In her current exhibition in Karlsruhe, parkschuetzer.de, Silke Schatz (b. 1967 in Celle, lives in Cologne) is concerned, among other things, with protest culture in Germany. This is, on the one hand, interwoven with Schatz’s personal biography, and, on the other hand, reflects societal and political developments in Germany over the past few decades. The exhibition’s title refers to a current example of protest culture: the ‘parkschuetzer.de’ movement is fighting for the preservation of the Stuttgart Schlossgarten [Palace Garden], which is threatened by the large-scale construction project for Stuttgart’s new main railway station, known as ‘Stuttgart 21’.
Whilst Silke Schatz has no direct link with the latter political group, an earlier campaign – the anti-N-plant movement – plays a major part in her personal biography. Her parents were active opponents of nuclear energy and took the artist with them to rallies and protest demonstrations while she was still a child. The Reigen [Round dance] (2013) sculpture – which is made up of the parents’ wedding photograph and of typical clothing from the 1970s hanging on a clothes rack, all brought together to form a family portrait – stands symbolically for an attitude to life prevalent at that time in the then Federal Republic of West Germany: the idea of freedom and of political activism is central and is passed on to the young even in their childhood years.
While Reigen offers a direct dialogue with the artist’s personal past, Schatz’s most recent series of works Emsland I-III (2016) and Neckarwestheim I-II (2016) entail a more distanced examination of the topic of nuclear power. For these series, Silke Schatz did research work in Lingen and Neckarwestheim, where the two nuclear power plants stand, and in addition made a personal visit to the NPP in Emsland. The drawings Emsland I and Emsland III present Schatz’s impressions and can at the same time be seen as further developments of her well-known large-format isometric architectural drawings. In their fine lines, these drawings visualize architectural ensembles through the medium of memory, interweaving personal experience with societal and political topics. For Schatz, the line is a ‘memory line and thought line’ at one and the same time.
Although traces of crayon lines can still be discerned in Neckarwestheim I-II, the two works are both dominated by aerosol paint. The plane surfaces of the portrayed objects, the opacity and intensity of the colours and the visible points of intersection of the sprayed elements are in contrast to the delicate drawings of the Emsland nuclear plant. The result of this artistic procedure is a fantasy-like abstraction of its chosen subject. On account of its architectural structure including a domed roof, which is rendered in silver and gold, Neckarwestheim I resembles, for example, less a nuclear power plant than an oriental palace. Protruding from its structure is a neon orange-coloured rod, which, in an almost absurd way, seems to offer a perch for birds and contributes to the introduction of a surreal, dreamlike level.
Precisely this element supplies a content-related link to the two-part sculpture Modell für ein Vogelhaus [Model for a Birdbox] (2016). Placed on a wooden table, the sculpture replicates in a scale model a surface air-raid bunker in Lingen, designed by Leo Winkel in 1940. By virtue of the work’s reduced size and its title, the artist is here presenting an idea for the reutilization of this building with its National Socialist associations and is equally again pointing up the presence of the past in the form of architecture.
– Yvonne Scheja.
Meyer Riegger (press release)