The gallery PPC Philipp Pflug Contemporary (Frankfurt/Main, Germany) participated in this year’s Art Cologne art fair with a solo show with works by German artist Tina Kohlmann, curated by Mine Kaplangı. Tina Kohlmann is known for her oversized masks and humorous sculptures that combine real and mythological cultures from different parts of the world.
Tina Kohlmann / Art Cologne 2021, Collaborations section. November 17, 2021.
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What are we doing, if the object is gazing back at us? When it’s not effortlessly consumable by the observer but instead starring back from its artificial eye sockets? Surely, we know that this kind of gaze is a void. It’s generic, an illusion, devoid of any life, merely formalistically created through the artist’s hand. But still: the gazes seem to cross, subject and object appear to survey each other. In Tina Kohlmann’s work this “gaze” can come from many directions, originating from toy eyes on natural produce or the curved orbitals of a mask, mounted on a white wall.
The work of Kohlmann presents artefacts, ideas and stories collected from, or imagined by, real and mythological cultures from different parts of the world. Inspired by traces of shamanic practice she slowly crafts her very own mythologies through a semi-anthropological approach, mixed with a degree of pop cultural aesthetics. The resulting worlds are suspended between nature and culture, legend and fact, found and fictional objects. The works suggest functionality as ritual objects, yet they do not answer the question as to who might be using them, or the kind of ceremonies for which they are intended. A diverse oeuvre of artefacts, allusions to ethnology or craft are always part of the form through which the work’s metaphysical world can be accessed. With a multi-layered and comic way of imbuing objects with life and stories, the artist interweaves and reinterprets discourses on the profane and sacred, spiritual and esoteric.
Her work itself is the outcome of collaborations. So is the project for Art Cologne 2020, curated by Mine Kaplangı (1987) who is the co-founder of the curatorial collective, Collective Çukurcuma (Istanbul, London, San Francisco) and a freelance editor for contemporary art platforms like Sanat Dünyamız and Artfridge. She studied Philosophy at Istanbul University and Philosophy of Arts & Aesthetics at Bologna University.
With their collaboration both, Kohlmann and Kaplangı, strive for an observative, laboratory work experience for the viewer. The masquerade – especially the facemask – is deeply rooted within a tradition of performativity. Through wearing, the subject is capable of altering his or her identity, broadening the scope of action and, eventually, subversively entering and reinterpretating the predominant social norms. The body of the bearer gets thusly validated as a medium and carrier of meaning.
As an object “on its own”, only the idea of a practical use remains. The notion as subversive instrument. Interestingly though, this obvious lack of a subject seems to be enriching Kohlmann’s series of masks. Freed from a performative act, the objects form independent entities. They have titles like Ira Erastus Davenport, John King or Beteigeuze, which point to their worldly references. Precisely because of the dense referential setting, the masks are unbound from an immediate usage. They become testimonies of their independent history and, as such, resemble rather archaeological artefacts – secured from a long forgotten time, a distant future or a parallel universe all together. Therefore, it’s not astonishing when the observer feels as if being watched. When one can enter Kohlmann’s exhibition like a humorous, yet densely set up world. The works are not anonymous, but legion. The mask as product of artistic practice.