Gesture Objects. On finding and leaving traces is the title of Tanja Hamester's solo exhibition, which opened last February 4 in the spaces of VOGA in Bari.
Tanja Hamester - we read in the exhibition press release - "proposes a bottom-up strategy on which she has been working for years, a set of tactics aimed at not falling into the stereotyped representation of a place. The gesture objects are the fundamental elements of this artistic strategy: these objects constitute the finds of a personal and collective archaeology."
The exhibition consists of two moments prior to the exhibition, shared and participated in as the workshop entitled 'mass', carried out by inviting 10 participants to create precisely the mass of salt dough that has been the material-display of the whole process-exhibition.
During the workshop, Tanja Hamester "offered a lecture-performance centered on the historical moment of the transition to early modern capitalism, and on the changes that this has brought about in the life of women. In fact, the shift of women's reproductive work to an exclusively private dimension, has produced a progressive isolation of women and depotentiated situations of emancipation and empowerment that previously found space in shared work", putting into context feminist theories to which the artist refers in her artistic research.
The archive made up of imprints and traces, visible in the exhibition, constitutes this sensitive unveiling of "hidden work" such as women's care work, using gesture objects to speak of a culture of systemic oppression and also incident to the artist's idea of the genius artist: the imprint is not considered an 'autonomous work' because it is a copy of something that already exists. Hence the desire then to not create something totally by itself (linked to the narrative of the genius male-artist) but to repeat and create a narrative from already existing objects.
The second shared moment was realized with the artist's request to receive as a gift objects from friends and artists met in Bari - Angela Capotorto, Pamela Diamante, Natalija Dimitrijević, Silvestro Lacertosa and Mariarosa Pappalettera contributed - objects that represent possible symbols of their relationship, receiving in exchange different contributions.
The performative action of imprinting and leaving a trace is witnessed on the surface of the salt dough and latex in the exhibition, as the artist chooses not to show the performative action, but to leave the pieces of the armor (knee and elbow pads) and the wearable display hanging on the wall in the spaces of Voga.
Notes on the exhibition
in dialogue with Tanja Hamester
I start with a definition of what I mean by gesture objects. For me they are a strategy that allows me to work in any place in a site specific way. I collect objects on the street that can be plant elements, stories or quotations that I take from a book, which I then assemble into object-sculptures or collages. The only constant is that they will be "imprinted" for me and connected in some way, representing the place and the relationship with the place.
Leaving the imprint of these objects for me means re-activating them through some gestures. I was inspired by the dance practices of Pina Bausch who inserted entire philosophical concepts into gestures and movements. My performance is a narrative, how the objects relate and where I insert the theme of feminism.
This is the first time I don't choose the objects myself. Coming to Bari I found a stimulating social structure and an emotional connection and real exchange between people. So I thought of asking 5 local artists to give me an object that represented our relationship or relation to the place, very free.
The choice of material is also important. I did not choose clay, but salt dough, a compound that expands and widens, which is why it is interesting to use, because the imprint changes, because it has a life of its own, it offers an exchange, I like it for this reactivity.
The salt dough came back to me as a metaphor for women's unpaid reproductive and care work, but also in the image of women kneading together (like the women in Bari vecchia). That is a moment - and history confirms it - that becomes an opportunity to meet, confront and empower. Even the workshop was a strategy to produce a large amount of mass that I needed for the exhibition, but through the workshop and the sharing of a 'shared cultural capital' with people, re-reading some pieces by Silvia Federici and going back to the reproductive-collective work.
While kneading, we all thought about and shared a moment of empowerment: situations in which we felt discriminated against, suppressed or left alone, and then trying to rebel against what has been written by society and history.
I consider the fist in the image of the fingers coming together in something that is stronger: the hand is less strong than the fist. Obviously it carries with it a strong symbolism that references the Black Panther, the workers' movement and the feminist movement.
The fists are like portraits and act as documentation of those who participated in the workshop. The fist can take away the idea of gender and age, it remains anonymous. The fingerprint, on the other hand, is a very personal, private thing, but salt dough doesn't leave you with a perfect print because it changes (so you're safe!).
With a lot of care and emotional intelligence, I like to give space to the people I involve and not put them on stage: their stories become an archive of power.
What remains is not the fist but the negative, the empty space inside the fist, what you clench: it is violent in the sense of the revolution you decide - to represent a free choice.
The performing objects.
I wanted to wear these objects for the performance, so I started to imagine a display: the guys from Voga told me about Franca Maranò's 'Mental Dresses' (an artist from Bari), so with designer Elvira Di Serio we made a study - a collection of images - to imagine a wearable display.
I remembered my grandmother and the scissors she always had in her apron for every eventuality - like a uniform ready for work with all the necessary tools. So we made a vest that binds in its parts thanks to some zippers: a triptych - of three parts - that collects objects in some transparent pockets to which other objects can be added and through the zippers other pieces, again acting as an archive.
Tanja Hamester studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München, where she holds an M.A. in Art and Mediation and an M.A. in Contemporary Arts and Art Education. Ha studiato Filologia Tedesca presso l’Università Ludwig Maximilian di Monaco con un focus sulla letteratura e l’iconografia medievale. Ha ricevuto diverse borse di studio, tra cui una borsa di studio DAAD per l’istruzione e la formazione all’estero a Roma e una post-laurea DAAD a Palermo, una borsa di viaggio della Fondazione Marschalk-von-Ostheim e la borsa di studio d’arte del distretto dell’Alta Baviera.She is part of the artist collective Room to Bloom, a feminist platform for ecological and postcolonial narratives of Europe (co-founded by the EU Creative Europe programme.
Through a programme of exhibitions, workshops and residencies, VOGA intends to create an accessible and inclusive space, which will take the form of public occasions for meeting, confrontation and dialogue in the city of Bari.
Starting from its geographical position, VOGA aims to trace a series of routes between Mediterranean countries, creating transversal alliances based on the exchange between local and international artists.
Thus, VOGA aims to stimulate intercultural learning processes that favour not only the development of new synergies but also the enhancement of the diversities already present in the Apulian territory.