(*a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration)
Finally I am back in Germany and need to catch up on so much news to share with you! So, without further ado, I jump in with news from the Ukraine: On the 28th of September (while I was busy creating land art in South Africa) my public sculpture project “Three Young Muses” has been unveiled in Dnipro City.
I was invited by the German Consulate of Donezk and Artsvit Gallery to create a public artwork as a gift to the city. It was a challenging project, due to several logistical, time, budget and planning constraints, but with such a great team working together it all was successfully completed in time for the German Weeks. The artwork was installed opposite of the Yavornytsky National Historical Museum.
Three Young Muses, Art project of Artsvit Gallery and German Consulate of Donezk. Artist: Imke Rust
The Three Young Muses have been installed here to create a direct visual and conceptual link to the ancient Baba figurines. They are three young, modern-day women who relax on the grass of the park and contemplate the future.
In dialog with the ancient Babas, these young Muses hope to inspire modern society to re-embrace the female wisdom and power in order to balance the male and female energies in society. They also remind us that our generations are responsible to consciously envision and co-create our future.
Unlike their ancient stone counterparts, the Three Young Muses are made out of ash wood. Their wooden nature is symbolic for life, growth and transformation. The wood’s vulnerability and semi-permanent nature also represents our fast-paced modern times and reminds us to live in the present moment, as reality changes faster than ever. By focussing on the Now we have the power to determine and shape the future according to our highest vision. If you would like to know more about my thoughts behind this work, I have added some at the bottom.
A short video documentation about the Three Young Muses Art Project Video: Serge Ostrianyn, With the kind permission of Artsvit Gallery
I would like to thank the German consul Mr Mössinger and the team of the German Consulate of Donezk, Ms Iryna Polikarchuk, Director of the Artsvit Gallery and her team and the City of Dnipro for this opportunity. Also thank you to Bazarenko Yuriy (Architect), Serge Ostrianyn (Video), Vita Popova (Photos), Nikita Shalenny (Studio space) and Liosha (Assistance).
Some pictures (click on images to see a larger view):
Imke Rust working on the Three Young Muses
Imke Rust with the Three Young Muses in the studio.
Installing the bases
Insatllation of the 3 figures
Still hidden from view.
German Consulate Mr and Mrs Mössinger and Iryna Polikarchuk, Director Artsvit Gallery
Ms Iryna Polikarchuk, Director Artsvit Gallery, giving a TV Interview with the Baba Figures in the background
The Three Young Muses
More Info regarding the background of the Three Young Muses (if you are interested in the nitty-gritty details 😉 ):
Cooperation / Together we are stronger.
They are a small group of three women, named: Love, Hope and Gratitude. I believe that these three qualities are essential to our peaceful future.
The three women are also symbolic of the three backgrounds coming together in the creation of the sculpture through a German- Namibian artist creating in the Ukraine. Together we are stronger and the more we understand that there are no differences between people, no matter where they come from or who they are, the easier we can co-exist and co-create a better future for all. Each lady is symbolical for one of the three countries connected here: Ukraine, Germany and Namibia.
The third dimension – we do things in threes so they will manifest in our physical realm.
It’s roots stem from the meaning of multiplicity. Creative power; growth. Three is a moving forward of energy, overcoming duality, expression, manifestation and synthesis. Three is the first number to which the meaning “all” was given. It is The Triad, being the number of the whole as it contains the beginning, a middle and an end.
The power of three is universal. Body, mind and soul. Birth, life and death. Heaven, earth and hell. Three is a complete cycle unto itself. It is past, present, future.
There are three wishes, and in many fairytales there are three sisters…
Past, Present and Future
The Babas look towards the Three Young Muses and put their hope and expectations into the young generation, especially the women, to get engaged and empowered to change our destiny.
The viewer, when passing the Three Young Muses on the park walkway, will be located between the past (Babas) and the future (Three Young Muses), and will become the link, the present moment, which shapes our future. I hope that we learn from the past, but look towards the future.
Size and Material
The Three Young Muses are created only slightly larger than real-life women. I hope this invites people to engage on eye-level with the artwork and ideas behind it. Possibly to sit between or around these figures and get inspired…
I believe that unlike older, monumental public sculptures, which create a distance to the viewer, contemporary art should be more interactive and accessible. The size and the vulnerable material highlight these ideas.
When faced with the obvious ‘weakness’ of the material, the responsibility to treat these figures with respect and care now lies with each member of the public. It will be interesting to see, if and how people ‘accept this challenge’ of openly displayed vulnerability. Will they be treated according to our inherent deep-seated values towards women, art or public property? Can we trust each other with our vulnerability? Do we let ourselves be inspired by their openness, confidence and soft strength that these Muses display?
The choice of wood (symbolism of the Ash tree):
According to different sources that I found on the Internet, Ash wood is a symbol of healing and especially transformation and empowerment in matters of destiny.
It is also considered to be “the key to healing the loneliness of the human spirit, forming a link between the gods, humans, and the dead in the spirit world. Ash holds the key to Universal Truth and Cosmic Wisdom, and it takes on the important role as a Tree of Initiation.”
Relation to and inspiration by the stone Babas:
The specific form in which the Three Young Muses were conceptualised has been inspired by the Baba figures, of which I have read:
“A widespread form of sculptures were steles of a simplified anthropomorphic type that were formed of flat right-angled stone plates. Their lower part was not worked as it was meant to be dug into the ground, though they had carefully shaped shoulders and heads with well-carved facial characteristics. …
…are Polovtsian (Cuman) stone babas. There are about two thousand of them left. They are usually found in groups of 2 – 3 statues on the highest parts of steppe – on the sanctuaries of the funeral cult of ancestors. Polovtsian statues symbolized their ancestors and were not directly connected with the burial ritual.
… At the end of the century a visible simplification of form took place when the back of the statue was not decorated, also the details of haircuts and costumes were missing on the front side.
69 Strands of (be)Longing, Fake and natural hair, branch and wire. Artwork created by Imke Rust at the ILAM, May 2016
In May I had been in Maastricht as an invited artist to the International Land Art Maastricht Symposium. I had shared some pictures from this wonderful event together with an invitation to come and see the results, but I have not had the time to tell you more about the artwork that I created there. So today I would like to share with you some thoughts and images, especially for those of you, who could not see the work in person.
Artists were asked to propose an artwork that they would create in the park of the Chateau Jerusalem. The theme of the symposium was ‘Connected’. We had five days to complete the work, which then was on exhibition for the following two weeks.
This is the concept, which I originally formulated for my plans:
“I am exploring the ‘Connected’ theme through a material that everybody connects to African women: long, black braided hair. Although they usually are made out of fake artificial material, they have come to represent a certain identity (African), but at the same time they are also an imitation of another identity (western, long, smooth hair). In so many ways they are connecting different worlds. To me they are also a strong metaphor for belonging and identity. Hair and braids can also be used as ropes to climb to another life (Rapunzel), and relate to the migration of refugees to Europe.
As a white African I am intrigued by working with this fake hair, as a form to express the duality and paradox of my own identity and belonging. The combination of synthetic and natural materials, illusions created and the process of braiding are additional aspects, which I want to explore.”
69 Strands of (be)Longing, Fake and natural hair, branch and wire. Artwork created by Imke Rust at the ILAM, May 2016
I had some vague ideas of how I wanted to proceed, but since I have not seen the park and have never worked in this material before, I decided to stay open and flexible and just trust the process.
When I arrived there and saw all the grand and impressive plans from the other artists, my heart sunk. Maybe my work was too timid, too small, too unspectacular? And what if it does not work out in any way I had imagined? I had no chance to try it out before, so either it worked or it would fail… What could I do, besides just start and hope for the best? I started and was flooded with even more doubts. Am I allowed, as a white woman to make art with this kind of hair, which usually is only used by black women? Could I even dream of braiding as neatly and perfectly as those hairdressers back home in Namibia do? Aren’t they the real artists who can make the most stunning patterns and styles for their customers? Who am I to now want to use this method and material to create my art?
Well, I had a lot of time to think, while I braided. And every time the doubts and insecurities became too strong, I heard the inner voice saying: Just trust the process.
I remembered that one of the reasons why I initially wanted to work with braiding, was the repetitive process itself. Somehow it is a process that is fairly easy, but demands just enough concentration and focus, that you have to stay in the here and now, but also leaves enough space for your mind to relax and wander off into thoughts that you usually are too busy for.
This work quickly became much more about that process and the inner dialogue that happened, than the final physical artwork. For five days I just sat there, under a beautiful tree, in the middle of the park and braided. I got to understand how this synthetic material reacted to humidity, dryness, wind and weather. How it sometimes could be so stubborn and putting up a real fight to get under control, and other times it just flowed through my fingers as if it was the most natural thing to happen. I became calm and looked forward to my work and every next strand.
My thoughts turned to my first memories of braiding. When I was a young girl, it was my father who braided my hair every day. And it was also he, who taught me how to braid. And I was so proud, that I even knew (from him) how to braid with more than 3 strands. While everybody looked at braiding as a typical female activity, I connected it to my father. And yet, it was my mother who had to go and buy the fake hair in Namibia (yes, these hairs were made in Namibia and sent all the way to Germany), so it was kind of a family effort that ensured I could sit in Maastricht in a park and braid ‘my’ hair.
Masculine and feminine… control and wildness… order and chaos… expectations and reality… appearance and authenticity… there were so many concepts that flowed into and through my being and into the braids (or did it flow out of them or the process?) while I was working.
…and more process
With every next strand I had another chance of flowing. The focus changing and shifting… With every movement I moved on, the strand started, got longer and longer, and then, suddenly it reached the end.
I made a rough knot into the strand to keep it from coming undone and originally thought I will melt the ends to make a neat and proper ending. After a few strands with wild and chaotic knotted ends, I noticed the beauty, the wildness and the dynamic of these endings, the contrast to the neat braids… and decided to leave them just like that.
Wild, knotted ends
Wild, knotted ends
Through folding thin strands of hair over each other again and again… the central aspect became more obvious for me. With every movement there was a longing. A longing to come to the end, but also a longing for so much more… To belong, to understand, to control, to find the balance, to find a (my) place … to just be.
Where do I belong? To my home country, where I am too white in the eyes of many? Or to Germany, where I appear (on the first outer impression) to rather belong, but where I am a stranger? Do I ‘belong’ to be more controlled, or more wild? To fit better into the pattern of society or do my ends just come loose anyway?
Click on the images below to see a larger view and read about some further details.
Close-up look of the glittering strands…
In the background you see a tall building, which used to be a prison. Now it is housing asylum seekers… another strong connection to my work. Longing for a better life… or Rapunzel, who braided her hair to have a way out of the tower she was held prisoner in.
Even the haning branch tries to belong to the tree, by immitating the shape and bend of the larger branch, to which it is connected through strong red wire.
I have braided my own hair (red) into the fake hair. Because, like always, this work is very much about me and my personal relation to the world around me. Even my personal hair is artificially dyed.
Braiding, braiding, braiding… in 5 days I managed to braid 69 long strands. I managed to contain my sadness in these braids, to reassess the world and my ideas about it and to learn that I can and should just trust the process. The process of an artwork, but also the process of life…
Life is like these strands. Every day you begin with a new one, a new chance. You do your best to get as far as possible. But in the end it does not matter how far you come and how many days you get. What matters is your experience and your insights, your joy, but also your struggles and what you have learned through them.
Trust the process…
Here is a video taking you around the final artwork. In the photos one aspect gets lost, and that is how alive this work seems. How it dances and moves in the wind. The video gives you a small impression of that.
I have been invited to participate in the International Land Art Maastricht 2016 Symposium along with 13 other artists from the Euregio.
For one week we are creating land art works in the park of the Chateau Jerusalem in Maastricht and we are having a lot of fun.
On Saturday (14th of May, 16:00) everybody is invited to view the results of this symposium at the official opening of the exhibition. If you are nearby I would love to see you and show you the works that have been created. More information in the flyer below. (Click on image to see a larger version).
Invitation ILAM 2016
And here you can see some images of the symposium and work in progress: (Please click on the images to see a larger view and descriptions)
Braiding my african fake hair and my own dyed hair together
Working in the green park, mediative braiding…
My work in progress
Imke Rust: work in progress
Uta and Marjo in the bushes
artists at work
Natahsa at work
Uta viewing my work
Urban at work
Barbara at work
Carla at work
Taking a break
artists at work
It has been raining and Barbara has become an african look-alike
Dinner – yummy
After the work…
Uta fishing in the lake
Emmy, Sjoerd at the presentations
Uta presenting her work
Mirijam and me at the presentations
Mirijam, Natasha, Emmy and Barbara at the presentations