Magazine article Artforum International

Wiebke Siem

Magazine article Artforum International

Wiebke Siem

Article excerpt

In an anonymous lithograph from 1840, we see a Shaker meeting. The believers dance in two circles toward one another, segregated by sex. The two groups don't touch each other. Difference, distance, and isolation between the sexes is the subject of these works. On the wall, in the background, the coats and hats of the dancers are hung in a very orderly fashion; within each group they are exactly the same, but each group is styled to be either masculine or feminine. This scene is alienating; it tells us of an esthetic of difference, and of a silence between the sexes that leads them both on a path into themselves.

Weibke Siem's works recall the atmosphere of a Shaker meeting. Her desire to experiment seems great, but it is also reined in in those cases where she has found a lasting solution to a problem. The articles of clothing are Siem's expression of a principle as well as a strategy of handicraft. Made from wire, foam, and jersey, they are formed into an empty woman-body-object. Hung on the wall, cleanly and fastidiously, they are empty shells bursting with femininity (the wigs made of plaster make a similar statement). And yet, there is also a humorous aspect to these works.

The main subject of Siem's works is the "problem" of women in contemporary art, and they address this issue in an appealing and direct manner. She deals with the question of the body, but it is refreshing to see that she does not simply reiterate those issues currently under debate, as is the case in much art today; instead, she translates them into an attitude that is both humorous and positive. …

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