Selected by Gröting herself, this exhibition of both her early and latest works appear at first like mysterious props left scattered across a stage, as if they might have a role within a larger and unspecified narrative.
Twenty years ago Asta Gröting’s glass sculptures of human entrails caused a stir and were exhibited all over Europe. Twenty years later, after a ten-year period working across other media, Gröting is again making objects. This exhibition is not only her first solo show in the UK, but also the first retrospective of the sculptural production of this highly individualistic artist.
Asta Gröting (b. 1961) studied sculpture at the Düsseldorf Academy in the early 1980s. Her exhibition at the Institute follows on from those devoted to other Dusseldorf artists who have stretched the boundaries of sculpture, working with the legacy of Joseph Beuys. Gröting speaks of Beuys as a major influence, and her interest in human interaction is felt throughout her project, whatever form it takes.
Much of Gröting’s work attempts to illustrate not only the invisible parts of the human body, but also the ways in which the invisible connects with the visible. To this end she has used a wide range of media, always finding entirely new means to express a given situation. These include materials such as pearls and polystyrene, bronze and rubber, as well as motors which make the sculptures move and turn.
From early works about the interior of the human body – for instance the enormously enlarged inner ear of her ‘Orientierungsapparat’ (‘Orientation Device’) – to later works expressive of how the outside of the body connects to its interior – such as the recently completed ‘Space in between two people having sex’ – there is a constant thread which is all about the thinking body. Other recent works, including ‘Acker’ (‘Soil’), ‘Kartoffeln’ (‘Potatoes’) and ‘Feuerstelle’ (‘Fireplace’), return the viewer to the basic conditions necessary for human survival: earth, food and warmth.
In the late 1990s Gröting began making films and over the subsequent decade worked with internationally acclaimed ventriloquists to make a series called ‘The Inner Voice’. This part of her career was explored in the survey show compiled by the Museum Marta in Herford, Germany, in 2006. Although these two retrospective exhibitions appear so very different, they represent the two sides of one concern: how to understand our relationship with others and with ourselves.