International 2011 Archives
Helen Mirra: Continuously (Field Recordings 1-
Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn (Germany)
This autumn, the Bonner Kunstverein is presenting an exceptional project by American artist Helen Mirra (*1970, lives and works in Cambridge). Initiated by the Bonner Kunstverein, the project is more than just an exhibition and goes beyond a simple collaboration between three institutions. The diversity of geographical zones was the starting point for the collaboration with the two other exhibition sites. Ideal vantage points were sought with the KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Berlin, and the Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich. Starting in Bonn at the transition point between the Rhineland's Slate Mountains and its lowlands, Zurich stands for its proximity to mountains and lakes, while Berlin represents Germany's largest city.
The careful selection of the three sites was accompanied by the development of the new group of works "gehend (Field Recordings 1-
The term "field recordings" is normally used for documentary audio takes recorded outside of a studio. Mirra however configures her recordings in the form of prints: every hour she interrupts her walk to search for an object—a blade of grass, a leaf or a twig—which she then paints with ink and presses it onto a piece of linen to make an imprint. Seven prints per day come about in this way; with regard to Berlin, Mirra in addition did rubbings of the ground or tree stumps. Back in her studio, she arranged, aligned and sewed the single pieces together into picture series or blocks.
Cultural themes and topics from the history of science find their way into her work as do a number of systematic formulas, whether the geometric form and serial configurations, measuring systems, adaptations from cartography or archival classifications. With her field research Mirra takes up the historical strand of nature explorers, such as the ornithologist John James Audobon, who in the 18th century first killed the birds in order to paint them true to life. She derives her method of printing from Japan's "gyotaku," a tradition that seeks true-
This supposed proximity to the documentary may mislead. In fact the artist is in no way interested in viewers being able to recapitulate her walks. The prints, which resemble prehistoric fossil collections, elude any temporality just as much as any idealizing concept of nature. "Direct prints are facts without much information, dependent on physical contact. […] So to note, I'm not mapping in any way, that's the thing about the scale being 1:1. I stepped in." (Helen Mirra in the interview with Peter Eleey)
All the works follow a strict, minimalist approach. Yet as controlled and objective as her ordering systems seem to be, her method is all the more complex and sensitively poetic. Thus each single print unfolds an abstract aesthetic, allows sources of error to become visible that contribute to the quality. Each element points to a larger, more complex system and with its poetic minimalism opens up room for associations in which the small things in nature are animated and mobilize our ethical responsibility vis-
At the Bonner Kunstverein, the group of works "gehend (Field Recondrings 1-
Exhibition 20 September – 20 November 2011. Bonner Kunstverein, Hochstadenring 22 -
© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2012. All Rights Reserved
Helen Mirra, Field Recordings, 7 x 3-
Helen Mirra, Field Recordings, 7 x 5000 Schritte, in Berlin (Hirschgarten) 22. August 2010; Öl auf Leinen; 80 x 175 cm (Detail)
Helen Mirra, Field Recordings, 7 x 5000 Schritte, in Berlin (Spree) 1. August, 2010, 80 x 175 cm (Detail)