Ulrike Grossarth: Retrospective

Ulrike Grossarth: Retrospective

Generali Foundation

Ulrike Grossarth, Bau I (detail), 1989–2000. © Generali Foundation. Photo: Werner Maschmann.

January 24, 2014

Were I made of matter,
I would color 
Ulrike Grossarth: Retrospective

January 24–June 29, 2014

Generali Foundation
Wiedner Hauptstraße 15
1040 Vienna
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday and public holidays 11am–6pm, 
Thursday 11am–8pm

T +43 1 504 98 80
foundation [​at​] generali.at


The most comprehensive retrospective to date of the work of Ulrike Grossarth is the first exhibition to trace the evolution of her art through all major divisions of her oeuvre, drawing out connections between her early years as a dancer in the 1970s and 1980s, her sculptural settings and actions, and her most recent work, which touches on issues in the history of ideas and history more generally.

“Making works of art is of secondary importance to me—what I’m interested in is creating radical and vivid spaces for thinking, spaces people can actually experience and use,” Ulrike Grossarth describes her artistic approach. BAU I (1989–2000), a complex of works that is central to her entire creative oeuvre, is an experimental ensemble addressing issues of “unmoved object-bodies” created over a period of more than ten years that has been presented in a wide variety of constellations and will be the point of departure for this exhibition. As an attempt to visualize changed spaces of thought and action, BAU I bridges Grossarth’s early work, which is informed by Fluxus, punk, and the attempt to come to terms with the postwar era, and her later art with its focus on Eastern Europe. In the so-called “Lublin projects” (since 2006)—Szeroka 28, Fabrics from Lublin/Bławatne z Lublina, running Lubartowska, and the most recent complex of works, SYMBOL gotowe/Subject Aggregates—the artist seeks to reanimate lost cultural traditions. Of particular significance in these works is the artist’s engagement with phenomena of Jewish mysticism and especially with the motif of the Shekhinah, a complex and potentially integrative figure whose activation poses a challenge to Occidental thought.

Hannah Arendt’s book The Human Condition (1958), in which human life is described as defined by “three fundamental human activities” of labor, work, and action, is a central reference for Ulrike Grossarth. Action, Arendt argues, is the “actual underlying human capacity” that is “irreversible” and “engenders forces without precedent in the household of nature.” Grossarth has applied this concept of action to her own artistic practice and developed a method of empirical research based on what she calls public exercises. The artist regards these studies—the most recent ones were conceived as travel projects (Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Czech Republic, Ukraine)—as “series of exercises in how to overcome rigidified cultural modules.” To use the words of Arendt, this “new science” cannot be of merely “theoretical capacity” and then be applied to selected examples from the world of bodily existence; it arises from an action that, aware of its entanglements and the conditions that sustain it, sets sequences of events in motion “whose outcome is uncertain and unpredictable.”

Ulrike Grossarth was born in Oberhausen, Germany, in 1952 and lives and works in Dresden and Berlin. She studied Artistic Dance at the Else-Lang-Schule, Cologne (1969–72), and at Folkwang University (1972–74). In 1974 and 1975, she attended the Palucca Hochschule für Tanz Dresden. In 1980, she set up the Essen branch of the Free International University initiated by Joseph Beuys. Grossarth has been professor of Expanded Concepts of Art / Mixed Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts Dresden since 1998. In 2009, she received the Käthe Kollwitz Award of the Berlin Academy of Arts.

Curators: Sabine Folie, Ilse Lafer
Press: Barbara Mahlknecht, T +43 1 504 98 80 71114 / found.presse [​at​] generali.at

Accompanying program
24 January, 7pm (German)
Guided tour by the artist Ulrike Grossarth

27 February, 7pm (English)
Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
USA 2012, directors: Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein, color, 88 minutes, English
Followed by a conversation with Molly Bernstein, filmmaker, and Ulrike Grossarth

28 February, 3–6pm (German)
public exercises*
Workshop with Ulrike Grossarth, artist

For further events, please visit our website.

Ulrike Grossarth
Were I made of matter, I would color
Eds. Sabine Folie, Ilse Lafer
With texts by Mieke Bal, Rainer Borgemeister, Michael Glasmeier, Ulrike Grossarth,
Elliot R. Wolfson, et al.
Germ./Engl., approx. 300 p., numerous color- and b&w-ill., softcover, to be
published April


Ulrike Grossarth: Retrospective at Generali Foundation
RSVP for Ulrike Grossarth: Retrospective
Generali Foundation
January 24, 2014

Thank you for your RSVP.

Generali Foundation will be in touch.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.