Body Outside of Body
I believe that the focus of Katja Schenker’s experimental art is the conflicting relationship between the individual, identity, and reality. In this dependent relationship, she seeks to create a new effect of distance through a multi-media approach including performance, video, and painting. For example, in minor, Schenker stages a bodily intervention in the installation, folding and binding paper before spreading it flat again, thereby gathering, hiding, and dispersing the paper. It is as if multiple instruments are playing a motif together, or multiple sounds are centering on the same mood. She also favors fabric and linear grids; in unenclosed, the encircling, hanging, and entangled strands cannot be separated, thus forming a structure that moves between static and dynamic, tangible and intangible, illusory and real. In my view, her artistic creations are determined by her life circumstances and attitudes. Works such as fortress and filled are not only self-enclosed installations; they also represent her thoughts and feelings about the actual nature of reality and existence; they are spaces that highlight our indifference to reality and the awkwardness of our circumstances. Crucial to these works is the construction of boundless distance and extended processes. As viewers, we feel wrapped up in them, along with the symbols, metaphors, and infinitely contradictory uncertainties about a reality that we are unable to grasp.
When people exclaim over the power of figurative, realistic painting or documentary films, they always say, “Look, it’s so real!” However, they soon discover that the artistic power or meaning of such works actually lies in their distance from reality. We all live within our own circles, and artists’ works determine their lives; they need to distance themselves from the appearances of life and enter into an environment of artistic transformation. As a result, they elevate their circumstances, observations, thoughts, and expressions to a pure state, and become a part of this state. The reflective and sensitive nature of contemporary culture leads to the methodological transformation of existing art forms. The artist must use a method stipulated as “art” to represent these thoughts and ideas. This is the limit that Schenker reaches, just like a performer who finds it difficult to separate herself from the role she plays and descends into madness.
Katja Schenker’s performance art represents the entire process of an artist approaching her limits. Her art relies on the visual tension of her performances that result in a series of installations. In Minor, she spliced and bound a 1,200 square-meter sheet of paper into a 84-kilogram package. The package was placed in the exhibition hall and then opened in front of viewers. The resonance between the paper’s loose and wrinkled texture and the artist’s undulating skin naturally draw attention to the toughness of paper and the rhythmic beauty of Schenker’s movements. These thoughts enter into the complexity of the paper medium and the unfolding tangle, thereby making the entire performance an intermediary process that saturates the audience’s visual field, providing a new range of personal experience. This deductive method consciously confuses the order of media structures; Schenker kneads and splices a piece of soft, pliable paper and spreads it out again in a deformed state, implying sudden distortions and abstract confusion. This provides a broad and profound background for her artistic expression, as well as a depressing and melancholy mystery for the viewer. The mysterious trembling of the paper serves as a foil to the texture of the work’s visual focus, separating, mixing, and layering reality and expression. Conflicting capacities are expanded to produce a fluctuating “interval.”
Reality and expression absorb each other, as well as the miscellaneous details of daily existence, possibly leading to psychological traces of unhappiness, relying on half-real, half-illusory mysteries and powerful imagination. In the contrast between reality and illusion, Schenker’s subjective artistic creations and spatial awareness become distorted, which compels us to return to social reality. This performance and its visual effects are an individual and true depiction of a woman’s lived experience. Schenker is not merely handling these materials; she consciously performs an act of experimental destruction, and then attempts to put the pieces back together. These once familiar substances have been alienated, undermining expectations and enabling viewers to appreciate the wonder created by a processed medium. Eras and societies are written in broad strokes, and almost no one can elude or escape their impact. We can only grow in keeping with our times and our society and in an orderly manner. Perhaps the artist only wants to master this artistic mode of interfering, thus causing us to more clearly recognize the essence of the underlying intentions. Because we are detached from these original principles, they are distorted by all kinds of rules.
Unless mental illness is involved, very few people break down due to hallucinations. This is my last psychologically safe baseline when I confront the real world as presented in Katja Schenker’s art, consisting of orderly performances and some videos, paintings, and photographs. For a viewer, the facts hiding within imagination are always distant. Many times, when performance is exhibited, or printed in beautiful catalogs, people only see a fixed time and space, but things are never that simple. Perhaps we can never experience the artist’s limits, and this is deeply unsettling, because we suddenly discover that the depth and breadth of real life is far beyond our imaginations. The power of fantasy becomes an unbearable lightness. I think that I might be able to peacefully appreciate Schenker’s circumstances; her art is always more meaningful than the stupid and boring questions asked about it.