Michaela Melian. (Reviews: Nevenkirchen, Germany)

By Montmann, Nina | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Michaela Melian. (Reviews: Nevenkirchen, Germany)


Montmann, Nina, Artforum International


KUNSTVEREIN SPRINGHORNHOF

The Kunstverein Springhornhof, in the Luneburg Heath of northern Germany, has for over thirty years focused on the theme of landscape and art, including site-specific works. As with some earlier projects here, Neuenkirchen's proximity to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen was a point of reference for some of the works in Michaela Melian's exhibition "Triangel." In machine-stitched "drawings" based on photographs from her trip to the memorials at the concentration camp, Melian outlined her motifs: train tracks that remind one of the Nazi deportation trains packed full of people, but also tree-lined streets and the interior of the local Heimat-museum, or historical museum.

Melian observes the political relevance of historical events with an aggressively personal viewpoint and uses idiosyncratic techniques derived from nonartistic modes of production. Sewing, a case in point, evokes the cliche of a "feminine" activity. Applied as a medium for taking a political stance, though, it becomes a feminist calculation. In a complex installation called Life as a Woman: Bertha, Bertha, Hedwig, 2002, made up of a number of earlier works, Melian presented three exemplary figures, Bertha Benz, Bertha Pappenheim (known in psychoanalytic literature as Freud's patient "Anna O."), and Hedy Lamarr (originally Hedwig Kiesler), all of whom had significant achievements for which they have not been widely credited. Thus a framework of wooden slats covered in pale pink silk taffeta in the shape of a Mercedes becomes an ephemeral memorial for Benz, who left her husband, the automobile manufacturer Carl Benz, by taking off in one of his prototype cars, which had been rejected as nonfunctional and was ju st sitting around, forgotten. She drove over sixty miles and may thereby have become the first person to make a cross-country trip by car. …

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