No, the title of this post does not refer to the man-fishy form of the image at top. Yesterday morning, while Jami was at work, a friend and I went to a lecture given by the German artist Reinhold Engberding, UNESCO artist in residence at Chiang Mai University. We'd met him during the CDSC design workshop, and happened to run into him again at the opening for the prototype exhibit last Friday, when he invited us to attend his lecture. He presented his own work, and also that of his two collaborators Holger B. Nidden-Grien and Bartole St. Strip. For those of you whose German might be a little rusty both names are anagrams (the title of this post is an anagram of "anagram" in fact--hope I'm not blowin' yer mind, man), Holger B. Nidden-Grien being an anagram of Reinhold's own name, and Bartole St. Strip being an anagram of Selbstportrait (self-portrait). His work could be characterized by the anagram, and other almost math-like or geometric operations performed on different objects or materials.
The first works he showed us were about the creation of a fictional (and incestuous) ancestry for Nidden-Grien, including photos of his parents (old photopraphs of civil servants found in second hand shops) and a pleasantly abstract family tree made of circles, with Nidden-Grien in the center. The next sculptures were large pieces crocheted from black cotton, like the ones at top, and filled with either inflated condoms (which are stronger than balloons, he says) or ping-pong balls. The shapes of the crocheted works are often dictated by the number of balls of yarn used, with either a hole, or a point, or some other change in the shape occurring where a ball ends. When I asked how long the crochet pieces take, he said about one ball a day. Many of the pieces contain 50 balls or more, so well over a month each. It's the perfect medium for a TV junkie, he says.
Other bodies of work, not shown here due to their absence on the web (these images, by the way, are all scrounged from various German language websites which you can reach by clicking on the photos), are three groups of self-portraits, collaborations with Bartole St. Strip. The first involved taking pictures of different parts his own head and reassembling them in a grid, but with the parts rearranged, or taking pictures of parts from slightly different angles so that the reassembled image comes out distorted. A second group combined his own childhood photos with pictures of children taken in a sanitarium. The third was a group done in collaboration with a village in which the work was exhibited. Villagers all roughly his age loaned childhood photos over which he placed (in Photoshop) a semitransparent layer of solid color, and then drew through that layer of color (using the erase tool) an image of himself at that age, revealing parts of the appropriated photograph beneath.
This large and rather forlorn, felt teddy bear is related thematically to the sanitarium self-portraits, and I believe done around the same time.
Reinhold's most recent work, done during a residency in Bern, Switzerland, uses second-hand jackets. He finds two of roughly the same size and turns one sleeve inside out on each jacket, then inserts the inside out sleeves into the right side out sleeves, and sews the jackets together. The effect is rather like that of a gossip's seat (pictured below) made of jackets. Two men standing back to back can wear half a jacket each.
Another piece, related to the jackets, is this group of vests, turned inside out and sewn together sleeve to sleeve. During his stay in Switzerland, Reinhold was able to visit the widow of one of his old professors. When she learned he was working with jackets she offered him several of her husband's old ones. Not sure he wanted to use material that was so personal, and so emotionally charged, he refused them at first. But upon her insistence he decided to use just the vests, and created what I think is a tactful and appropriate memorial.