MADRID, February 17, 2010 /PRNewswire/ --
Surrounded by success and controversy, Heide Hatry presented last night in Madrid her latest exhibition, Heads and Tales, along with a publication under the same name and a video artwork, documentation of her impressive human-like sculptures made out of pig skin, animal parts and accessories, and inspired in personages selected by renown writers admired by the artist.
With her bio-art works, Hatry approaches society's double moral regarding the use of animal skin and fur, always provoking a cloud of controversy while admiration for her ability to re-create these three dimensional sculptures of women, as a momentary goddess who brings them to life for one day. Before the skin gets dry, and looses its human-like look, she captures the portrait that will document the existence of these book personages, and so the story becomes more than illustrated.
International visitors who are now in Madrid for its annual appointment of ARCO Art Fair 2010 assisted to last night preview of Heads and Tales, reaching an enormous and specialized public, including critics, curators, gallerists and other artists, all of them touched by this so special artwork.
They say the human face is the door to the soul. Heads and Tales gives a moving and original view on this subject. Who are we really?
Heide Hatry is a force of nature. She is an artist and a humanist who is making a selfless contribution to life. And that is what art has always been about.
Joel-Peter Witkin Heads and Tales opens in Madrid during ARCO: Place: Fundacion Alianza Hispanica, C/ S. Pedro 22, 28014 Madrid, Spain Preview and book launch: Tuesday February 16th, 8:00 p.m.
Vernissage and reading of Luisa Valenzuela's Simetrias: Wednesday February 24th, 8:00 p.m.
Exhibition: February 24th - March 10th 2010
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Fundacion Alianza Hispanica proudly presents a preview of Head and Tales an exhibition of works by German artist, Heide Hatry. This preview is part of the institution's parallel activities during ARCO Madrid and will include a book launch on the eve of the official opening of the fair. The vernissage will take place a week later, on February 24th.
Using an experimental process employing fresh pig-skin and eyes, Heide Hatry creates sculptures that portray imaginary women of almost unquestionable veracity, because the animal skin is so similar to human flesh. The completed objects are photographed and Hatry has engaged twenty-seven writers to give them fictional lives for the resulting publication. The book is a collaborative anthology published by Charta Art Books (Milan/ New York, 2009) with an introduction by Catharine A. MacKinnon and texts by emergent and established authors such as Luisa Valenzuela, whose text, Simetrias, will be read at the vernissage.
The portrait of a face staring into the camera or captured in a snapshot doesn't normally conjure thoughts of death, in fact quite the opposite, even though we are often, in reality, looking at the living image of the dead when we view a photograph. Every photograph is a memento mori, but as we prefer to forget that reminder of death, we are easily persuaded that these images, too, represent real, living people.
Hatry intended her sculptures to provide springboards for stories, reminiscences or meditations on the lives of women. She asked a number of female writers to select the image of one of her women and create a life for her. As the visual work addresses issues of violence, death and gender identity, the writing reflects similar concerns as they are specific to women, not necessarily from an obviously politically fraught or polemical perspective, but more typically resorting to fantasy, satire, irony and other subversive modes of presentation to disrupt the hegemony of the everyday and release the power of its horror.
In her introduction to the book, renowned feminist theorist Catharine A. MacKinnon remarks, "Finding a way to be a woman is finding a way to live with fatal knowledge." Hatry has a penchant for difficult subjects that press directly against mortality, fear and alienation. Her sculptures speak the fatal knowledge that others are at pains to suppress.
Exhibitions are held in conjunction with the release of the book Heads and Tales, (CHARTA, Milan/New York, 2009), a collaborative anthology with an Introduction by Catharine MacKinnon, Heads by Heide Hatry and Tales by Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, Roberta Allen, Jennifer Belle, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Svetlana Boym, Rebecca Brown, Mary Caponegro, Thalia Field, Lo Galluccio, Diana George, Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, Jessica Hagedorn, Elizabeth Hand, Heather Hartley, Joanna Howard, Katia Kapovich, Lydia Millet, Micaela Morrissette, Carol Novack, Julie Oakes, Barbara Purcell, Selah Saterstrom, Johannah Schmid, Iris Smyles, Luisa Valenzuela, Anna Wexler and Can Xue.
Different moments of feminist thought and praxis converge in Hatry's career, particularly those related to the symbolic violence intrinsic to meat consumption not only at a domestic level but at a global one. Heide Hatry lives and works in New York City, Berlin and Heidelberg. Alongside her art praxis she has curated different exhibitions and edited more than a dozen catalogues, among them Carolee Schneemann, Early and Recent Work, A Survey, 2007, Pierre Menard Gallery
Heide Hatry Commentary written by Julie Oakes (c) 2008
Heide Hatry is one of those women who run with the wolves. She expostulates against the prim and brandies a new essentialism, a credo that acknowledges the primal, that celebrates basic instincts and expands the notion of femininity. She does this with her body, and with fit, sexy assurance turns heads at the outset, using her female allure to gain attention. Then she grants a peak at something beyond the pale of the more discretionary set. With video, photography and sculpture coalescing her conceptually avant-garde subject matter, she offers a fresh take on the 'gentler sex'.
Is there that great a difference between standing in front of any phenomenal art piece? An early Bellini, Botticelli's Venus, Picasso's Guernica, Gericault's Raft of the Medusa,a large Jackson Pollock drip painting, Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, all of the phenomenal art works that cause the "wow!' reaction. Are they not all based on a sensation?
Heide Hatry's work with blood, for instance, can be associated with the luridus realms of death and provoke a reaction akin to having witnessed a murder. A shiver runs up the spine, a step is taken away from the spectacle and an expression of awe emitted. It is because there has been 'blood let'. For example, Hatry, dressed in a chic, short white wedding gown, skinned a pig in one of her performances. She ended up covered in blood, the beautiful white garment gradually stained a deeper red over the course of the performance. Awful! - 'awe full', and yet blood is also a traditional element of matrimony. The hymen is broken, the sheets hung out for inspection and until the egg is fertilised, the woman bleeds each month.
Hatry has captured herself on video as she 'lays' an egg. In one instance, she is nude, covered with dirt and the scene is set in nature. This is the 'wild' woman who perceives the event is nearing and quite naturally from her vagina, the lips swelling as they release her bounty - an egg is laid. In the second video we see a smart, seemingly sophisticated woman (the artist) in business attire - although the skirt is very short and the legs very long and bare - carrying a shiny silver laptop. She, too, 'lays' an egg and then ends the dynamic performance dramatically.
Much like a movie review, it is better not to tell the ending for it is worth not knowing the ending in order to catch the sensation from the initial viewing of the piece. Once again awe! Hatry has created an art work that causes a reaction in the senses. It is not solely a sexual reaction, although this is not to be ignored for it is titillating to watch a woman push an egg out. It is more than a pornographic response, however. It provokes a sense of wonder at the connection having been made between the idea and the physical enactment of it. It is a mental placement of oneself in relation to the artist - "she did that! Could I?"
ARTIST'S STATEMENT: Creating Life
The portraits in Heads and Tales are photographic documentations of sculptures I made out of animal skin and body parts, intended to provide springboards for stories, reminiscences or meditations on the lives of women. I asked a number of writers I admire to select the image of one of my women and create a life for her. As the work addresses issues of violence, death and gender identity, the writing reflects similar concerns as they are specific to women, not necessarily from an obviously politically fraught or polemical perspective, but more typically resorting to fantasy, satire, irony and other subversive modes of presentation to disrupt the hegemony of the everyday and release the power of its horror.
My intention with the work was to make it as life-like as possible, vivid and sometimes disposed in positions suggesting movement. I used untreated pigskin to cover a sculpture I had made out of clay, with raw meat for the lips and fresh pig eyes in order that the resulting portrait would appear as if it were looking at the viewer with a vital expression, which the photographer had just captured at that moment. In fact, a photographer taking a picture of a model does more or less what I've done with my sculptures: the model will be made up, its hair will be done, appropriate lighting and pose will be chosen, etc. Or, if you prefer, what I am doing is reminiscent of what a mortician does in preparing a corpse for viewing: creating the illusion of life where there is none.
Taking photos of my sculptures is like reconstructing life, it simulates a simulation by fabricating an image of a fake face, an image calculated to deceive the viewer, since taxidermy (from the Greek, taxis: order or arrangement, derma: skin) and photography work so well together. The fake image appears convincing because we expect to see what we are used to seeing. The portrait of a face staring into the camera or captured in a snapshot simply doesn't conjure thoughts of death, even though we are often, in fact, looking at the living image of the dead when we view a photograph. Every photograph is a memento mori, and of course we like to forget that reminder of death, so we are easily persuaded that these images represent real, living people.
I didn't make any demands on the contributors as to form or content. I simply wished that they would breathe life into these inert forms with their words. Since the violence that is often at the heart of women's experience certainly pervades the images, I rather expected that the texts would to be related to pain, abuse, loneliness, madness, violence and death, etc., though I imagined that they could also be connected to, say, beauty, love, motherhood, ageing, plastic surgery and any number of other themes, perhaps exploring the pain and mortality that pervades those themes as well. In any case, the simulacra that inspired these literary creations, and which are, thus, life-creating in themselves, intend to invoke a play of subject and object, of life and death.
I am delighted that I was rewarded with a collection in which the unknown, the uncertain, the arcane lives of virtually anonymous human beings who have suffered more or less obvious or explicit harms are thematized, not to mention how powerfully they are evoked in the contributors' words. I feel that it is a step toward understanding the female experience.
I owe the authors who have so generously participated in the project my heartfelt appreciation.