The travelling carriage of Goethe the Mercedes of Adenauer and my smart

In Asta Gröting’ second solo exhibition at carlier | gebauer the artist presents a group of sculptures which offer tactile views onto her investigations into a dematerializing gestalt. Gröting’s bodies of work are situating their perceivers in a radical proximity, which becomes most apparent where the starting point of her works lies in its exact opposite.

In The travelling carriage of Goethe the Mercedes of Adenauer and my smart the artist reflects forms of crafted and mechanical production and its transition towards digitalised and segmented processes of labor and counteracts this vanishing tangibility in approaching the products of this labor. In her exhibition, Gröting seizes three vehicles from three different centuries and presents them as sculptures, reformulating them from their insides, from the bottom side of the vehicles, from the imprint of their drive mechanisms, the visibility of their laws of motion. The forms which Gröting finds here are, just like those which she inspected in earlier works of hers, scarred by time; by that of their ‚lives’ as much as by the way we perceive them. The sight of Goethe’s travelling carriage, a luxury car avant-lalettre, has lost nothing of its presence, but at the same time seems utterly functionless, almost like a miniature. Gröting brings it into proximity by elaborating its details. Her rubber mould underlines that each part of this vehicle was carefully handcrafted, that each is differentiated by material and surface, that the carriage was brought into being by a number of different artisans and conclusively put together. It is only by way of a scan, only immaterially, that one can approach this form today, quite the opposite of Gröting’s own smart, which the artist simply knocked over, to remould its plastic shell from the original. It has cast off all traces of craft, its form is the shell of a digital machine, which is no longer individually graspable. It lies here together with Adenauer’s monstrous ride, a Mercedes from the 1950s, the pride of the post-war industry, which could not look less like the smart’s cleansed shell, but could also not be further away form being comparable to Goethe’s individually forged piece of handicraft. Gröting spreads out a sculptural history of movement on the gallery’s floor. A history of the travellers as much as of the producers of these vehicles, in which the materials and the techniques of their use shifted radically, from the crafted labor of form towards the consumerist tangibility of designed surfaces. Gröting localises art as the stage of a rematerialization, without ever falling prey to nostalgia. In her sculptures she presents all times as starting points of an actualised proximity.
Her exhibition demonstrates sculptural realms of experience as actual bodies, that between two lovers, between relatives and cultural communities. The greatest possible proximity between two people as a silicon imprint of their coupled bodies, the stabilisation of family ties in a bronze high angle view of their heads and the rubber imprints of three means of transportation since the initiation of national, German cultural history are aligned in the gallery space to form one haptic communion of sculptures, which in its thin imprints searches fort he peculiarities of its surfaces. Gröting’s expanding shells create a form of materialized aura of these bodies. The materials, in which Gröting casted the underside of Goethe’s traveling carriage, Adenauer’s official car and her own ride, a smart, are lying in the space like immobilised, mechanical animals, the organic shells of which appear as views onto a past life, evidence of a barely graspable past, a movement pattern on the far side of our present. It is the proximity to these differing social forms of existence, be it mechanical aids or materializations of our individual bonds, be it in love or in family ties, which become graspable in Gröting’s sculptures, relations, which we here encounter as bodies in space.

by Kerstin Stakemeier for carlier | gebauer, 2012