Claudia Hart

Claudia Hart’s most recent show, “NEW WORLD ORDER,” was a variation on an earlier show at the gallery’s Cologne space. Here, though, Hart eliminated the photoworks due to the lack of space. Subtitled “A Game of Social Surrealism,” the exhibition consisted of painted, enlarged, and manipulated flip sides of playing cards. A central element is the joker, a royal figure on an old bicycle, with a dollar sign on his chest, passing a road marker with the number 86 on it. The artist calls the joker—this crowned person with a beard—a self-portrait. Though there is no physical resemblance in the image, Hart identifies with the role as she does in Self-portrait as Influence Peddler (all works 1993), and Self-portrait as President Card. She slips in and out of gender roles, referring to two important aspects of Surrealism: the synthesis of normally unconnected things and the resulting friction, as well as the penetration of the unconscious.

Hart presently resides in Berlin, which might offer a clue to the politicization of her work. Around the joker she grouped eight smaller works, “Wild Cards,” three of which depict asylum seekers. Original drawings of a fool or harlequin were used, but the words on them refer to more pressing, contemporary topics. The two cards, Wild Card: New World Order and Wild Card: Ubu, which are both original drawings (not based on a model) appear as a counterpoint to the others. The metaphor of politics as a card game allows for numerous interpretations of this work. If one thinks about the magic of cards, then political action appears as the impenetrable plan of a higher order, the result of which is an inescapable fatalism. But if one looks at this metaphor as a finger raised against politicians who play the game by their own rules, the image has its own legitimacy. It expresses a skepticism about political news that leads us to mistrust politicians’ statements and to see their game as one that uses thousands of human lives as a trump card.

Justin Hoffmann

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.