Natalia Rolón    
featuring Henrik Olai Kaarstein and Babette Semmer
Installation Views
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Babette Semmer, To stand on one’s legs in unfortunate feng-shui, 2017
Natalia Rolón, Painterly recollections or fear from your predecessors? (Rembrandt), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, Painterly recollections or fear from your predecessors? (Rembrandt), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, Painterly recollections or fear from your predecessors? (Rembrandt), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Babette Semmer, To stand on one’s legs in unfortunate feng-shui, 2017
Natalia Rolón, Painterly recollections or fear from your predecessors? (Rembrandt), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, What you seek is seeking you (floor), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Babette Semmer, To stand on one’s legs in unfortunate feng-shui, 2017
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Babette Semmer, To stand on one’s legs in unfortunate feng-shui, 2017
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Babette Semmer, To stand on one’s legs in unfortunate feng-shui, 2017
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, High on Amsterdam, 2018
Henrik Olai Kaarstein, Three Rabbit Sisters, 2015
Natalia Rolón, Painterly recollections or fear from your predecessors? (Van Gogh), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, Painterly recollections or fear from your predecessors? (Van Gogh), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, Painterly recollections or fear from your predecessors? (Van Gogh), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, Painterly recollections or fear from your predecessors? (Van Gogh), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, High on Amsterdam, 2018
Henrik Olai Kaarstein, Three Rabbit Sisters, 2015
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, High on Amsterdam, 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, What you seek is seeking you (desk), 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, High on Amsterdam, 2018
Henrik Olai Kaarstein, Three Rabbit Sisters, 2015
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Natalia Rolón, High on Amsterdam, 2018
Henrik Olai Kaarstein, Three Rabbit Sisters, 2015
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Henrik Olai Kaarstein, Three Rabbit Sisters, 2015
Babette Semmer, Ballad with spelling misstakes, 2018
Re-enactment, 2018, exhibition view
Henrik Olai Kaarstein, Three Rabbit Sisters, 2015
Babette Semmer, Ballad with spelling misstakes, 2018
All the images courtesy of the artists.
Photos by Diego Diez.
Room Text
It’s the 17th of March: I am in South Holland, listening to a clock chime in New Zealand through the spilled sounds of a Skype conversation conducted behind my back. Behind me, a funeral is being arranged, and in front of me, I predict the beginning of this exhibition. And as I ruminate on how to introduce Natalia’s work, I realize that the absurdity of this fragmented spatial arrangement (a collage of spaces and subjects that logically do not reside in one room) is also that which Natalia’s still lives present. Registering first as coincidence, I soon reconsider my thoughts – realizing that these compositions are representations of contemporary everyday life: enactments of reenactments, presentations of representations, portraits of the continuous restructuring of space and time.

Re-enactment is a solo exhibition by Natalia Rolón that presents artists and architects in contemporary frames. Presented from her position as a female artist reflecting on art history and its male-centered views, this series of work is purposefully represented through her own subjectivity. Formulated by a personal return to watercolours, Natalia portrays her subjects in the constantly moving temporal and spatial spectrums in which they reside. Through this Natalia captures them in their current state, presenting the commercial appropriation that reduces these individuals from artists to figures - to symbols, to names, to brands that subsequently shift their value and meaning.

This exhibition also features the work of Babette Semmer and Henrik Olai Kaarstein who, framing the installation, present (and are presented by) Natalia’s Re-enactment. Through continuous layering, Natalia directs the studio, home, museum and network into play. And it is only now that I realize that Natalia’s compositions consist entirely of exposed frames; the image of the landscape I thought I saw drawing back to reveal a representation of backstage.


Re-enactment
A text by Marion Vasseur Raluy
Dear m,

In the few talks that we had, you told me that you don’t need to create anymore. You did once but you are over it now. Just like it was not for you, or just like you did enough. I am wondering as a woman if I can do enough. Should I push me hard to be better? Should I write better? Should I work more? Should I reprimand my desire for men and do what I need to do only for myself?

Buenos Aires se ve Tan susceptible.*

Dear m,

Since I’m here, it is like everything has stopped to exist except my feelings. It is like a break from the rest of my life. I just can write and think. I just want to never be the same anymore even if it means that I’m turning crazy, I want to feel completely free.

Dear m,

I have never sent you any love letter or any love declaration. But every day, I can feel you. Sometimes it moves. You are here. Between the bottom of my head and my mouth. Sometimes you stay between my heart and my belly. You go back and forth in the bottom of myself.

Dear m,

Here it is. I am all by myself in a small apartment. I can just look at my reflection now. I can look at me in the mirror and wonder why I am here. I should let you come with me, find a place for you, bring all the light about my longing for you. I have decided to reject it. It is all about me now. Where are you?

* Soda Stereo, Ciudad de la Furia, con Andrea Echeveri, in Vivo


Artist Biography
Natalia Rolón [Buenos Aires] lives and works in Berlin. Diving into fictional worlds in order to explore the complexity behind image making and storytelling, Rolón combines painting and drawing with other practices such as installation, staging, lighting and sculpture. Educated at Staedelschule and graduated in film studies at the University of Buenos Aires, she has curated group shows and participated in Mark von Schlegell’s Pure Fyction Collective versions of Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, contributed to Otobong Nkanga performance at Portikus in 2015 and was awarded with the Antje und Jürgen Conzelmann Preis in 2017.


Re-Play
At Re-play we played biopics that dramatize artists’ personal lives. By cutting away the music, and the line of the story, we viewed the details of these films in an altered form: life-ruining gossip turned to mundane market moments; prophetic utterances turned to contentless conversations; illicit flirtation turned into nothing but the prolonged process of turning pigments into paint. And so on: the dramatized story turned into a collage of routines from everyday life.

In my life, artists and their work continue to seep into everyday details when I least expect it: the colour scheme of Markplaats is derived from van Gogh’s palette; an overly dramatic biopic is directed by a well-respected director; the descriptions on Netflix are copyedited by a member of an underground writing group. Those details of contemporary life that I condemn by default as being worthy of blasphemy, bite back with details that make me wish I’d held my tongue.

If only through the simple reason of artists requiring food, heartless companies, amoral corporations, brainless robots, are imbued with the work of intelligently sound, emotionally mature, morally grounded, people:

The woman writing for Netflix battles against engrained misogyny word-by-word - exchanging negatively charged adjectives such as ‘bossy’ for ‘strong-willed’ when she edits synopses. An art school graduate programs Siri’s new responses - researching automated porn-bots in chat rooms to fulfill his assignments. A performance artist plays the supermarket cashier – her smile an aesthetic trait of the character she plays for the duration of each shift.

And the other way round:

A web developer recently took flight to art school. Now she’s making room-sized caves out of clay. A call-center kid who sold insurance on the phone, hung up and dropped out to London to play music in a band. Now you’re listening to him online, and he’s in the middle of his second world tour. But though he is playing shows 8 days a week, he performs 2 hours a day, with the rest of his hours being filled with those daily details that these biopics display.

Not able, or not wanting, to portray the real rhythm of human experience, nuggets of emotional explosion are reframed in these films as glorious artistic doubt, essential suffering - the crux of artistic practice. The extremity at which they are shown makes them unrelatable, making “these guys special”, making it feel impossible to achieve the same. The over-romanticization of these lives make them unaccessible, make them so unhuman that marketing, or banking, or shop keeping, or the rest, are subsequently framed as ‘realistic’ paths.

But who set the hierarchy for heroism? While music dramatizes Picasso’s brushstrokes in his latest reincarnation as Genius, the footage depicts him picking up a brush. Talking to a friend. The shot of his hand cuts quick to a shot of his inspired eyes. A shot of his lips frame the words that sell premium-rate-insurance-deals directly to your ears. We’re back to the kid. He fulfills his job by milking your doubts. But for the next customer – a half deaf, barely comprehending old man – he makes discrete policy-tweaks, making sure he navigates through the insurance-labyrinth safe and sound. Selling insurance buys his mother a house. Making music motors him to get him off the hook. Off track, on track, or whatever it is called when one propels themselves out of the infrastructures of preplanned lives. Now he’s online, music overlapping his lips - condensing both stories into a singular field. Doubling their intensity. Sharing his music makes our world expand. But so did secretive insurance tinkering.

Sundays
On Sundays I spend the morning tidying up – putting away the objects that meandered into the living room throughout the week, readying the room for a day of potential guests. While rearranging the room’s constellation back into its official image, each object re-enacts, in my mind, the action that brought it there days before: book stacks - and the trajectory of thoughts that combined them - are reversed as they are redistributed back into their shelves; cups with the dregs of a variety of beverages are returned to the kitchen – and most importantly – the gridded canvas painted by Natalia is placed back over the frame of the specially installed chair.

This chair, constantly oscillating between furniture and artwork, is the most active component in the room. Installed to be a loose frame over which a canvas painting is draped, the mass-produced BKF-inspired chair is transformed, by this context, from furniture to art. But as each week seeps forward – Monday turning to Tuesday turning to Wednesday night returning home late and still wanting to squeeze in a quick reading of that essay before sleeping – the chair’s shadow-form of the human body is thrown into tempting relief.

The comfort of this chair is phenomenal, yet the pleasure it provokes is countered by a multi-layered guilt. Firstly, actively removing Natalia’s painting from its frame to return it to its human-bearing state, is an active uninstalling of Natalia’s work – the work that I have promised to take care of, and live amongst, until the beginning of May. Secondly, the (probably IKEA) appropriation of this design – originally formulated by Argentinian architects Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan and Jorge Ferrari Hardoy - nags quietly at the corners of my mind. Its fake leather corners annoy me, and the fact that it has lulled my body into a short-term addiction only accentuates the feeling of being tricked. While I can attribute my enjoyment of its shape to those who designed it, the physical existence of the chair I am sitting in does nothing but evoke projected appreciation to its creators, the degree of separation between them and this particular specimen making me experience it as a dishonest object.

My relationship with this chair and its designers is further accentuated by Natalia’s portrayal of Vermeer, van Gogh and Rembrandt in the paintings on the walls. Representing these past masters in contemporary forms of logos and brands – for museums; for tubes of paint - these too address the appropriation of celebrated names and ideas. And through observing these paintings the feeling of unease propelled by the appropriated design of this chair becomes a little more clear: while the narratives of the personas behind these objects are left intact, the aesthetics and designs are re-enacted, and reformulated, for commercial use. Not committing to fully guarding the integrity of these works, the commercial appropriation takes the most recognizable elements and perpetuates these fragmented details for capital gain.

My claim for intact narratives suddenly projects my memory back to a trailer I saw last week for an upcoming TV series dramatizing the life of Picasso. Starring Antonio Banderas, this trailer seems to keep the ‘facts’ intact, but the story is drenched in heart-quickening suspense – stressful music escalating each overly saturated brushstroke into a vengeful splash. Paint is poured rather than stroked and Picasso suddenly turns closer to Pollock than the painter he really was – the one who believed that representation must be present no matter how abstract the composition would be. And suddenly this detail catches my ready-to-dismiss attitude off guard as I figure this trailer is somewhat comparable – a figurative abstraction portraying an admired subject. And so my neat conclusion spirals away and leaves me, instead, stranded in a tangle of thoughts in loose ends.

My attention turns back to my living room. I look at my bookshelf and see some of my old favourites portrayed on the spines of my books: Seurat, Miro, Picasso; reduced to graphic reproductions of their names on varying slivers of colourful cardboard. Are these really any better than the flashy trailer? Better than the branded museum paper bearing a simplified version of van Gogh’s self-portrait again and again and again and again? I guess not. I guess not until I open these books and see pages and pages dedicated to the lives of these artists. Essays from different writers from different perspectives. And photos of their images reproduced as close as possible to their original form. Or am I just conditioned into believing that this is an honest, reputable presentation?

Perhaps none of them are. Perhaps we must face that even when face to face with an object made by the hands of these artists, what we are faced with is a narrative, a name, ready to be seen through a coloured lens that transforms them into a new form. Whether portrayed in subdued, serious blacks and whites and solomn, straight-angled images - or in oversaturated, quick-paced dramatized re-enactments, the presentation eclipses the subject. Even if the points are on point, it is the tone that sets the mood. Dry museum labels recall their relationships with their mothers; simplified logos accentuates the frown of their brows; tubes of paint promise their violent inspiration in vicious reds. Whatever is wanted is twisted into their image. Their names so abstracted from their long gone bodies that we can paint their portraits however we want. And that’s what is being done, from all perspectives, in all forms.

Natalia’s exhibition sees these narratives, and through her actions of repainting their names, redressing the chair, she attempts to enrich their impoverished forms. She tries to bring them back to the frame of art.

And then I go and sit on it anyway.

The Opening
Natalia’s exhibition Re-enactment reenacts a number of people, designs, and processes that exist in various states of representation across the images she presents. But any reenactment that Plǝt- enacts within Re-enactment will never be the reenactment that Natalia presented at the opening of her exhibition. This is not some sort of tongue twister but rather the condition posed by the show, which was authored to decompose after the opening closed on 25th of March (at 5.01pm). But while the act directed by Natalia might be over, the set - still inhabited by paintings, still installed, still occupying the living room – has lived on. And rather than remaining frozen in the meticulous image Natalia created, the room has begun to move, shifting with the ebbing moods and movements of the tenant, breaking the composition while simultaneously expanding the narrative that the exhibition begun.

With the exhibition considered as a one-night performance, the question for Plǝt- now becomes how to continue to take care of this installation, and the set of objects within it, for the coming month. And the best answer we have come up with so far is negotiation: this time not with the artist, but rather with the work.

Natalia’s installation is intended as a stage, or a set, in which the paintings – by Natalia, Henrik and Babette – act. While we might conventionally expect a stage to stay still, with actors moving about within its decors, in Re-enactment we propose that it is the other way round. While the paintings stay decidedly still, the activities within the living room continuously transform the set, and perhaps it is through these movements that the exhibition continues to tell a narrative. With the paintings as characters, and the room as their environment, we are immersed in a kind of inverted story in which the characters never move or change, but their context constantly does, and perhaps it is through this movement of their environment that these paintings will speak.

Previous exhibitions provoked comments about the artworks being hostages of our own decisions, trapped by our treatment of them as aesthetic objects - not being able to move freely and have a life by their own (following the thoughts of Object Oriented Ontology). In this exhibition, perhaps we can start thinking not about ‘Object Oriented Ontology’ but ‘Context Oriented Ontology’, in which the context is held captive to a particular image, always requiring to return to its pre-determined state. Thinking then about the well being of our current context, our commitment to keeping the installation contained in this room would also need to include an allowance for it to morph through the naturally occurring movements of everyday life. Seen from this perspective, the accommodation of movement within the installation over time - giving it the space to change from Natalia’s image – would allow the context to change (perhaps entirely) while still understanding that it is inherently there. And perhaps, for this particular exhibition, this is what it will mean to 'take care'.