To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Villa Aurora, VATMH (Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House) presents the exhibition “all the lonely people” at silent green Kulturquartier. The exhibition, curated by Nana Bahlmann, examines the ancient figure of the hermit against the backdrop of the current pandemic. The show presents examples of loneliness, melancholy, and longing, as well as physical and mental withdrawal. Some of the works by former Villa Aurora fellows and Los Angeles-based artists, have been created during periods of personal isolation, others have been newly conceived for the exhibition. After Berlin, “all the lonely people” will travel to LAXART in Los Angeles.
“all the lonely people“ makes the experience of isolation and solitude visible. In doing so, the artworks take up traditional motifs associated with hermitage – retreat into nature, contemplation, and the dualities of inside and outside, exchange and silence, exclusion and trauma – and apply them to some of today’s urgent questions. They offer new perspectives on loneliness in the digital age, off-grid self-sufficiency, and imaginary places of refuge in the midst of gentrification and systemic oppression.
Nana Bahlmann, Curator: “Being alone has taken on a completely different meaning in the long months of lockdown. Artists have some tools to offer in dealing with isolation, since distance is an essential part of artistic positioning towards the world. Art transcends loneliness by making it visible, interpreting it, and allowing the opportunity to share that experience, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this exhibition.”
Heike Catherina Mertens, Executive Director VATMH: “For many artists, Villa Aurora is a place of retreat and contemplation, similar to a hermitage, where inspiration for new things emerges from a distance. For writers and journalists who are threatened in their homeland, it is at the same time – as it was for Marta and Lion Feuchtwanger in 1943 – a place of refuge, a sanctuary. We wanted to highlight these aspects with an exhibition on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the house as artist’s residence, and reinforce the exchange between the art scenes in Berlin and Los Angeles.”
The selected works explore the motif of the hermit through photography, video, sculpture, sound, and installations: Vajiko Chachkhiani‘s video Life Track presents an impressive image of a physically and mentally isolated man whose loneliness takes place in the midst of our society, yet remains invisible. Louisa Clement‘s Representative, a lifelike self-portrait of the artist as a “Real Doll,” thematizes the solitude of lives lived increasingly online and the alienation from oneself experienced when virtual avatars become noticeably distinct from reality. Bahlmann’s exhibition toggles between nature and artificiality, as in Kaari Upson’s casts of tree stumps, which invert inflated notions of nature, of peace and quiet, into an eerie thicket of memory, while Andrea Zittel uses sculptural testing grounds in the isolation of the desert to experiment with alternative ways of living. In Playing to the Birds, Annika Kahrs shows the attempt to overcome loneliness through music and communication. A monochrome gypsum relief of a brick wall, by Lauren Halsey, represents the collective refuge of many marginalized groups in the artist’s native South Central LA, a neighborhood known for racial unrest and gang violence. Thomas Struth‘s large-scale photograph Schlichter Weg, Feldberger Seenlandschaft 2021 was created in isolation and rural seclusion during Germany’s last pandemic winter. April Street‘s Still Life at 12 o’clock references the hermit’s close relationship to nature, and creates a fantastic landscape where physical reality and the artist’s inner world are united into a single pictorial plane. In Trees and Flowers Suzan Philipsz lends her voice to the fear of the outside experienced during isolation, whilst Anri Sala‘s early video work Uomoduomo captures the isolated existence of an unhoused person, forced to live on the fringes of society. In a new work, Saâdane Afif explores strategies of shared authorship in the context of artistic self-encounter.
The exhibition architecture was designed by the LA-based architecture firm Johnston Marklee and is an artistic contribution with reference to the architecture of Villa Aurora.
The exhibition is accompanied by a supporting program of films, readings, talks, performances and concerts featuring: Tanja Dückers, Felicitas Hoppe, Monika Rinck, Yoko Tawada, Senthuran Varatharajah, Planningtorock aka Jam Rostron, Olaf Nicolai & Public Possession, and many others. A parallel film series, curated by Jan-Ole Gerster, will take place at Wolf Kino in Neukölln. Further information and tickets: www.vatmh.org and www.wolfberlin.org for the film program.
The exhibition is generously supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Berlin Senate Chancellery, the Friede Springer Foundation and a private patron. The supporting program is funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and Wolf Kino.