Christina Benz
Wild Card 9, Strauhof
22.-28. September 2019
The visual artist Christina Benz is showing a new group of works at the Strauhof as part of Wild Card 9, in which fantastic, everyday and absurd stories on the subject of 'Life is too short' are told in the form of short films. While the film material was drawn by the artist with black sand and animated in stop-motion-technique, narration and soundtrack are the result of intensive collaboration with Swiss authors and musicians: Gion Mathias Cavelty and Fatima Dunn, Judith Keller and Nicole Johänntgen, Patric Marino and Oli Kuster (electro-poetry duo "Die Astronauten").
For the Zurich-based artist, the exploration of the possibilities of expression and the limits of moving images is of central importance, so that her previous work has mainly comprised video works and video installations. In recent years, Christina Benz has also developed a keen interest in drawing, which has led to a series of drawings on paper (Fluke) and she has also acquired the technique of sand animation.
During the time-consuming and precise creation of a sand animation, the artist creates numerous individual pictures from black sand with the help of stencils, brushes and her own hands. The individual images, drawn on white paper and illuminated from above, are photographed and later assembled into an animated film sequence. "Shifting Sands" arises from the desire to further explore this specific technique and to investigate the interaction of language and music in combination with the visual worlds created by the artist.
In this sense, the collaboration with local writers and musicians forms the basis for the multifaceted development of short films on the subject of 'Life is too short', from which the films shown at the Strauhof have emerged: Fulesee, G, and Berta, however Jonas, but Mrs. Wohlgemut (still in progress). In all three works, the equivalence of the disciplines involved is a priority, which is why each animated film has its own visual language, its own voice and its own individual sound. While the voices spoken by the author himself or herself shape the narrative style and the concrete subject matter of the stories, music and visual language are responsible for nuances, details and further references. Although the films differ greatly from each other thematically and stylistically, on closer inspection all works leave a Wittgensteinian impression of unspeakability, combined with an existential rigidity, with which the viewers are confronted from various points of view.
Fulesee is the stage on which the Sunday trip of two divers takes place. At the beginning the duo gets along wordlessly, everything seems to be 'okay'. But the dive leads the protagonists not only to fish and into the darkness, but also into mental abysses. In the depths, fears and stories suddenly come up, for which there are no signs in the diving language.
G' literally stands at the beginning of the short film G, which, based on the cabbalistic tradition, tells a story about the creation of the universe. "In the beginning was the letter." the male voice announces at the very beginning. "To be more precise: just one letter. The letter 'G'. So say the oldest Kabbalists". Only in this way could the birth of God occur and consequently the creation of the universe. But what happens when it wants to become bigger and bigger, literally falling into megalomania?
In the film Berta, however Jonas, but Mrs. Wohlgemut, the audience encounters three characters. Berta still has a lot to do before she feels she has lived. She is driven by the most diverse thoughts, such as having to milk a cow first and wanting to dance off completely crazy, expressing her own opinion and going on a cargo ship. Jonas on the other hand has no time to die. On her eightieth birthday, Mrs Wohlgemut notices that the golden side of her life is yet to come. Do the three figures differ fundamentally or are the differences depicted only the appearance of an essential similarity?
With the exhibition project "Shiftig Sands", Christina Benz stages her new filmic works site-specifically in the Strauhof. The Museum of Literature's "Wild Cards" format offers artists from a wide variety of fields premises for one week at a time, thus enabling agile and experimental approaches to literature. Entirely in keeping with this special format, "Shifting Sands" shows an ongoing working process that unites the art forms of drawing, poetry and music and attempts to fathom their interactions simultaneously.
While Fulesee and G are embedded in a more traditional exhibition situation on the ground floor, on the first floor more open and partially interactive forms of presentation are being tested. The graphic works of the Fluke series exhibited there, together with the working materials on display, provide illuminating insights into the artistic practice of Christina Benz as well as into the creative process of making the animated films. By including numerous performative components, the exhibition visitors have additional possibilities of perception and reception at their disposal. Visitors can actively contribute to the further development of the short film Berta, however Jonas, but Ms. Wohlgemut by making suggestions for Jonas 'bucket list'1, or by watching and interacting with one or the other of the artists involved in the project directly at work. Furthermore, the rich supporting programme offers almost daily opportunities to experience the various actors live, in order to gain a deeper reception of the works shown or to gain insights into new projects.
On the occasion of the vernissage there will be a work-in-progress reading by Gion Mathias Cavelty with sketches by Christina Benz and music by Nicole Johänntgen, at which those present will get a small foretaste of the work GGG, which is still in its development phase. This is a new project that can be considered a continuation of the cinematic work G. During Wild Card 9, Christina Benz and Judith Keller will start a new collaboration on site, in which the author Keller will react linguistically to the organic-looking drawings from the Fluke series. The first results of this new collaboration will be presented at the finissage as part of a performative reading.
Hosted by Sabine Gysi, initiator of the nomadic performance platform for spoken-word poets, Salonpalaver, the performing guests Gianna Olinda Cadonau, Tim Krohn, Niko Stoifberg and Martial In-Albon will continue the thread of "Shiftig Sands" with new themes, voices and sounds.
Irene Grillo (curator)
1 List of things you want to do before you reach a certain age
Translated with (free version)
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