Vorübergehende Siege, 2008
Oil/ Canvas, 190 x 300 cm
The call on Arcadia, on the romantic asylum, on the paradise of a never ending Spring is ended by the rupture of the dream, the awakening to reality. “Et in Arcadia ego”, means rather than the romantic call “I was born in Arcadia!“, but the smiling Death “Me, I´m also in Arcadia!”.
The memento- mori concept is antithetical to the idealism of the old Arcadia. Here Death speaks against all eternity, against the romantic imagination of being immortal in this or a more golden world. The backward-looking vision of an unsurpassable felicity, relished in the past but never achieved, appearing only in memory, is cut down by the approaching Death. With the end comes the certainty, the bittersweet melancholia, and accordingly her yearning for Utopia becomes a distorted image.
(see E. Panowsky, Et in Arcadia ego. Poussin und die Tradition des Elegischen; in: Sinn und Deutung in der bildenden Kunst, Dumont 2002)
In her third solo exhibition at the gallery Jette Rudolph, Alex Tennigkeit stages the “Flipside of Arcadia” in using the media of sculpture, large-sized paintings and extremely fine glazed drawings. Led by a huge obelisk, hanging upside down- the herald, the sent beam, the portal and the way between the here and the afterlife, flanked by serveral small-sized drawings, which are subscribed by “Plus Ultra” equivalent to “further” on the captured passions of confraternity of Men.
Above the obelisk as the metaphoric bridge we are located at the flipside of Arcadia, in fact displaced from today´s awareness. No, there are not playing fauns, muses, nymphs of old, also not current manufactures` representatives e.g. lolling girls of advertising, tv or party-flyers rather the symbolism of death, the well known images of global political phenomenon alike massacre, war and executions. Tennigkeit designed a medial and psychological pull to involve the recipient into bearing and torture. Meanwhile the strong diagonal and parallel axes find their correspondence to the tessellated floors, the images are transformed into a stage set, a walkable vision. By several concurrent plot lines, e. g. two hands, one clenched and one ill-treated by nails- stand for fighting and bearing, an angel sent on a cloud is crowning the Death, the cart wheel as an instrument of torture, the heavens on fire, all of them bode ill for the future.
In another painting a mural obscures the recipient’s view of the vaguely perceptible Arcadia refers to a cabinet of vanity fair, decorated with souvenirs like sparkling treasures, a catlike naked female body, crawling on all fours, multiplied female legs against the golden ball framed by a clock-face, a blazon and a memorial plate with tendrils of ivy and a broken egg. Also the cobalt blue popcorn-bag sculpture as a symbol of youth and its consumption within a prepared bird refers to a hidden detail of the transience. The Bodies in their gestures and their attitudes are devoid of nativeness; the actual spring of delight, the innocent game, is polluted, the fair gift of love is perverted into the accumulation of gold-soaked, sparkling treasures like fetishism.
The culmination of the scenery, past the ruins of columns our view is led to a scene of destruction and decay by all over dying and putrid bodies and limbs. “Dystopia!” the allegorical objection to the here and now. It starts to ache. Is that the remembrance of the end? Is that the agony, into which we are born, which we make every efforts to forget? The critical reference to the mass controlled by a benevolent, ego attended grandeur, is self-destructed in craving the medial insemination of: „You need it? You can get it!”, on the one side violent on the other condemned to desperation. The desire for collecting of captured promises becomes an ulcer, the promise of a better world is dying. Arcadia is dead!
“This human, from whom we spoke and you was invited to free, is already the consequence of repression, stronger than himself.” “(…) by the exercise of power in order to control the bodies, in and also at the body, at their whole lifetime they are punished, and (…) monitored, trained and corrected, bound on the production apparatus.”
(free translation: M. Foucault, Überwachen und Strafen, in: die Geburt des Gefängnisses; Suhrkamp 1976)