A hedgeapple, a shell, a fragment of meteorite (which turns out not to be a meteorite at all), a small pot made of Moroccan wood, a Chinese teapot in the form of a human hand, a dried fruit called Buddha-hand and a white stone. This eccentric series of objects, each chosen by Antje Majewski for what I believe were intuitive reasons, constitutes the symbolic core of this extensive exhibition. Entering the space one immediately encounters them, each on a different kind of pedestal. From each pedestal a different color power cord emerges. The cords travel up to the ceiling and over the entirety of the space, each one dropping down into a different room, each room dedicated to one of the seven objects. The symbolism is literal, these are the objects that power the show, but this literal beginning is pushed, than pushed again, until it breaks, opening out towards a fasmagoria of making and interpretation.
In the past, Majewski has worked mainly as a painter. However, in her video interview with Alejandro Jorowsky she mentions that she’s almost stopped painting, that she still has a strong desire to paint but would now prefer to “work with something living” and doesn’t “know how to get out of this problem.” We can assume The World of Gimel is her way out. Curated by Majewski and Adam Budak, the exhibition fills the entire third floor of the Kunsthaus Graz with a curving, wooden monolith (defined as Mésarchitecture) designed by Didier Faustino and Isabelle Daëron. Each room is an uncanny, swirling space, with work mounted at every angle. Most rooms contain a painting by Majewski featuring one the seven objects as its unreal focal point. For example, Meteoarisis (2010) features a woman in the ‘table’ yoga pose with a giant version of the meteorite resting on her stomach. While The Gardener of Mechanical Objects (2011) shows a man holding his hand in the position of the above mentioned teapot, pouring colored ribbons down onto the yellowing grass underneath an overpass.
These paintings are only a small part of the overall exhibition. The rest falls into a few broad categories: works by other artists (often Majewski’s friends) that loosely relate to the paintings, videos of Majewski going to the places (China, Senegal, etc.) where the objects originated, interviews with other artists (El Hadji Sy, Thomas Bayrle, etc.) about the objects, or about their relation to objects in general, previously created works by artists such as the legendary Polish conceptualist Pawel Freisler (a metal egg stored in a safety deposit box on the premises) or from a collaboration between Simon Starling and Superflex (a giant mirrored egg), plus a handful of things that defy these categories. The striking variety of approaches is given cohesion by the multiple, surprising ways every aspect relates to at least one of the seven objects.
For me the exhibition worked primarily as an open-ended essay on the positive qualities of arbitrary obsessions. The artist becomes so obsessed with the seven objects that the entire world is opened up, and distorted, through her engagement with them. It could have been any seven objects but, through the simple act of choosing these ones, a series of thematic, and practical, doors are opened. Majewski storms through these doors, then keeps going. And while it could have been any objects, it is also true that each of the seven she chose has an organic quality, is connected to the planet (the shell, the stone, the Buddha-hand) or to basic human interactions (the teapot.)
The World of Gimel, taken as a whole (which is almost impossible to do), feels like a never-ending, extremely complex enigma. In its desire to meet the entirety of the world head on it mirrors Borges Aleph, one of the starting points around which the show coalesced. In its spiritual, yet concrete, obsessions, it comes very close to the sense of ‘secular grace’ that Jorowsky speaks about in his interview. In connecting these objects, and following the connections further than they have any right to go, it generates meaning where previously none existed, finding patterns, and also magic, in the chaos of the world. Choosing to see the arbitrary things that surround us as meaningful opens up possibilities for action and thought. So, perhaps, Majewski is also critiquing a culture that sees too much as arbitrary or meaningless and, in doing so, without realizing it, is constantly shutting possibilities down.
Erschienen in Spike, Winter 2011, S. 130-131