Exhibit Memorializes Industry; in the Early 1980s, German Photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher Photographed Several of the Blast Furnaces Inside Pittsburgh-Area Steel Mills for Their Book "Blast Furnaces" (MIT Press Massachusetts, 1990). [Derived Headline]

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 23, 2016 | Go to article overview

Exhibit Memorializes Industry; in the Early 1980s, German Photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher Photographed Several of the Blast Furnaces Inside Pittsburgh-Area Steel Mills for Their Book "Blast Furnaces" (MIT Press Massachusetts, 1990). [Derived Headline]


Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


In the early 1980s, German photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher photographed several of the blast furnaces inside Pittsburgh-area steel mills for their book "Blast Furnaces" (MIT Press Massachusetts, 1990).

They described the blast furnace "like a body without skin. Its insides are visible from the outside; organs, arteries and skeleton create its form."

New Zealand artist Fiona Amundsen took part of the Bechers' description as the title for her latest solo exhibit, "Like a Body Without Skin."

It's on display at Neu Kirche Contemporary Art Center, housed in the former First Immanuel Evangelical Church in Deutschtown on the North Side.

Amundsen was invited by Neu Kirche executive director Lee Parker, who lived in New Zealand for 20 years and was quite involved in the art scene there.

Parker asked Amundsen to come here in the fall to spend two months as the center's first artist in residence. In actuality, Amundsen had started her research process for this specific project nearly two years ago.

"I was lucky enough in the sense that Lee Parker really supported me before I even left New Zealand in terms of 'feeding' me information about Pittsburgh," she says.

"Lee knows my practice and, therefore, knew the things I might be interested in; however, it was up to me to develop visual strategies in terms of what kind of project I would make while in Pittsburgh," Amundsen says. "This involved extensive research, critical thinking and reflecting on links and information that Lee was sending my way."

Amundsen's art practice focused on historical traumas, as well as how they are memorialized. So, one of the first things Parker did when Amundsen came to town was take her to Carrie Furnace, a derelict former blast furnace located along the Monongahela River in Rankin.

"I took her to the Carrie Furnace to indoctrinate her to the Pittsburgh scene," Parker says. "She was very interested in the Carrie Furnace as a place that, during World War II, created munitions."

"I knew that Pittsburgh had been a major producer of steel, and I was also aware of how important this had been in terms of America's World War II victory," Amundsen says.

She was interested in how the steel industries were "essentially mobilized into a kind of nationalistic effort of capitalist production. ... How steel had produced everything from helmets to bombs during the war."

"For this project, I was interested in finding a way to think about war, production and memorial," Amundsen says. …

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Exhibit Memorializes Industry; in the Early 1980s, German Photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher Photographed Several of the Blast Furnaces Inside Pittsburgh-Area Steel Mills for Their Book "Blast Furnaces" (MIT Press Massachusetts, 1990). [Derived Headline]
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