Reflecting the World in Its Structures

Tina Lüers, Critic, Göttingen

In “falten, schichten, wandeln” at the Kunstverein Göttingen, the artists Thomas & Renée Rapedius have an exhibition that shows the coherence of their work: substrate and overflowing whole in one.

Beneath the folds of the fungi, one walks as though deep in the forest; the air is humid, the lovely cap-shaped parasites’ sustenance on solid footing. Pale, gray, white and black, the spongelike folds of paper are scattered over the walls, irregular fairy-tale forest, royal baldachin and delicate structure in one. In the next room, the vegetation abruptly changes. Two fields of cacti cover the ground. Some are low, round globes, others rise up tall, some wear a little crown on top like a radiant star-shaped shimmering flower. The form is contained within the paper. Not far away, lianas rise up like snakes, spreading their tentacles over the floor, seeming to writhe about between visitors’ feet. The palm trunks nearby wave in the wind, which shakes both the stacks of cardboard cartons that form those structures and the slender mountain lines, beneath whose craggy ridges there is nothing but empty space. A darkly doubled range of misty mountains refers to landscape stereotypes from “Wandrers Nachtlied” to photo wallpaper. In their folds are reflected horizons and expectations.

Thomas & Renée Rapedius’ installations play with the structures of reality, reproducing them in the everyday dress of civilization. The succulents are created from stapled paper and thin cardboard, the trunks of the palms in the wind from brown cardboard cartons. Visitors move as through a train of thought, but also as through an entirely manifest reality. To wander in the layers, in the darkness of the folds, in the shadows of the finest creases and in the light of the pages opposite, is to perambulate a total concept. For this is how the exhibition, which succeeds in uniting all six of the Kunstverein’s rooms in their bright, crumbling suites, must be viewed. These works’ immanent frame of reference weaves one around the other, a garden shading into the landscapes of the world, mirroring its extremes—deserts, mountains, forests, lakes—in one another and refracting them in the reflections of cultural landscapes. What has been created in the artists’ studio with maximum aesthetic precision, yet also in an open and process-oriented way—the substrate, so to speak, of their shared labors—can be seen in the intentionally sparsely populated spaces of the Künstlerhaus: a whole. This includes other things besides the installations: photographs of architecture, nature and dancers from the ’20s, one of whom is Suzanne Perrottet, and of how the works evolved: drawings, the outlines and paths of crumpled paper, white mountain lines, a gush of chains on a dark background. Here we see the meta-level, unfastening one connection after another, forgetting the sequence prescribed by the architecture and the placement and rendering it porous. That it succeeds in doing so is surely due in no small part to the fact that the structures of the trains of thought, the discourses traversed, are laid bare, which is precisely what allows them to recede into the background.

The catalog, an artist’s book on fine paper whose production reflects the meticulousness of the installations, shows that the site-specific and context-dependent approach inherent in the individual installations applies equally to the whole when further installations are added, in an extension, as it were, of the concept. Partially rolled-up mountain ranges refer once more to that scenic quality that is not opposed to art, and also to the fact that the antithesis between nature and culture is a mere contrivance which, in its meanderings and metamorphoses, produces an exquisite approximation of the world while nonetheless standing in contrast to it.

Translation: Patrick Hubenthal