Upcoming exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York: Gehard Demetz: Threshold Space.
Images courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery.
An excerpt from Gehard Demetz conversation with Luigi Fassi via Gehard Demetz.com.
LF: Looking at your work, the famous episode of Elias Canetti’s childhood came to mind, which he mentions in his autobiography (Die Gerettete Zunge). In that book Canetti describes all the suffering and psychological malaise he felt because of having to learn German in a few weeks, with his mother’s teaching methods, which were so severe as to seem almost cruel. It seems to me that your adolescents evoke this atmosphere of suffering and impotence, translating it into absolute rebellion, or at least absence of appeasement.
GD: My subjects transmit the awareness of becoming adults and thus losing, as Rudolf Steiner says, their ability to be able to “hear” their unconscious. They live with the burden of guilt transmitted from generation to generation, which doesn’t belong to them. They are children who feel sad about not being able to really be children, but who have, on the other hand, the possibility of choosing to become adults, totally independently, thus freeing themselves little by little of all the influences transmitted by their ancestors. They are witness to all the effort involved in the process of growth and development, which is achieved through individual will and concentration.
LF: Your sculptures in fact function according to a precise schism, between the infantile purity of a child and the responsibility of those who have become adults and therefore able to do evil knowingly. Modern German philosophy defined theodicy the serious problem of how to justify the existence of God against the omnipresence of evil. Your sculptures seem to question the origins of evil, through a disquiet that is evoked in their posture, in their facial expressions and in their movements.
GD: Yes! Children ask themselves about the origin of evil and certain behaviours, and they are aware they will lose their instinctive perception as they become adults. However, they know they will also acquire the ability to control their own reality. I feel that when Bois Groys said “we are a museum of geniuses”, this can be applied to children of no more than 8 years of age. This is why I am particularly attracted by the fertility of human beings during infancy, when their character has not been defined and everything seems fluid and possible.