Hausrat / Household assets: Alexandra Bircken

Hausrat / Household assets: Alexandra Bircken

Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof

Alexandra Bircken, Pferdchen, 2008.
Rocking horse (wood), knots, bolts, wool.
13.75 x 88.5 x 36 cm.

May 10, 2012

Alexandra Bircken
Hausrat / Household assets

May 12–September 2, 2012

Der Kunstverein, since 1817.
Klosterwall 23
20095 Hamburg

Alexandra Bircken (b. 1967, lives in Cologne) combines everyday, well-known, and familiar materials into sculptural objects. She uses objets trouvés such as branches, stones, wire, and foil, as well as hair, pantyhose, scraps of newspaper, and foam, weaving them into pictures or sculptures. But her prime material is wool. Woollen thread turns up repeatedly, connecting and linking individual objects into an open fabric as in the “units,” large net pictures that stretch between framework constructions; or it is literally knitted to form narrative objects. Her works develop from within. In the first place, the wool is a thread worked by simple handiwork techniques into something, an object that can nest on branches or be enclosed in mortar. Her materials nestle against, envelop one another, and are often in striking contrast: pigmented wax covers wire netting or hair envelops a ski. The soft materials confront their gender-specific stereotypes, counteract them and thus implicitly demonstrate their contradictions.

Alexandra Bircken’s compositional technique divests the objet trouvé of its original properties, but, keeping its modes of meaning in mind, gives birth to organic objects. The anti-form of Robert Morris and Eva Hesse inevitably comes to mind, but Bircken makes greater use of the readymade principle to incorporate it in her pictures and sculptures. The form of the individual object is not the prime focus and the artistic act is not selection, not first and foremost re-evaluation but fundamental construction, using things that are available to us and that can be taken beyond themselves—an ideal of metamorphotic and organic development.

Her penchant for textile material is no accident. The artist studied fashion design until 1995 at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Up to her first exhibition in 2004 at BQ in Cologne, she designed fashion and textile accessories that, although they could be worn, had to some extent already lost their purely functional nature, coming to display sculptural properties. In 2004 Alexandra Bircken was awarded a studio grant by the Cologne Kunstverein. Since then she has regularly participated in international exhibitions.

Bircken deliberately employs the handicraft technique of knitting as a means of artistic expression in order to combine different narratives and narrative styles into an “alexandrine” fabric. This opens up various levels of interpretation without imposing meanings. The critical aspect in Bircken’s work is at first glance as delicate and soft as the netted fabric itself. In fact, however, it is just as firmly tied in and inseparably woven into it. Her artistic approach is no threadbare reminiscence of her own biography. It displays traces and critique of conventional gender and artist roles and of clichés about material and gestures.

For the Kunstverein Hamburg, Alexandra Bircken is developing an installation on the upper floor of the Kunstverein, which weaves, interlaces and intertwines, setting a quite different materiality against the architecture and thus extending the suspense of the individual works to the entire exhibition.

Parallel on the ground floor of the Kunstverein Hamburg:
Gert & Uwe Tobias
Until November 18, 2012

Florian Baudrexel
June 23–September 2, 2012

The Kunstverein is funded by Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg – Ministry of Culture.

*Image above:
Alexandra Bircken, Pferdchen, 2008.
Rocking horse (wood), knots, bolts, wool. 13.75 x 88.5 x 36 cm.
Photo: Jonas Leihener, Frankfurt/M. Courtesy BQ, Berlin; Herald St, London; Kimmerich, New York.

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Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof
May 10, 2012

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