Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz
Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz
Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz
Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz
Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz
Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz

Angelika Loderer: Disappear on Sight

May 1, 2022
Text by Ursula Pokorny

Angelika Loderer talks about capturing intangible observations and shifting layers. This springs from her longing to achieve a form of objectivity and create a piece of evidence.

Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz

If you move, you don’t see anything. To observe, you stand still and slowly lose yourself. Such thoughts come up when talking to Angelika Loderer about her work. In her recent exhibition at Galerie Sophie Tappeiner, from April 29 to June 4, she shows dissolving images and sculptures that are heavy with time. It is a landscape where your feet sink into the marsh and invisible networks of mycelia come to light. This sparks questions about the agency of one’s own movement and about the distance required to recognize a process as such.

Your exhibition is titled »Marshlands«. Do you have a specific place in mind?

The title of the exhibition is a reference to the history of Galerie Sophie Tappeiner’s location and thus to a state of change, of disappearance, and new beginnings. The name of the street, »An der Hülben« (lit. at the hollow), dates back to the Middle Ages and describes the geography of the area. »Hülben«, »Hulben«, or »Hülm« are all words for the hollows and ponds that were filling up with water. This is not particularly surprising when you think that the city was built upon an area of marshlands near the Danube. There was a church next to a pond here in the Middle Ages called »St. Jakob an der Hülben«. The name »An der Hülben« itself first appeared in the records on July 7, 1367. In a way the name carries a memory of the city’s past landscape.

Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz

There are objects that seem to grow out of ponds in the gallery space. Where do they come from?

My works often reference modernism, but they are created in the now, the time we live in. I work with classical sculptural techniques and materials from the industrial infrastructure such as industrial sand, wax, plaster, and metals like bronze and aluminum. At the same time I am interested in transformative natural processes. In general you could say that my interest springs from the observation of cycles that are codependent. The works in the gallery also remind me of my childhood love of wading through streams in swampy areas in rubber boots, and looking at the landscape from different perspectives, that of birds, fish, and frogs.

»Counterpart« (2022) are bronze casts of feet that were repeatedly dipped in wax. I find wax such a fascinating material; I love it in its liquid state and the way it can take on any shape. I also wanted to work with my own body. Through the process of continually dipping my feet in hot wax, an abstract transformation took place layer by layer until all that remained was a shell of myself. To counterbalance the delicate fragility of the wax and I cast the shell-like forms in full bronze. The once lightweight and ephemeral appearance of movement became solidified in the weight of the metal.

Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz

How autonomous does the material remain once you inscribe it with movement, and which moment of this intervention do you decide to capture?

I decide that very intuitively and I like to push the limits of what is technically possible. I am interested in testing out the material’s characteristics because I believe that each material has its own disposition. I want to be able to understand the material processes. Perhaps I long for a form of objectivity, I long to create some sort of evidence. I see whatever the material does in space as an experiment, and by that I can never really fail. Uncertainty for me is ultimately a source of security.

If you think about this working process as a form of scientific experiment, the aim would be to describe that which we can’t think but nevertheless constantly experience.

Yes, an aesthetic of absence runs through all my work like a golden thread. It is particularly obvious in my early works »Schüttlöcher«, in which I cast underground mole tunnels, or in later groups of works, in which I tried to capture transitory phenomena like snow and ice. The curator of my show at the Secession, Bettina Spörr, even described the casting sand that I often work with as invisible. It has a high level of form stability, which is why it is particularly well suited for casting. It is essential for the production of the mold proper but leaves no trace on the finished product. The obviously visible seems too easily accessible to me. I would much rather dare to be visibly absent. 

Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz

Do you think this is for you connected with an experience of uncertainty, not to know what lies behind the entangled industrial or natural cycles, or where they are headed?

I think, our time is shaped by the increased accumulation of capital and the precariousness of our lives and jobs. In this context I develop works that include impermanence as a central factor. My handling of the material involves playing with coincidence and control, accompanied by an ambivalence towards notions of heteronomy and self-determination. Often it is existing forms or material qualities that serve as parameters for the work and determine its aesthetic. For me, the end result is a mixture of my own interventions and the given, just as it is also the case in other cycles.

I see the interplay between the active and the passive or the question of agency very clearly here in your works titled »causing each other« (2022).

For »Marshlands« I experimented in the studio with observations of nature. I have always been fascinated by the fragile networks of ecosystems and their cycles. I want to find out their purpose and to understand them in their contexts.

In this case it is the fruiting body of a mushroom, which has a vast invisible network underground. I wanted to take the mycelium back home and observe it. And these works are a result of it, with the mycelium growing over photographs. The fruiting body of the mushroom is invisible over many months and I cannot control its growth. That means that I don’t know how it will behave or what will emerge from it.

Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz

What is the relationship between the movement of the mushroom and the captured photographs?

The mycelium begins to change the histories captured in the photographs and to dissolve them eventually. This movement gives rise to new images. For me this is also related to a form of nostalgia. The act of photographing is an attempt to capture an event that is beyond one’s control. The images show moments of familiar everyday situations, which we see over and over again and can feel a connection with, but which, as experiences, are simply temporary. The mushroom and also the bronze works fulfil to me the role of letting things go and accepting change.

The situations in the photos are often indescribable but are they also unobservable?

The mycelia grow isolated in a container. It functions as a sort of aquarium or terrarium in which I am imitating a piece of earth or designing a habitat. The aquarium has its origins in East Asia. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the intensive trade of the East India Company in Asia also sparked a European interest in underwater life. The first public aquarium was built in London in 1851. Its glass containers were decorated with pompous metal frames, which I also find sculpturally interesting. It is significant that the aquarium emerged in Europe at the time of the Enlightenment with its thirst for scientific knowledge. There was a desire to catalogue life underwater and take it home to observe, or it was rather the desire to own a piece of the sea and its aquatic creatures. It was an attempt to imitate a fragile natural system in the aquarium, ultimately in order to dominate it.

Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruiz

How far away do you need to be from these systems in order to see them?

For me this is like the negative and positive of a mold, the inside and outside. I am most curious about the observation itself and in rendering visible the division between seer and seen. But I would also like to see this distance dissolve as it does in a natural cycle and develop into mutual dependence. Here I am thinking directly about the possibilities of biodiversity. Yet it is precisely through human intervention that these fragile ecosystems are destroyed and ultimately lost.

Where do you find the subject matter for your work? At what do you look?

I look for things that interest me in my immediate, everyday surroundings. In a way I extract forms that are otherwise invisible in their environment. In being abstracted from their contexts they become visible. The inconspicuousness of the everyday undergoes a refinement in the work process, and this is a way for me to push the conceptual possibilities of sculpture. What can sculpture be and what has a right to be produced? My sculptures try to capture moments, to become pieces of evidence of these moments. I want to make vulnerability visible, which we otherwise don’t pay enough attention to, or perhaps can’t even see.

Next article

Photo by Vrinda Jelinek

Helm: »A Feeling of Abstract Familiarity«

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture run by Luca Büchler and Lewon Heublein. 

PW-Magazine is supported by the Federal Chancellery of Austria and Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.