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I Know That I Can Double Myself

Gisèle Vienne and the Puppets of the Avant-Garde

13. September 2024 – 16. March 2025

1/2 Gisèle Vienne, L’Etang, 2020, Photo: Estelle Hanania
1/2 Hannah Höch, Die Puppe Balsamine, 1927, Remmert und Barth, ehem. Düsseldorf

The Georg Kolbe Museum is delighted to present the artistic work of the Austrian-French artist, choreographer and director Gisèle Vienne (*1976) for the first time in Berlin in fall 2024. This exhibition will take place as part of Berlin Art Week and is part of a joint project with Haus am Waldsee, where the artist will present a solo exhibition, and Sophiensælen where the piece “Crowd” will be shown on stage. In the exhibition at the Georg Kolbe Museum, Gisèle Vienne’s contemporary works enter into a transhistorical dialog with works by female artists of the European avant-garde. This encounter provides unique insights into the multifaceted use of puppets in art.

Over the past 25 years, Gisèle Vienne has created a complex and obstinate body of work that questions our patterns of perception and invents artistic languages to pave the way for structural social change. Vienne’s creations, both on stage and in her visual practice, are developed together with dancers and actresses and are often animated by anthropomorphic figures and puppets to explore the sensuality, anger and creativity of countercultures in all their subversive potential. Vienne works predominantly on stage, where she expands her practice by incorporating life-size puppets, mainly representing young people. Her puppets, situated in the realm of figurative sculpture, unfold a political dimension in relation to the body as a place of questioning culturally and socially constructed patterns of perception. By staging the longings and fears of a crisis-ridden youth, the feelings of her protagonists are recognized in all their political and social aspects.

Based on a centrally presented group of works by Vienne, the exhibition shows female artists of the avant-garde who used puppets (marionettes, hand puppets) in their work or enacted them through poses, costumes or stage movements. These artists were active in the interwar period in various artistic centers such as Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Paris, Zurich, Prague, Krakow and Kiev. The exhibited artists include well-known names such as Claude Cahun, Hannah Höch, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Emmy Hennings as well as lesser-known artists such as Hermine Moos, Maria Jarema and Milada Marešová. For female artists in search of new freedoms and sources for the renewal of artistic language, the puppet theater offered an excellent space for interdisciplinary experimentation, as it opened up opportunities to work on the border between disciplines such as painting, sculpture, kinetic sculpture, dance and choreography. For the artists, the marionette became a new, full-fledged form of artistic expression with extraordinarily subversive potential for political and social criticism.

Artists:

Josephine Baker, Claude Cahun, Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster, Valeska Gert, Estelle Hanania, Emmy Hennings, Hannah Höch, Maria Jarema, Milada Marešová, Hermine Moos, Lotte Pritzel, Lotte Reiniger, Lavinia Schulz, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Marie Vassilieff, and Gisèle Vienne.

The exhibition opens on September 12, 2024 at the Georg Kolbe Museum. Haus am Waldsee will open its exhibition on September 11, 2024, and the film „Jerk“ by Gisèle Vienne will be shown at Sophiensælen on September 15, 2024, followed by an artist talk. The performances of „Crowd“ are scheduled for November 14, 15 and 16, 2024 at the Sophiensæle. The historical part of the exhibition at the Georg Kolbe Museum is curated by Joanna Kordjak (Zachęta National Gallery Warsaw).