In the moments after the attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Joachim Rocin tweeted “Je suis Charlie.”
The message has since become more than merely a slogan or a public declaration of solidarity. Millions of people have adopted this linguistic gesture, which immediately became a symbol of the freedom of individual expression, to testify to their very personal identification with Charlie Hebdo: “I am Charlie!”
The construction of identity — individual and collective — and the forms of visual and narrative dominance contributing to it constitute the focus of Hanna Nitsch’s work. She is concerned, here, not primarily with decoding or deconstructing universal and essentialist concepts of identity but, rather, with the phenomenon of “identity” as a human being, as an individual within a rapidly changing society, as inhabitant of a world full of differences and, at the same time, as an artist — an active producer of images — at a moment in history when our entire lifeworld, our everyday life is subjected to thorough-going medialization. It is, not least, this inherent necessity to examine difference that gives Nitsch’s work its political thrust.
For years, Nitsch has traced the latent function of the image to constitute identity, examining structures and forms of visual representation as moments of identity construction. In her, now, extensive artistic production, we encounter again and again a recurring, highly changeable female figure. She appears to be, at once, protagonist, artificial person, representative, archetype and avatar. Through the omnipresence of this single figure within her oeuvre, the artist sketches a highly complex and manifold image of “a” world constituted by different forms of dominance of stereotypical modes of presentation, representation and narrative.
The medial functions and operating principles of the construction and codification of identity forms a persistent motif throughout Nitsch’s cross-genre artistic production. In her photo series, Nitsch wrenches her protagonist from what we as viewers perceive as continual time, transporting her into a state of permanence. Between the sensations of permanent temporal suspension and an irretrievable loss of what was once there, we experience the medial ambiguity of the photographic. Nitsch’s video projects focus again and again on filmic forms of narration constructing both subject and reality. Insofar, film also serves as an artistic strategy of self-empowerment in the acts of self-naming and self-narration, pointing at the same time to the fact that collective identity politics — represented in Nitsch’s work through street fighting, demonstrations and military parades — plays an influential role in the construction of collective identities. The linguistic element fundamentally underscores the idea that art takes place at many levels beyond the purely visual, that, ultimately, the problems of identity and subjectivity are inextricably linked to the linguistic structures they themselves shape.
The exhibition in the project room is a collaboration of Museum Wiesbaden and the Städtischen Galerie Wolfsburg.
image © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019