MUSÉE DES CHEMISES by Birgit Laskowski
MUSÉE DES CHEMISES
Installations by Alexandra Hopf generate a feeling of dejà vu. This also applies to "Musée des Chemises" that – not just coincidentally – recalls Marcel Broodthaers' (1924–1976) "mise-en-scènes". A lettering of the exhibition's title and a painted monochrome surface with irregular outlines embellish the wall. Lined with potted palm trees a folding-screen, made of grained wood panels, cuts across the room. The panels display transparent reverse glass paintings of headless, ghostly hovering figures. The patterns of the robes they wear are composed of motifs that also appear strangely familiar. What kind of "museum of shirts" is this?
The artist regards fashion as a metaphor for the construction of (Art) History. In a variety of media, she explores this process – generating complex networks of relationships by combining factual, i.e. original material with imaginative material created by herself. Clothing, paintings and drawings, films and photographs appear in her work in flashbacks and flashforwards into the past and the future; undermining the notion of linear history and the logic of events. Between appropriation and transformation, she converts quotes and fragments from Art history into poetic settings. Things seem to be related to one another in a meaningful way, while unraveling these meanings often fades into the background in favour of the fascinating aesthetic autonomy of the individual artefacts.
Alexandra Hopf's installations, although composed of manifest objects, conjure vibrating intermediate worlds and projection surfaces rather than tangible systems. Her arrangements evoke the impression of entering coded, almost didactic, museum-like settings. At the same time there is an atmosphere of a merely temporary, changeable state; just before the moment when something new emerges from the familiar.
The smooth transition of art forms in connection with a potential-charged, paradoxical standstill – the halt before new ideas take shape (1) – link the Alexandra Hopfs's work with that of Marcel Broodthaers. The Belgian artist explores interactive and substititute relationships between things, words, numbers, letters and people in the fields of language, objects, painting and film. In both artists' practice, temporal and value-discursive aspects are interwoven in the "matter of history" in the sense of a "redite" (2); a repetition and reinterpretation in an altered context. Copying the copy reflects the practice of reference and referencing in art as in fashion.
Nothing happens without previous history, visions nourish on experience, everything said, written and designed refers to what has gone before – while concurrently questioning it. Like Broodthaers the artist whirls up clear relationships. References flash for a moment, only to disappear right away to constitue new unions. Processes of transformation and the intentional and unintentional manipulation of images through reproduction techniques are the subject of both artistic oeuvres. There is never such a thing as the unchanging "image per se". This is why Alexandra Hopf shares the Belgian's fascination for the time-based medium of film.
The referential setting of Alexandra Hopf's "parade" and imaginative (visual) seducement on the top floor of LRRH_ Aerial is the basement room at Burgplatz 12 in Düsseldorf. At this location Broodthaers installed the Cinéma section of his famous Musée d'Art Moderne, Département des Aigles between January 1971 and October 1972. (3)
The colour field on the exhibition wall turns out to be the floor plan of this underground space from the 1970s. The memory of this place, which fascinated the artist and which she always has been carrying within her, is the crucial point of the work. It is irrelevant whether it existed in her imagination only or whether she was really there. "Although I am sure I was there - maybe as a ghost...?" In retrospect the re-writing of what has been experienced is always part of the new narration.
With the glass drawings, the artist refers to her inner projection and visualizes a cycle of images: Disembodied images, which in turn bear likenesses, mounted on the panels like film sequences. The beginning was the original of a drawing by Pieter Bruegel the Elder - a reference to Hieronymus Bosch, also known as "the second Bosch". Pieter van der Heyden convertet Bruegel's drawings into engravings that became widespread. They were in turn copied by other artists, not least by his own son, Pieter Bruegel the Younger, and kept circulating:
Broodthaers, also a master of reference, captured the drawings (occasionally as cut-outs) in a 1964 film essay entitled "Bruegel et Goya, journalistes". In his spoken comments, the artist talks about the parallels in the graphic work of both artists. There were two centuries between them and they were stylistically far apart at first glance. Still they expressed political criticism in similar pictorial inventions and both used subversive techniques to undercut censorship. The stills from this film reproduced in his publication "Cinéma" served as templates for Alexandra Hopf´s reproductions on glass - laterally correct in comparison to the original drawings again. The respective interpretations through the ages overlap and create something original again.
The immaterial shirts from "Musée des Chemises" materialize in the CUBE of LRRH_AERIAL as "Chemise en scène". The dissolution of the boundaries between artworks, everyday objects and the world of goods is another playful reference to Broodthaers: The fabric pattern of the "Unisex"-edition by Alexandra Hopf refers directly to a shirt that Marcel Broodthaers wore in a 1971 Spiegel advertisement for van Laack. He even promoted it himself as a model, named as "Directeur des Musée des Aigles" in the subtitle of the original advertisement. The artist's "persona" commercialized in this way is reframed into a female version by Alexandra Hopf as "Directrice des Musée des Chemises". Whoever wears this "simulacrum" in future slips into the costume of an eternal theatre of change. Fashion is change in consistency, oscillating between reference and avant-garde, replica and vision, adaptation and creation. Capitalist serial production tirelessly converts originals into copies.
The large scale checked pattern of the shirt fabric irritates due to superimposed printed layers, symbolizing the grid of history and the unreliability of its (re-)constructions: Like in a trompe-l'oeil the eye can hardly separate foreground and background.
Blatantly ambigious and with ironic recourse - very "Broodthaers brand" - Alexandra Hopf creates a wearable manifesto for questioning pictures in principle: Ceci n´est pas un Broodthaers!
Birgit Laskowski, Cologne, April 2023, translated to English by Christian Aberle
1 see. Amine Haase, "Nomadisierender Geist, Marcel Broodthaers: Cinéma", in:
Kunstforum International, vol. 139, 1997, "Kunst und Literatur Teil I", p. 350 – 351
2 see. Gabriele Mackert, "Marcel Broodthaers' Praxis des Kopierens", in: Annette Gilbert (ed.): "Zur Appropriation von Texten und Büchern in Büchern", p.169
3 see. Eric de Bruyn, "Medienkunstnetz.de/themen/kunst_und kinematografie/broodthaers", last accessed on 28 Apr 2023: "In einem figurativen Sinn diente dieser unterirdische Raum sowohl als Gründungs- wie auch als archäologischer Ort, in permanentem Wechsel zwischen Auf- und Abbau, Montage und Demontage. In einem wörtlicheren Sinn erfüllte die Section Cinéma eine Mehrfachfunktion als Lagerraum, Versammlungsort, Produktionsstudio, Filmtheater und Galerie." (engl. "In a figurative sense, this subterranean space served both as a foundation site and as an archaeological site – in constant alternation between constitution and dismantling, assembly and disassembly. In a more literal sense, "Section Cinéma" served multiple functions as a storage room, meeting place, production site, movie theater and gallery".)