Maria Nordman

Westfälisches Kunstverein

For this show Maria Nordman’s sculptural objects occupied the exhibition hall of the Kunstverein, the entrance hall of the Westfälisches Landesmuseum (which houses the Kunstverein), and the cathedral square, which has always played an important role in the social life of Münster, serving also as a marketplace. The interior and exterior installation as seen at the opening were not intended to be permanent; at prearranged times and according to prearranged instructions the scenario was varied. Moreover, the staging itself was informed by a poetic ritual, a dialogue among the elements present which defined the various scenes of action.

When I saw the show, a slate table stood in the large exhibition hall; a shallow basin filled with water was set into its top. Light fell on the water from above, through a shaft in the roof; the surface of the water reflected the climatic changes of the day. Two slate chairs on either side of the table, arranged along the longitudinal axis of the room, invited one to sit, to look at the reflections in the water, to look at the room and perhaps at the person seated opposite. (To call these elements tables and chairs is only to satisfy the need for easy categorization.) The glass doors were covered with tracing paper (a way was left for the spectator at the entrance door); and the skylights in the ceiling were also masked with tracing paper, colored red, blue, and green.

The same colors reappeared in the tabletops outdoors. These tables were made of wood components; like the slate sculptures inside, they were deconstructible sculptures. A further table sculpture stood in the entrance hall, this one of wickerwork hidden by a layer of chalk-covered clay. The color lay on the surface, porous and fragile, removing any sense of heaviness from the clay and allowing the viewer to sense the natural weaving of the underlying structure. It simultaneously invited touch and warned against too close an approach. The entire installation was marked by this ambivalence between, on the one hand, the spellbinding force of the simplest things, signs of natural communication in spaces revealed to the viewer in quiet matter-of-factness and redefined by the sculptural intrusions, and, on the other, the solemn distancing, indeed the stillness, compelled by the unobtrusive presence of the objects.

Nordman’s prohibition against photographs of her work is no casual whim, but gets at its core. The work lives in time and thereby in light: light makes time determinate by its cyclical passage, giving the ever-homogeneous movement of moment to moment differentiable, individualized qualities in the form of climatic particularities. Light, as something unlimitedly present, as unlimitable energy, as the source of the artist’s colors, light with which we constantly live “unconsciously”—this was the true spiritus loci in this installation. Light, and with it time, determined our encounter with the place and the objects that articulated it.

The thoughts aroused by these sculptures centered on communication. While nothing here could be concretized or defined in one or the other direction of social interaction, the encounter with light here was an artistic event with intense social dimensions. The space was in a sense extracted from historical determinacy: evocations of cultic ritual fused with visionary, cosmic sensibilities on a distanced, very cool level of perception. The viewer experienced Nordman’s spaces as sites of poetic impulses originating in simple but subtly charged things/signs and their environments of light and space. Since the spaces were always changing with the light, the impulses remain as memories of encounters experienced differently by each individual.

Annelie Pohlen

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.