Charlotte Posenenske – Exhibition at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo

Ladies and Gentlemen, as the manager of Charlotte Posenenske’s estate I first want to express my gratitude to all who made this show possible – especially to Suzanne Wallinga and Eloise Sweetman, the capable and careful curators whose idea it was, to show Charlotte Posenenske here at this wonderful place. And of course many thanks to the skillful technicians for their help.
Furthermore it is a great pleasure for me to see so many friends of Charlotte Posenenske’s art who didn’t hesitate to come from Germany, even from Australia and the United States to join our show.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me now give a short introduction to Charlotte Posenenske‘s oevre and please excuse my restricted English. I call the artist „Charlotte“ as I was lucky to be her husband.
I will stress only one important aspect of her work: movement. Movement is the most convincing expression of liveliness. What isn’t able to move is dead. Even the stones had once been fluid.
You will agree that movement is a main dimension not only in nature, but also in our modern society. Since the invention of the train, the car, the aeroplane, the telegraphe and the quick dances of the early 20th century people got aware of this – also the artists. We call our modern society „dynamic“ and trust the technical „progress“ which is developing faster and faster. So today we feel rapidity and acceleration everywhere. Fast food and many other fast services have become usual. Bosses demand mobility from the employees. The migration from the poorer to the richer countries is an important aspect of globalization. So far some short remarks about the social relevance of movement.

And now about art:
Some of Charlotte’s paintings from about 1958 show floating structures which may be understood as a hint to movement. But movement, Ladies and Gentlemen, cannot really be expressed in painting and sculpture – the movies can –, in painting and sculpture movement can only be indicated. That means that the movement happens in your imagination.

In referring to movement Charlotte’s ouevre is based on a famous art tradition: Cézanne was the first who showed 2 perspectives in a painting simultanously, which means that the painter must have changed his standpoint – he has moved. The Cubists (Picasso, Braque, Gris) followed on this track of several simultanous perspectives. And the Italian Futurists (Marinetti, Boccioni) recognized rapidity to be the main dimension of modern society. And remember the trouble between the two promoters of the Dutch de Stijl-Movement Modrian and van Doesburg: van Doesburg introduced the diagonal into the composition. Mondrian however only worked with the 2 parameters of architecture: the horizontal and the vertical. The diagonal is the indicator of movement since the baroque, when movement became a theme at the first time. (Remember the paintings of Rubens, the sculptures of Bernini and the architecture of Borromini)
So Charlotte’s work refers to society on the one hand and is rooted in a famous art tradition on the other hand.
In 1966 Charlotte gave up painting and started to produce objects which either seem to move or really move. Instead of the static structure of a picture in a frame she wanted to produce things that can move – and thus express a dimension of real life.

The first of Charlotte’s objects is the grey, Diagonal Folding (1) overthere. Remember: a fold always indicates a past movement – think of the folds in the garments of the classic Greek marble sculptures.
In 1967 Charlotte produced reliefs (2) which may be arranged as you like. Outside near the entrance of this museum you see an arrangement of yellow reliefs in a Fibonacci sequence which looks like a progression – it’s not a real movement , but a movement in your imagination. (Fibonacci by the way was a famous Italian mathematician in the early Middle Ages who found out that a certain progressive sequence is a way of growing in nature. For instance the rabbits are multiplicating their families in a Fibonacci sequence.)

The steel tubes (3) and the cardboard tubes (4) may be installed in many different ways. Charlotte committed the final installation to others, the curator, the collector, even to the public, which was a radical act indeed. The participation of others was her unusual way to make her artmaking democratic. Thus the public was not only mentally involved but physically as well. So she gave away a most important part of her authorship. She didn’t want to produce unique originals. That’s why her artwork is produced in a factory like any other good. And she didn’t sign the works.
One of the most important dimensions of Charlottes art is variability. This means, the tubes over there can be installed in many different ways. And variability is of course a special kind of movement. If you want to vary a thing you have to move it.

Another important dimension is continuability. For the installations are to be understood as fragments, which means that they may be continued. The installation isn’t a perfect , complete whole anymore like a traditrional artwork. Also continuability is a certain aspect of movement.

Finally in 1967 Charlotte left the idea of movement in imagination and started to produce objects which can really be moved.
She started with the small revolving vane (5) whose „doors“ may be moved by the public. A bit later she produced the big revolving vane (6) which you can enter, go through and leave. So it is a transit space. It is mobile and a piece of architecture as well.
In the installation of the steel sheet tubes over there – but in the cardboard figuration as well – you see a gap. People can go through the artwork – also through the revolving vanes. It’s another kind of participation. Instead of standing in front of the piece outside you are inside. Thus art becomes more accessable, also physically.

The 4 doorlike vanes (7) overthere form a barrier when closed, and you may open the doors to enter or leave the exhibition.

The last object – the mobile walls (8) – was not realized during Charlotte’s lifetime, because there didn’t exist a material which was light enough. Now they are constructed with a honeycomb core and a hard surface. (in Grerman: ein Wabenmaterial) The 2 walls can be moved until they form a cube with the corner of the room or they can be opened until they disappear – visually – in the wall of the museum – presupposed that the mobile walls and the walls of the room have the same colour. It is a kind of room, half art and half architecture. Charlotte wanted people to sit, to read, to talk or to write in this room. Thus she followed the idea of the Russian constructivist El Lissitzky for whom architecture, where people live and work in, was the top of art.
With concern to society all these objects of art may make you think of integration – a very actual problem: either you are in or you are out, either you belong to those who are in or you don’t.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me sum up the main aspects of Charlotte’s art:

1. Her affinity to movement as the dominant dimension of our modern society and of nature.

2. The installations are fragments that can be changed and continued.

3. She made her way from the flatness of a painting into the space, from a wallpiece to architecture.

4. Normally you stand in front of a piece of art or compass it. But Charlotte wanted people to linger inside the piece of art as well. It was her idea to live in art like in real life.

5. The democratic aspect of partizipation: Her handing over of the final installation of her art to others. So she resigned being original.

6. Her objects are produced in a work shop like any other good. They are not signed and may be reproduced also after the artist’s death. All existing products are reproductions – only the first products we call prototypes.

7. Her products are fabricated and often also exhibited in series.

8. Her products shall be sold for the costs of the production, transport and gallery business, as cheaply as possible so that also people like you and me can buy it.
Charlotte therefore used steel sheet and corrugated cardboard, very cheep materials.

9. She didn’t want to work for eternity, the cheep materials should rot, should canker and disappear like a living creature. These dark elements of steel sheet in the installation over there are about 60 years old. They are a gift of the famous Avantgarde gallery „art & project“in Amsterdam to the Kröller Müller museum. The different surfaces of the elements indicate their history: some are fabricated 30 years ago, others are from 2016.

10. Charlotte wanted to make her art more accessable, mentally by participation, physically by making people go through the artwork or to linger in the artwork.

Ladies and Gentlermen the art scene was puzzled when Charlotte gave up art in 1968 and studied sociology. She was convinced that in these dangerous times art making was without any social consequences. (remember the iron curtain, the covering of Germany with missiles, the Notstandsgesetze (the laws for the state of emergency) the War in Vietnam) Art, Charlotte argued, was not the right instrument to change the ossified, more and more authoritarian society – as some artists thought however who decided to make political art. Charlotte’s art is political only in so far it is democratic by participation and not expensive.
Her concept and her reasons to give up art she summerized in a so called manifesto which you can read at the wall over there.
Charlotte’s works were exhibited and are represented in the best museums all over the world, the Museum of Modern Art at Frankfurt/M, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, the MUHKA in Antwerp, the Pompidou at Paris, the Tate Modern in London, the Mumok in Vienna, the Louisiana Museum in Kopenhagen, the Museu Serralves in Porto, the MOMA in New York and now also in the Dia Foundation at Beacon, the National Gallery at Singapore and soon in M+ in Hong Kong and in MACBA in Barcelona and the MUDAM in Luxembourg.
And now in the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. This makes me happy.
Thank you for your patient listening. And if you have any question don’t hesitate, I will try to answer as far as I am able to do so in a foreign language.