Critics’ Picks

Ulla von Brandenburg, Eigenschatten I-VI (Self-Shadow I-VI), 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable.


Ulla von Brandenburg

Monitor | Rome
via Sforza Cesarini 43a Palazzo Sforza Cesarini
February 9 - March 16

Ulla von Brandenburg’s work typically creates a strong sense of disorientation, which is precisely the feeling that prevails in her monumental installation, Eigenschatten I-VI (Self Shadow I-VI), 2013, the hallmark of her debut solo exhibition in Italy. Suspended from the ceiling are objets trouvés, which the artist has culled from flea markets around Rome. This dangling collection creates a metaphysical atmosphere that amplifies the bewildering affects so signature to Brandenburg’s practice. Also part of this installation is a series of canvases that face the objects; through an innovative chlorine photographic printing process, the artist has reproduced the outlines of the objects in the form of a shadow.

Whether by its title or iconographic repertory, the installation brings to mind Richard Strauss’s opera Die frau ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow), 1917, for which this installation might be intended as a set. Indeed, the work evokes a theater—whether on the stage, curtain closed, before or after the performance, or perhaps, its storerooms, where dismantled sets are kept. The exhibition begins as if by magic, with the appearance of the viewer, whose presence plays a key role in the artist’s research—every set requires an actor. One only need think, for example, of Death of a King, conceived for the Palais de Tokyo in 2012, which was also a vast environment that resembled a set; the public was invited to enter and move about as they wished. This project is articulated in a similar fashion, marked visually by a nearly baroque theatricality generated, perhaps, by the past six months von Brandenburg has spent in Rome.

The current exhibition also includes the video Shadowplay, 2012—originally created last year for Frieze Projects in New York—that also focuses on the concept of theater and of shadow. Here, a white screen is animated by the dark outlines of three figures shot in the act of getting dressed, putting on makeup, and singing a composition by Laurent Montaron. The fantastical and oneiric tone that prevails once again places viewers in a condition of spatial/temporal dislocation, confirming their roles as unknowing interpreters.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.