Critics’ Picks

Miriam Cahn, herumliegen/fremdkörper, 15.5. + 13./16.6.2016, oil on canvas, 79 x 118".

Miriam Cahn

Kunstmuseum Bern
February 22–June 16

Until the early 1990s, Swiss artist Miriam Cahn primarily drafted large-format charcoal-and-chalk drawings on paper. They were often influenced by her political involvement with the antinuclear and women’s movements, and, sometimes, she made them with her eyes closed. Her subject matter from this period includes bodies affected by war as well as the land- and cityscapes on which such wars are waged. Her work has since evolved in various media, as demonstrated in “Ich als Mensch” (I as Human), a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s fifty-year career, which will travel to Haus der Kunst, Munich, and the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw. The show’s extensive compilation of drawings, paintings, sculptures, performances, videos, and photographs dating from the mid-1970s has been organized by the artist herself, based on personal associations and intuition. Cahn’s small-format painting HÄNDE HOCH! 02.09.2018 (Hands Up! 02.09.2018) depicts two arms raised in a gesture that refugees might make in an indication of harmlessness when approaching a border. Here, the perspective of the hands look as if they could be the viewer’s own. In the neighboring painting herumliegen/fremdkörper, 12.05. + 13./16.06.2015 (Lying Around/Foreign Body, 12.05 + 13./16/06/2015), tubular extremities that could be anything from tree branches to capillaries sprout from another indecipherable form that is suggestive of a human organ. Vulnerability and violence appear throughout the artist’s work and across decades. Although we’ve been trained to delineate body from landscape, interior from exterior, in Cahn’s paintings, flesh spills into surrounding space, reminding us that the Krieg out there begins with our body’s precarious status in the world.