ALL ARTS Documentary Selects


Women Artists - Katharina Grosse

This four part mini-series explores the lives and work of female stars of the contemporary art world: installation artist Annette Messager, conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, large-scale sculptor and painter Katharina Grosse, and printmaker and sculptor Kiki Smith. At the center of all four of their careers is the tension of expressing ideas about gender without being defined by it.

AIRED: August 24, 2020 | 0:25:54

[ Gunshots ]

[ Screaming ]


Narrator: Art by women is dangerous.

Why are their works worth less on the art market?

Why do almost all museums worldwide exhibit

far fewer works by female artists?

Where are all the women?

They are there and they have always been there.

Women artists have liberated the female body

from male ideas of beauty.

They have conquered new paths and taken many risks.

In this series, women artists introduce other women artists.



The curator of today's episode is Katharina Grosse.

In her Berlin studio, she develops an exhibition

with works by other female artists,

which will be presented in a virtual space.


The artist transforms landscapes and other places

all over the world into vibrant color spaces.

Are those still paintings?

Graffiti art?

Where do they begin and where do they end?

With her art, Katharina Grosse offers new perspectives

of what painting can be -- not a closed space,

but an unlimited field of possibilities.


Interpreter: I have always been interested in the way

an image connects with its environment

and I have always seen this as paintings' prerequisite

or potential, that it can appear everywhere.


The way I paint, spraying colors multiple times,

allows me to override all kinds of potential resistances

and to almost be in resistance

to all these materialized surfaces.

I want my work to be disturbing

and that wish comes much more true in public spaces.

Narrator: The derelict military building

in Rockaway Beach, in New York,

becomes a body of paint.

The color traces left by the artist's body in motion

are continuously rethought until the work integrates itself

into the environment as a visual statement.

Interpreter: I want my work to be aggressive,

but I associate this aggression with the desire

to get very close to something --

to get very close to people.

It's a resistance against things I don't like, of course,

but not didactically, not by formulating

a slogan or an idea.

I think that we are far too careful

in making use of our possibilities as individuals,

too reluctant.

I think of my art as a statement against reluctance.


Interpreter: I wanted to invite women artists

who I find personally incredibly fascinating,

who have very different cultural roots,

and who all integrate the invisible into their work

in one way or another;

who perhaps actively connect

with the spiritual and material world

in their work.


Narrator: Isa Genzken loves trash and pop culture.

In her oeuvre,

she constantly reinvents herself.

She is considered the most important

radical artist of our time.

Her art is brutal, ironic,

defies every art historical classification.


Interpreter: Isa Genzken should participate in the exhibition

with a small piece that I own and love so much

because it gives me the feeling of receiving and sending,

which is one of the most important inspirational sources

and also a drive for my work.

It is Isa Genzken's radio World Receiver,

called Gerhard, and I would like this piece

to be connected to us in the exhibition

as a kind of nodal point,

that it lets the exhibition speak to the outside

and simultaneously brings in its energy.

Her aesthetic perception is so direct,

so fearlessly direct, and so very current.

I'm putting this in there symbolically for now.



Here is another woman artist who has deeply impressed me.

I liked her tremendously the moment

I saw a picture of how she paints.

There is Emily Kngwarreye sitting under a tree,

30 kilometers northeast of Alice Springs

in the middle of Australia.

Narrator: The Aboriginal artist died in 1996

and thus barely had time to enjoy her world fame.

She only began painting when she was already

entering into her eighties

and became part of the artist colony Utopia.

She rapidly developed her multifaceted painting style.


Interpreter: I thought it was so great

that she had done body painting most of her life,

then founded a batik group,

and finally took up painting with 80.

This is when she discovered acrylic paint

and other materials foreign to her culture, like canvas.

And then, as a matter of course,

she painted more than 3,000 pictures,

almost one every day, painting as a daily message.

This incredible stream of energy, of ingenuity,

in the sense of a natural force, instead of,

"What could I do now?"

Luckily we were able to borrow two of these great paintings

that are part of Australia's national treasure now.

The first acrylic painting, and then a magnificent one

she painted at the end of her life called

"The Creation of the World."



[ Speaking German ]


Narrator: Above all else, Maria Lassnig,

who died in 2014,

observed herself and her feelings,

creating countless self-portraits.

She called them body awareness paintings.


[ Lassnig speaking German ]

Narrator: Only when she was past 60

was her importance recognized.

Interpreter: I own two unusual pictures by her.

One is a self portrait as a nun playing soccer.

Since I have always been so terribly interested

in that field game and it's anticipation,

it's communication spanning a large field,

I find it witty, sarcastic,

desperate, melancholic.

Besides the fact that as a nun,

one will certainly never play on a national team,

her understanding of the body is so fascinating.

Her self portraits come out of her body.

She paints herself lying next to the canvas.

And then there is this great picture of herself

dancing with death.

I'm talking about her relationship to dying,

to creatureliness, to the body.

[ Lassnig speaking German ]


Interpreter: Both worlds -- that of Emily Kngwarreye

and of Maria Lassnig, have been excerpted to

from opposites,

but I don't see them as so very separate.

I think of the question put to Kngwarreye,

"What do you actually paint?"

And she said, "I'm painting the whole.

The entire clump, so to speak."

And as for Lassnig, one could say I paint the one,

which is also the whole.

That I find terrific, very intelligent,

very clearly realized without much discussion around it.



A very important part of my cosmos

is Judy Penelope Millar from New Zealand.

She's my girlfriend and I have known her for 16 years.

I met her when I stayed in New Zealand for several months.

She has developed a type of painting

that exists in a specific space,

but at the same time addresses how planes can reverse

so that one ends up where one started out

without knowing whether this is the same beginning

as previously, or a completely new one.

I would like to invite one such element

like this planimetrical interlacing piece,

currently shown in Switzerland.

But I would like her to create a new piece for this exhibition.


Well, I work in three, sort of, different but parallel modes.

So, I work with direct painting,

which is where most things begin.

So, that is very physical, concerned with my movement

and my physical presence.

Then I find ways to enlarge that,

often manipulate it, through printing techniques

and through then putting these things into physical space.

There's a movement from the beginning,

internal, close painting method,

to then finding ways to mediate that in ways

that make it enlarged,

more, uh, more --

sometimes more spatial.

I want to open up those new kind of spaces,

which are physical spaces and mental spaces.

That's what I am trying to do.

And I'm trying to find that kind of image

that sits on that boundary point between knowing something

and not knowing something.

So that it's almost like when you see

something from the corner of your eye

and before you name it, it's an undecided thing.


Narrator: The Swiss conceptual artist Pamela Rosenkranz

represented her country at the Venice Biennale in 2015.

In her work, she examines the desolate relationship

between humans and nature and her own body,

addressing complex subjects like environmental destruction

and the manic drive to achieve.


Interpreter: I saw this great art piece this year.

It's a small washbasin fixed to the wall

with water running out of it.

Some kind of bluish water is running out.

It's about the constant cycle of the daily stream,

the waste of water, but because it's isolated on the wall,

the basin suddenly isn't a small washbasin anymore,

but connects to another experience

that I cannot make out yet.


And then there is another miracle.

I only recently realized that it exists.

The work of Georgiana Houghton.

Here's a little book of her wonderful watercolors

and pastels with small annotations.

Georgiana Houghton lived in the 19th century,

studied art and devoted herself to the spiritual,

as did many at the time,

but she developed her art with a sense

that she was picking up her message from somewhere else.

I often ask myself why I'm making art.

I cannot really put that into words, and I believe

that there are other dimensions around me

that I cannot really explain,

but let's say they assist me,

or that they deliver information.

Georgiana Houghton realized the unusualness of her work

and knew that she had to show it.

For that she almost went into bankruptcy.


Narrator: In 1871, Georgiana Houghton organized

and financed her first and only exhibition in London.

Her abstract paintings were created

half a century before Kandinsky,

who today is considered the pioneer of abstract art.

Interpreter: Great work -- mathematical, complex.

I mean, you have to imagine at the same time,

Manet and Monet we're also doing great things, of course,

but they were completely concerned with likeness,

with different ways of reproduction.

Houghton had already developed her interest

in principles of complexity.


Narrator: With her paintings, installations, and collages,

the Kenyan born and New York-based artist,

Wangechi Mutu, creates her own cosmos

where the familiar collides with the foreign.

Her main themes are the depiction

and self presentation of women

through posture, clothing, gestures,

and the unmasking of the cliches of eroticism and exoticism.


Interpreter: There is a great, great power

in her pictorial world, and also a kind of narration

that I don't seem to know from my own context.

Her change of location is also present in her work.

She left Africa and went to America,

breaking with her own culture, but then bringing it back in,

reflecting it in a multifaceted way.

She's not only concerned with her own culture.

There are also collages with Cuban tattoos

and all kinds of other things she can get close to and absorb.


[ Cacophony ]


This question of being fascinated

with the black female body,

it's less about that and more about the fact

that I just have committed my life

to talking about myself and women who look like me

and women who have to, um,

maneuver the world in a body,

a skin color, an accent,

a hair texture like myself --

because their story is not told to the masses

as much as maybe others --

in a contemporary setting --

and then, if it is, it usually doesn't feel like us.


[ Speaking German ]

Narrator: In the late 1960s, Valie Export shocked the public

with her actions and performances.

She was a lone fighter in Austria at the time,

demanding autonomy over her body

and visualizing restrictive female roles.


Interpreter: Of course, I was courageous,

but it was also natural for me to do that.

It was aggressive and I used my aggression to penetrate things

so there could be discussions and conversations

in order to change something, to expand something.


It wasn't acknowledged at all.

No attention was paid.

Regardless of what I did, I didn't exist.

But then I did in a different way because of my attacks.


Interpreter: I absolutely want to show Valie Export's work.

The Adjunct Dislocations.

That's a great piece about the displacement of the body

and the environment.

It is incredibly vexing

and makes you think completely different about time and space.

I always thought the image originates directly in the body

and can also be read by the body.

Then Valie Export approaches me with a piece

that the body is in a kind of hollow space

and suddenly influences and utilizes the apparatus.

The conditions are stated so clearly that one overlooks

the intelligence of the process,

doesn't impose at all.

Really great, radical, clear.

Just like life.


[ Speaking German ]

Interpreter: And then I want to show a very, very young artist

who studied with me -- her name is Liza Dieckwisch.

For her finals, she created a room

that pulled tighter and tighter towards the end

and she filled it with thousands of small Styrofoam balls

that became an irregular field

made out of a very light material.

One could not walk into it,

but one could see it from the outside,

how the material engaged with a narrowing

and increasingly dark space,

while the work itself is very, very bright.


I have not yet mentioned another very important work --

a work by Camille Henrot.


Narrator: With great fatigue,

the French video artist Camille Henrot

became known overnight.

In 2013, she was honored with the Silver Lion in Venice

for best up and coming artist.


[ Speaking German ]

Interpreter: I saw the "Grosse Fatigue,"

the next to last by Henrot,

and was incredibly impressed.

With her great video she tries to understand the world

in an almost encyclopedic manner

through the things we do with our media every day.

Wiping, pulling, Googling, editing.

This desire to once again master everything

and to understand everything like we used to,

to create a new context.

Not to stay in the radical niche

but rather use all the possibilities

in order to build a picture completely.

I found that incredibly ambitious.

Man: ...took his penis in hand,

to obtain the pleasure of orgasm thereby.

Then Iusaas was lady of the vulva and hand of God.

Then Ogo introduced disorder into the world

by committing incest with his mother, Earth.

Interpreter: Because that video has been shown so much already,

I won't choose it.

Instead, I wanted to show these small crossover bronzes

that make our concept of culture a little less palpable.

I never know which side I'm on and when I look at this,

I wonder whether we don't all create art kitsch.

That's what this work evokes in me

and that's why I find it so fascinating.

She throws a new light on everything

so we won't suddenly fall for the ruse

that we are doing something important here.


So, I'm pouring in some soil for now.





Whether he or she wants it or not, it's in there.

Perhaps we'll start up here, and this up here,

because it's a sensitive instrument.

[ Tuning radio ]

And then I saw that perhaps Judy Millar's piece,

which needs some space,

should present itself from there.

And this piece by Emily Kngwarreye needs space.

It would be beautiful if one could also look over

to Emily's work from here.

Then I'd rather place Judy Millar a bit further back.

I thought Maria Lassnig and the hand wash basin

would work well in the sense of, "Ah, there is a washbasin."

And then I dock Camille Henrot here

so that her sculptures become more part of the installation.

Perhaps a bit tilted.

These are mutations between comics, Mickey Mouse,

hunting trophy, and precious sculpture.

Perhaps Liza Dieckwisch could be here.

For now I've put her here so it sticks in the soil.

That's how I'd see it for now.

But I'm not totally satisfied with installation right now.


[ Radio cycling through stations ]


I think Gerhard is laughing.

Gerhard thinks that Emily Kngwarreye

should hang somewhere else.


Gerhard is going there.

These are also going to be hung here.

That's better.



Gerhard is going here now.


I think Judy's work could be a bit larger.

Maybe one third, just a little.





What all the works by these artists

I have invited have in common

is that they have an additional meaning.

It's either the particular existence

or the thinking or the imagination

that was necessary in order to create them.

This is nestled in there, just not materialized,

and I think that these works have that to the extreme,

all of them.






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