• Begin: 2/28/2017
  • End: 4/22/2017
  • Opening: Mon, February 27, 2017, 7pm

Twenty-four Birdcages


Twenty-four monitors are arranged within the space, orchestrated on pedestals of different heights. And, in each case, a singing canary is photographed head-on inside a small, rather old-fashioned wooden cage. Because of the uniform shape of these weightless cages projected onto the surface area, their bars grid-like over the top of the moving images, and the unwavering choice of image cropping, it takes a second glance to realise we are not looking at simultaneous screenings of one and the same video; in fact, on each of the twenty-four monitors we see a different video, with its own soundtrack. A highly complex experimental setup that opens up a deliberately broad horizon of interpretation and compels the recipient to adopt an audiovisual approach, if only due to the symbolism of the number ‘twenty-four’ and the choice of canaries as a motif, birds which in Europe have been domesticated since the 15th century.

The reduction to black-and-white, the serial repetition of the monotone, tableau-like setting and the lattice-obscured view create a disconcerting, not to say intimidating arrangement while highlighting the symbolism of the depicted. The deceptive distance of this New Objectivity gaze serves merely as an analytical trail for uncovering conflicts, tensions, and contradictions. It is all about the perpetual conflict between stasis and flux, nature and civilisation, freedom and order, the individual and the masses. As in many of Gabriele Rothemann’s works the animal protagonists are merely stand-ins on the big stage of the human, the all too human. Even if each video features one specific canary, their individual scopes are extremely reduced, merely variations of a normative matrix. Even the birdcalls cancel one another out in the polyphonic Babylonian babble issuing forth from the twenty-four monitors, so much so that, ultimately, the colour, pose and song as essential individual characteristics of the canaries seem extinguished. The Twenty-four Birdcages are to be read like an Orwellian parable of the globalised present and, like that parable, personify both a profound analysis and a contradiction. Artistically, the installation excels in combining a New Objectivity aesthetic with aspects of Minimal Art, in both the serial repetition and space-shaping staging; it also emphatically engages the spectator.

Sebastian Schütze

Trennstreifen hell 6px 650b

Image Gallery