Asta Gröting

This was an extremely subdued exhibition: nothing more than thirty-five leather jackets piled on top of one another on the floor and two large amorphous masses hanging down from the ceiling. The latter were intestine- or pharynxlike objects reminiscent of the sculptures for which Asta Gröting is already known. However, their titles—Anthropomorph (Anthropomorphic) and Das Es (The id; all works 2002) seem to suggest something else. “Anthropomorphic” is a pivotal concept in Gröting's work Her early organic sculptures fell under the rubric “biomorphic”—forms dictated by the forces of life. Anthropomorphic, of course, means being similar to humans, and in Gröting’s use, this similarity may not just be physical but can include the broad field of the psyche and all the various social aspects of human existence. Gröting’s transition from bio- to anthropomorphism can be dated to 1993, when she made her first film, Die Immere Stimme (The inner voice). In it, a ventriloquist has a conversation with his puppet about conscience, values, inner contradictions, and dilemmas. The inner voice, for Gröting, turns out to be the individual’s point of friction with social authorities, from parents to organized religion to mass media. Gröting went on to write dialogues dealing with issues such as friendship, identity, and work, which were performed by seventeen internationally known ventriloquists.

While Gröting’s use of puppets to embody the inner voice was inspired, she has now taken her artistic exploration of the self in a different direction. With Anthropomorphic and The Id, the psyche confronts us as abstract sculpture. The id, according to Freud, signifies a central but hidden realm of the human psyche, one in which repression plays a fundamental role. This designation has been very freely visualized and transposed by Gröting, who made The Id a sister of Anthropomorphic. The former is made of white, the latter of black fabric. Both are powerful, spacious forms, hanging from thick ropes in block and tackle and facing us at eye level. One could look between them as if through a long passageway, but nothing of the interior could be made out except folds and kinks. This openness lent the forms an unexpected lightness in the space as well as a very secretive aspect that kept drawing one’s gaze into the interior.

The third sculpture in this show, Ich/Arbeit (Ego/work), comprised thirty-five leather jackets made of lambskin remnants painstakingly sewn together by Anatolian women. Anthropomorphism, society, the psyche: Gröting presents these enormous themes with impressive imagistic force—a force anchored in this artist’s daring efforts to sculpt psychological categories and ideas.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.