Frankfurt am Main — ‘-46,08°’ at fffriedrich through March 2nd, 2018

March 4th, 2018

Sophie Kitching, Ausblick (2018), Rasmus Søndergaard Johannsen, LL 31012018 (2018), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

The night sky, with the reflecting light of the full moon or the gloom of the new moon, offers a polarity of attraction and rejection that not only affects natural phenomena like high and low tide but also works as a mirror for the contemplation of basic human dispositions. Gazing into the stars, the astronomical objects or their formal representation, comes from the curiosity to see what lies beneath the surface of things. This ability to go beyond the boundaries of time, space and fiction, and the fascination for the infinity of the outer space has been a constant source of inspiration for artists.

-46,08°, fffriedrich, installation view

Frankfurt-based project space fffriedrich presents such parallel visual worlds in the exhibition ‘-46,08°’ featuring works by Rasmus Søndergaard Johannsen, Sophie Kitching and Anselm Schenkluhn. For all three artists, the moon and the stars function as symbols, become subjects of iconographical experiments or are actively implicated in their creative process. The works on view move between personally and scientifically oriented approaches and explore various craft techniques in their artistic development. Presence and absence, shadow, illusion and dissolution are recurring concepts in their work.

The moon on the night of February 10th, 2018 in Frankfurt was a waning quarter moon, a narrow crescent. The exhibition title -46,08° results from the angle of the height of the moon at the specific place and time the exhibition’s opening took place : at fffriedrich, 6pm, February 10. 2018, located Alte Mainzer Gasse 4 in the historical Dom/Römer district. The negative degree value points towards the negative presence of the moon, that is in fact already there, but not yet visible.

Anselm Schenkluhn, fast and furious (2016), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

Unlike the different phases of the moon, the Big Dipper is a constellation of stars visible throughout the whole year. The image of the Dipper is rooted in our collective visual memory not only because of its steady appearance on the nighttime sky, but probably even more due to the flood of digital images in the media today. The work fast and furious (2016) by Berlin-based artist Anselm Schenkluhn tries the impossible in downsizing this constellation of stars in seven light-emitting diodes on a 220 x 160 cm black canvas. The dazzling white light-points show the iconic Dipper in an austere, plain aesthetic, maybe uneasy for the viewer’s gaze. The title itself is an anticipation of any power of imagination that could have been left aside, and also, as Schenkluhn’s painting itself, hides the fact that the Dipper is actually part of a bigger but lesser-known constellation, the Ursa Major or Great Bear.

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Rasmus Søndergaard Johannsen, LL 31012018 (2018), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

Rather than depicting a concrete image of the night sky, Danish artist Rasmus Søndergaard Johannsen uses moonlight as a fundamental part of his creative process. In his series Lineated Luminary, the cyan blue shades result from cyanotype, an old photographic printing process. Johannsen here appropriates this technique by spraying an iron-salt-solution on stinging nettle fibers woven onto custom wooden frames. The elaborated handcrafted frameworks are then placed under the open night sky where the photosensitive solution reacts to the moonlight, which gradually dyes the fibers cyan blue. As in any occurrences in nature, the outcomes of the colored textures depend on the weather conditions or chance, if leaves or branches fall and cover parts of the surface for instance. Moreover, the works in the series vary greatly depending on the intensity of UV light exposure. Indeed LL 11022017 (2017) created exactly one year ago during a full moon in Berlin, and LL 31012018 (2018) which was custom-made for the show at fffriedrich on the rare occasion of the Super Blue Blood Moon on January 31st, 2018 present different hues. The intense blue color of this last cyanotype results from the strong UV radiation of this unique full moon.

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Sophie Kitching, Ausblick (2018), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

Also time- and site-specific, the works of Sophie Kitching inhabit the exhibition space and enter into a mutual exchange with Schenkluhn’s and Johannsen’s works. In her multidimensional artistic practice, which in this exhibition involves installation, mural art, sculpture and sound, Kitching combines conceptual process with a poetic posture. Her three works on display at -46,08° explore in very different materialities the moon and its movements as well as the relation between light and shadow. The reflection of light is central to many of her works, as in the aquarium re- (2015-16) or in the shining brightness of Ausblick (2018). This work was created directly on the walls on the exhibition space, with the artist applying gold leaf, shimmering between gold and silver tones, known as moongold. Just like the moon is not an actual source of light but reflects the light of the sun, the gold piece on the wall only shines in correspondence with the artificial lights surrounding it. The oval yet geometrical shape merges with the architecture of the space, and the weightless edges of the small golden squares move with the air in the room.

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Sophie Kitching, re- (2015-16), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

re- (2015-16), a glass cube that incorporates a branch and the neon characters „re-“ is filled with unfiltered water from the nearby river Main. For the duration of the exhibition the water will not be changed, allowing the development of mold as a microcosmic lifecycle, cut off from the outside world by the glass cube but in direct contrast to the high voltage neon light inside. This work refers to 19th century French author François-René de Chateaubriand who wrote his sublime experience of nature in Northern America in seven episodes. Just as memories change, are covered up with other memories or just fade, the branch and the water will evolve over time, illuminated by the neon signs and the re-writing, re-membering or re-location of the sculpture itself.

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Sophie Kitching, Sound stone (Phoenix) (2018), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

Finally Sound stone (Phoenix) (2018) refers to the shape of the crescent moon on -46,08° ’s opening night. Unlike the permanent constellation of the Big Dipper as in Schenkluhn’s fast and furious, Kitching here records a temporary and fugitive status of the moon cycle in a persistent and durable material: concrete stone. As referred in the sculpture’s title, a sound installation is part of the work. The 13:13min loop, comes from a hidden source in the exhibition space, and alternates between silence and a white noise equivalent to a steady frequency range. Just as the empty spaces in Johannsen’s Lineated Luminary series point to the absence of light, the white noise draws attention to actual sound by making us listen to silence.

Rasmus Søndergaard Johannsen, LL 11022017 (2017) and LL 31012018 (2018) ; Sophie Kitching, re- (2015-16) and Ausblick (2018), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

Astronomical objects such as the moon and the stars have thus always fascinated humankind – the artistic testimony, in word or image, seems to be as old as the firmament itself. The writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, born in Frankfurt (Germany) in 1749, reflected on nocturnal landscapes in his comprehensive literal oeuvre of poems, letters and travel reports as well as in his many charcoal, pencil and chalk drawings depicting night scenes. Just as Goethe contemplated the moon on his many journeys through Europe in the 18th century, contemporary European artists came to Frankfurt for -46,08°, reflecting very similar thoughts in their multidimensional artworks, further emphasising the continuous relevance of this topic in contemporary art.

Rasmus Søndergaard Johannsen, LL 31012018 (2018),  Anselm Schenkluhn, fast and furious (2016), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

The continuous variations of the moon, its cycle, and the very phenomenon of reflection – the so-called moon glow - is thus a very strong stimulus for all three artists. Their artworks respond to one another by means of reflection and mutual illumination, and reciprocally with the sense of disguise and absence they embody. Observing the remoteness of the firmament, visualizing the unimaginable, also means facing oneself, confronting oneself with one’s immediate proximity, and means, as a last consequence, attempting a constant self-localization. The moon as a reflection of our own perception.

Curated by Sophie Buscher, Alice Gustson, Dirk Höhne.

— A. Gustson

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Rasmus Søndergaard Johannsen, LL 11022017 (2017) ; Sophie Kitching, re- (2015-16), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

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Anselm Schenkluhn, fast and furious (2016), installation view -46,08°, fffriedrich, photo by Robert Schittko

Read more:
fffriedrich [Page]
Rasmus Søndergaard Johannsen [Artist website]
Sophie Kitching [Artist website]
Anselm Schenkluhn [Artist website]