I shall not want
Sarah Alberti (2020)
In her solo show "Mir wird nichts mangeln, I shall not want" at Leipzig’s Kunstraum Ortloff (4.7.–18.7.2020), Inga Kerber combined photographs, drawings, paintings and objects into an ambiguous spatial ensemble. At the centre stood "Autel" (Fr. altar), composed of seasonal vegetation growing wild and freely accessible on urban wasteland. Tansy, vetches, roses, mirabelles and pyracantha, which had defied the summer drought, formed an organic sculpture, whose symmetrical arrangement was reminiscent of a diptych. Densely interwoven, the tapestry of flowering plants formed a pattern of yellows, pinks, blues, greens and reds.
As the process of drying out took hold over the two-week exhibition period, the volume of the sculpture shrank, fruits began to ripen and insects, lost, buzzed through the gallery. The plants acted upon the senses, too, still wafting the scent of wildflowers beside asphalt, warmed by the sun, on the way to the lake. The summer was immense; it restored my soul. On the altar, the colours of the flowers faded, like a wedding bouquet hung upside down to dry. The desperate attempt to preserve a moment. What remained was togetherness as a leisurely pastime.
Dried matter became an anchor of analog existence, an ephemeral monument, an offering of artistic intention. Transferred into an indoor space, it wrote stories, formed the altar – this monster of transience – and brimmed with the time pressing upon it. Beauty and horror, life and death – these were the ambivalences the installation explored.
A rusty metal fencing panel leaned against one wall. What it once protected is no longer worth protecting, and the sign on its mesh is overpainted, just as park regulations must cede their place to graffiti. On another wall, a hula hoop converted with fir branches and ribbon into a maypole wreath: a secular relic. The Kunstraum’s hinterland was declared a temporary florist’s shop, filled with replenishments for the vegetal altar: a sanctuary from the passage of time. Bulbous vases perpetuate the legacy of the GDR, while naked women strike poses among asparagus plants.
On the floor, a collection of loose sheets, representative of the Book of Books. The direction of reading is not stipulated: we can turn the sheets over or around as we wish. Cognitively and physically, they become part of the reading process. Between drawings, flowering plants and the sheets on the floor, their patterns recalling 1970s wallpaper, inner images awaken: of holidays in France, summerhouses in no man’s land, sleepy villages. Of all the funerals we have attended. And of all those we will have attended. There are none who are not nourished by the death of those who go before.
Just as life constantly rearranges itself in retrospect, prompted by a phrase, a smell or a painting, Inga Kerber has been working with her own analog photo archive – scanning it, reorganising it – ever since her diploma. Her methodological approach raises the question of whether reality can be imaged. Each photo is an attempt to counteract our own finiteness. While the artist’s "Cliché" pictures draw upon photos dating in some cases right back to her childhood, for her time-based plant works nature becomes her archive.
The title of the spatial ensemble aiming at the representation of temporality cited the first verse of Psalm 23, whereas all the components of the exhibition seemed to consciously question religiosity. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall abide, for life is alive and it is a beautiful summer’s day.
(Translation by Karen Williams)
(This essay was funded by "Denkzeitstipendium" of the Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen)