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Gdańsk: Elmar Hess

November 24, 2017 - December 31, 2017

Elmar Hess Dear exhibition



A room is immersed in semi-darkness. In the center of the space, a woman is lying on a sparse metal platform, frantically shaking her head back and forth on a foam pillow. She seems absent, lost in her own world. Her manic, compulsive movements appear autistic; at the same time, they evoke associations to the motion of a pump or piston. A camera pointed at the woman’s head captures the action. The scene is surrounded by three large projection screens, suspended from the ceiling in a half-circle around the platform. Seen on these are close-up shots of radar screens, rotating on their axes in a continual, almost stoic-looking fashion. They feel gigantic relative to the woman in the foreground. A beat can be heard that seems to be in sync with the rotating screens. Then a song is played, a woman sings in a duet with a man:


“…You don’t see me from a distance, don’t look at my smile/ And think that I don’t know, what’s under and behind me/ I don’t want you to look at me and think that what’s within you is in me (…) Seemingly connected, not alone in the world/ Not separated from birth/ We go past and remain/ because everyone recognizes themselves in it…”


Gradually the music fades into a tranquil waltz. After awhile this communicates a feeling of being safe and protected, a kind of contentedness. The rotating of the radar screens seems more and more like a spinning dance motion, which also imparts something harmonic to the woman’s manic gestures. The entire time, the camera is recording the rhythmic movements of her head, transmitting it to a small monitor via a long, heavy cable, which is suspended from the ceiling at the entrance to the installation. In addition to the monitor, which at times also shows the woman’s face in close-up, the spectator has a view of the room. However, a barrier prevents the installation from being entered. The setting is perceived as a three-dimensional image, which, on the one hand, frames being alone as an aspect of privacy that is to be protected. On the other hand, the installation shows that protective elements can be abused; with their help privacy is exposed – the private becomes part of the public. And, vice-versa, the public becomes private, leading to a relativizing of the individual and the personal, or exposing supposed deviations from the norm.


Elmar Hess (b. 1966) creates primarily multi-room installations in which cinematic, sound-installative, and photographic elements are juxtaposed conceptually with societal themes. In the works, the pressures and constraints of the system give rise to interpersonal conflicts, in which Hess equates subjective circumstances with contemporary-historical events. He lives and works in Berlin and Hamburg. He studied art from 1989-95 at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart and at the Hamburg Academy of Fine Arts, and film from 1998 to 2000 at the University of Hamburg. Elmar Hess has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions including German Open at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Lost Paradise at Kunstraum Wien, and Man Son at Hamburger Kunsthalle, as well as recent solo exhibitions La Mère perdue at the European Kunstforum Berlin, and Einen Frieden Später at Kunsthalle Rostock. His filmic works have been screened at the Moscow International Film Festival, film festival in Oberhausen, and the documentary section of the Cannes Film Festival. Elmar Hess was a fellow at the German Academy Rome, Villa Massimo, and was awarded a grant from the Stiftung Kunstfonds.


November 24, 2017
December 31, 2017
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ul. Strajku Dokerów 5
Gdańsk, 80-544
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