Walk the Line
A Visual Journey at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle
her exhibition at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle Victoria Noorthoorn
dreams of floating images. She is convinced there is only one woman who
could realize this vision: Daniela Thomas!
||„You know,” Daniela Thomas says, stroking the armrest of her chair in the KunstHalle
café, “I’m from the theater originally.” But, she adds, for her and her
husband, the architect Felipe Tassara, it is quite natural to take on
all kinds of challenges, whether in theater, opera, film, or the visual
arts. “Installation took off in the 1920s and has conquered the world.
A whole universe has opened up, with more and more possibilities for
creating spaces and site-specific works. We’re like astronauts in this
universe,” she says. Thomas suddenly pauses, turns around, touches the
back of her chair, and, turning to Tassara, says: “It’s bad for a
restaurant, because you can’t hang your bag on it.”
You get a
sense that in her universe even the question of how you hang your bag
on a chair is interesting. Or the question of how you stand, walk, move
through an exhibition or through life. For Thomas, art is a sensual,
intellectual, and formal matter that cannot be pinned to certain
disciplines or media. The woman who modestly says that she and her
partner are “only workers from Brazil” is a legend in her home country.
Born in 1959 in Rio de Janeiro as the daughter of the popular
cartoonist “Ziraldo” Alves Pinto, she was surrounded by artists from childhood on. Thomas began her professional career in the 1980s as a stage designer for La MaMa Experimental Theater Company
in New York. Since then, she has designed the sets for more than eighty
operas and plays, working together with her husband on some of them. In
parallel, Thomas began writing screenplays and directing films in the
1990s. Her first film, Foreign Land, which she shot together with Walter Salles in 1995, is considered a milestone of new Brazilian cinema.
her career she has been involved in the visual arts, particularly
Brazilian Neoconcretismo, in which, in the 1960s, artists such as Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica
combined the geometric stringency of concrete art with the sensuous
enjoyment of play, subjectivity, and expressiveness. In addition, she
works in exhibition design, and since 2000 she and Tassara have made a
name for themselves in this field in Brazil, Europe, and Asia. Whether
designing a retrospective of Brazilian art in a building by Oscar Niemeyer at the São Paulo Biennial or creating a contemporary Japanese art show in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, the couple continually finds new ways of linking thematic productions and formal experiments.
Thomas and Tassara’s studio in São Paulo is their headquarters, success
has turned them into creative nomads. In Germany alone, they have been
working on two large projects in 2013. They designed the Brazilian Pavilion at the Frankfurt Book Fair and are in charge of the exhibition design for The Circle Walked Casually at the KunstHalle in Berlin. For this very special project, they are collaborating with the Argentinian curator Victoria Noorthoorn. The show is the first large-scale exhibition of international drawings from the Deutsche Bank Collection,
with around 130 masterpieces and rediscovered works from diverse
regions spanning more than a century. It is not only the wide variety
of artists and movements that poses a challenge. “The Circle Walked
Casually” is the first exhibition of a series in which the Deutsche
Bank Collection can be experienced in completely new ways. At regular
intervals, renowned international guest curators are invited to mount
thematic exhibitions with innovative formats that shed light on
hitherto undiscovered aspects of the collection.
Noorthoorn, who Thomas asked back in 2011 to stage Samuel Beckett’s one-act play Breath,
is striving to achieve a fantastic feat for this premiere: a seemingly
boundless space in which the artworks are suspended and visitors can
experience the two main features of drawing—surface and line—both
intellectually and physically, as though they are moving within the
empty whiteness of a sheet of paper.
That which is floating in this whiteness has weight. The works include classic modernist drawings by Vassily Kandinsky, Otto Dix, and Kurt Schwitters as well as drawings by artists from South America and Africa, including Marina De Caro, Laura Lima, and David Koloane. Heroes of postwar art — Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, and Lucian Freud — meet pathbreaking women artists from different generations: Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, and Kara Walker.
It was the short story Genealogy by the Uruguayan writer Felisberto Hernández (1902–1964) that inspired Noorthoorn to create The Circle Walked Casually.
In his short story Hernández ascribes inanimate objects a secret life.
In the story, a circle and a triangle fall in love and travel along a
horizontal line. This idea of an imaginary journey and the personal
relationship that develops between the abstract shapes characterize the
exhibition concept, which is completely devoid of chronology. In
keeping with Noorthoorn’s idea, the drawings should not be
functionalized or interpreted by the curator, but should speak to each
other, for themselves, and with the viewer. This trust in the power of
the image is analogous to Thomas’s trust in form.
universe that Thomas and Felipe Tassara are developing was inspired by
pioneering modernist exhibition experiments. One of these was the
show First Papers of Surrealism in New York in 1942, for which Marcel Duchamp
stretched thousands of yards of twine across the walls and the works
like a spider’s web, making it almost impossible to move in the space.
Another was architect Lina Bo Bardi’s installation for an exhibition at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo
in the 1950s. She mounted hundreds of paintings on freestanding glass
panes in the museum’s modernist lightflooded hall, arousing the
impression they were suspended at eye level.
Bardi arranged the works in a grid, the works suspended on virtually
invisible wires at the KunstHalle form an organic line that winds its
way through the space. The individual drawings form parts of an
associative narrative or conversation that continues from work to work.
Thomas’s design is surreal and at the same time very reduced. All of
the hall’s right angles are rounded off and, like the entire exhibition
architecture, are made to virtually disappear. Delicately balanced
scattered light makes the room almost shadowless. The works never touch
the wall; at most, they are suspended right in front of it, unsettling
our sense of distance and spatiality.
“If I could dream,”
Noorthoorn writes in the catalogue, “I'd dream of a show to be
experienced as if traveling through the mind of the creative subject.”
The focus of this journey is on the drawings themselves—on the artists’
visions, ideas, and utopias; on the existential issues that are dealt
with; on ephemerality, body, and transcendence. At the same time, the
correspondence between the drawings aims to make cross-references
apparent and to show how issues related to form and content are
continually transformed. “The exhibition functions like a kinetic
system,” says Thomas. “There is a narrative, there is a sense of
rhythm, there is a sense of pressure and then release.” Indeed, in some
places in the show visitors are confronted with meanders and curves in
which they are virtually surrounded by suspended works on paper.
in these places the drawings can only be viewed from an almost
oppressive proximity, a few steps further the impression of a panorama
is created. Coupled with the choreography of the drawings, this has a
filmic aspect. The viewer walks through different long pictorial
sequences interrupted by cuts, experiencing the works as close-ups or
long shots. But The Circle Walked Casually has yet another
quality. “The works are perceived to be physical objects,” says Thomas,
grinning. “At times when you’re walking through the hall you’ll feel
that these things are moving on wires. It’s really about the works in
the space, about an experience you’ll sense with your entire being,
with your body, your mind, your eyes.”
The Circle Walked Casually
11/28/2013 – 3/2/2014
Deutsche Bank KunstHalle