Cornelia Schleime at Deutsche Bank Luxembourg
She’s considered to be one of Germany’s most original artists—she’s even made a work of art out of her Stasi files. Now, Cornelia Schleime’s photographic self-portrayals are on show at Deutsche Bank Luxembourg as part of her exhibition "Haarige Gäste" (Hairy Guests).
||The focal point of the exhibition is Cornelia Schleime’s series Bis auf weitere gute Zusammenarbeit, Nr. 7284/85 (Until Further Cooperation, No. 7284/85) from 1993. The work is an ironic and trenchant reckoning with the political system that, as she describes it, disgusted her. Gaining access to the classified reports the East German secret police kept on her, Schleime felt as though they’d "stolen her past." The artist, who was born in 1952 in East Berlin, began to reenact the situations the files soberly describe: while the report reads that "Sch. appears to earn well in her profession" and "wears Western clothing," she luxuriates lasciviously in her bed with a phone to her ear. The work’s hyperbole, which drifts off into the absurd, portrays petty-bourgeois clichéd notions of the artistic bohemian life, but also sheds light on the deep wounds the ruthless surveillance also caused in her own personal circle. The 14-part series from the Deutsche Bank Collection is widely regarded as one of the most important artistic reckonings with the East German political system.
With more than 60 works on show, Haarige Gäste (Hairy Guests) traces the various phases in the life of a nonconformist for whom life and work are indissolubly intertwined. Schleime decided to become an artist at the age of 17 because it seemed like "the only path to self-determination." But it wasn’t until 1975, after training to be a hairdresser and a makeup artist, followed by an interlude as a horse groomer, that she was permitted to study art in Dresden, where she quickly joined the subculture and started singing in a punk band. After GDR officials banned her from exhibiting in 1981, Schleime left the GDR; she settled in West Berlin in 1984, where she began working with media imagery in response to the visual bombardment of the West.
On view at Deutsche Bank Luxembourg, along with numerous works from the corporate collection, are selected works on loan. The show mainly presents works on paper that reflect the process nature of Schleime’s artistic work particularly well—its state of flux and associative nature, her courage for constant change. "I try to find a parable for what I experience and feel. This doesn’t always work in every medium, and that’s why I have to switch back and forth," explained the artist in an interview with Herlinde Koelbl. "Often, I want to break out because I get bored very quickly. I have ants in my pants, basically."
Haarige Gäste illustrates that numerous motifs appear repeatedly in Schleime’s works, for instance defiant girls, animals, and fairy-tale creatures. In surreal-looking compositions, antlers transform into antennae, oversized braids become tentacles. Animals also appear in the overpainted photographs from the series Kenya (1992), which explores her impressions of a research trip to Africa. A look at her deeply personal work, which spans painting, drawing, poetry, novels, film, and photography, makes one thing clear: to this day, Schleime has remained true to the non-conformism of her early years.
Cornelia Schleime: Haarige Gäste (Hairy Guests)
4/19 – 6/29/2012
Deutsche Bank Luxembourg
2, Boulevard Konrad Adenauer
Cornelia Schleime: Die Farbe, der Körper, das Antlitz, die Augen (Color, the Body, the Face, the Eyes)
3/23 – 9/2/2012
Franz Gertsch Museum, Burgdorf (Switzerland)