Sarah Schoenfeld, o.T. 2006, c-print 122 x 146,5 cm, edition 3 + 2AP
SARAH SCHOENFELD - WENDE-GELÄNDE
MAY 04 - JUNE 02, 2007
OPENING: MAY 04, 7 - 9 pm
For „Wende Gelände", a series of photos that Berlin based Sarah Schoenfeld has produced since 2005, the artist frequents places of her childhood and photographs these. Initially, it looks as if the artist documents common places (a kindergarten, a school, an open-air pool, a leisure park), which represent that kind of childhood memories everybody has, bearing a meaning on the basis of their autobiographic value. At a closer look, Schoenfeld produces highly reflected pictures of public spaces in the former East Berlin, which were in the majority of cases shut down due to financial reasons. Today, these sites attest the political, cultural and social development in the capital after reunification.
One of the photographs shows a run-down ballroom with an elaborate ceiling lighting and a stage, on which a piano still is standing in the hindmost corner. Another photo focuses on a snow covered open-air pool, gradually re-conquered by nature and embedded in the urban landscape. All in all we get to see spaces which are saturated with the private memories of the artist, the history of the former German Democratic Republic, and the reunified Germany. And although these places are completely isolated from the buzz of activity in the surrounding world, they are silent witnesses of the urban measures and decisions taken by politicians in Berlin since the Fall of the Wall.
Schoenfeld creates topographies of memory that accumulate history like archaeological material. By exploring the essence of life in the material traces that private and collective memory have left behind, she acts like the famous man in Walter Benjamin's "Allegorie kultureller Erfahrung" (Allegory of Cultural Experience), about whom Benjamin writes: "Who tries to approach the own buried past has to act like a burrowing man. He should not avoid to come back again and again to the same subject - and to spread it like earth is spread; and to plough it like fields are ploughed. True memory should not proceed in a documenting way, but rather refer to the place where the investigator got hold of it."
Taking the pictures themselves requires a lot of the artist's time. Vertical and horizontal lines dominate the language and rhythm in the photos. Nothing is staged. There is a melancholy and mourning being echoed in their transparent and calm beauty that deals with fear of loss and the fear itself. The complex and laborious technique of the artist stands in an odd contrast to the observed mourning and the historical stagnancy documented in the works.
Schoenfeld reflects the nature of personal and collective experience. It is obvious that for her, identity means the reconstruction and retelling of history. Her acting emblematises the desire for restituting a primary, lost entity, which Lacan probably would express through the mirror stage and Platon with the metaphor of the sun. Schoenfeld collects vestiges in order to raise a monument in the name of the incomplete, the forgotten and the overlooked. She is not interested in vast stories and important places. Her approach symbolises the attempt to represent the disappearing in history and the disappearance itself.
The search for integrity and linearity is finally accomplished in the aesthetic spirit of the work. Again, Schoenfeld approaches Benjamin's philosophy, which recreated the term of allegory, as for Benjamin, an allegory implicates an experience of the disappointing rupture that shows up in the discrepancy between image and meaning.
1979 Berlin-born artist Sarah Schoenfeld graduated from Berlin Universität der Künste (College of Art) where she studied under professors Baumgarten and Schmettau. Her series „Wende Gelände" will be shown from May 4th until June 2nd in the gallery KUNSTAGENTEN in Linienstraße 155, 10115 Berlin. Furthermore, the Leipziger Fotografiefestival will present a selection of her photo works this summer. The Kunsthalle in Hamburg has recently acquired two of Schoenfeld's works for its permanent collection.