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Philipp Modersohn: Die Erschöpften – Landesvertretung Niedersachsen | 05.06.2024-04.06.2025

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Landesvertretung Niedersachsen shows since June 5, 2024 Die Erschöpften (the Exhausted) by Philipp Modersohn. In the garden of the Landesvertretung Niedersachsen (State Representation Lower Saxony) in Berlin, just around the corner from Potsdamer Platz, there is a group of statues with a golden patina on gray concrete pedestals, which appear explicitly historical against the backdrop of the building’s modern architecture. In fact, they are copies of early modern sculptures based on models from the Herrenhaeuser Gardens in Hanover. The baroque park is one of the most important of its kind in Europe and contains the oldest and only preserved Hedge Theater in Germany. At the end of the 17th century, a total of 27 life-size, gilded lead figures of Greek gods and their mythological attendants were erected there, a small group of which found their way to Berlin in 1974 in the form of exact copies. It is these replicas that can be seen today in the garden of Lower Saxony’s State Representation.

Image above: Foto Roman März

Strictly lined up in a row and equally spaced not far from the edge of the property, they look, protected by a hedge behind them, over the fence towards the adjacent Tiergarten Park. However, one of the sculptures has been conspicuous though its absence for some time now. The corresponding pedestal is orphaned, and quite deliberately so. It is intended to provide space for artistic interventions. At the invitation of the Lower Saxony State Representation, varying contemporary artists are asked in loose succession to react to the situation at hand and to work on the gap in the baroque figure roundelay in the context of their own practice. This series of artistic interventions entitled Szenenwechsel (Scene Change) is organized in cooperation with the Network of Lower Saxon Kunstvereine (Art Societies).

In his contribution, Berlin-based sculptor and video artist Philipp Modersohn juxtaposes the golden images of ancient gods and satyrs with a completely different, amorphous figure, which consists of nothing more than several pieces of peat and looks like the manifestation of an animistic spirit of nature among its illustrious companions. The choice of sculptural material is no coincidence. As an organic sediment of plant matter, peat forms an archive of past landscapes. It is formed in moors, which today only cover two percent of the earth’s surface, but store a third of the carbon bound in the soil worldwide. Almost ten percent of Lower Saxony is covered by moors, making it the region with the most moors in Germany. Philipp Modersohn, who grew up there, has been familiar with this special type of landscape since his earliest youth. As a sculptor, he works with sediments and materials that consist of or are made from them. Peat is also part of this and can be found in Modersohn’s practice above all where, as in this case, there is a concrete reference to the material. Modersohn collected the pieces of peat used in the garden of the State Representation in his old home land and transplanted them to Berlin as the main component and leitmotif of his sculptural intervention; the latter, in turn, is decidedly playful and gives the impression that the pieces of peat have gone on a journey of their own accord to populate the empty plinth on the grounds of the Lower Saxony outpost in the center of the german capital.

The installation also includes an audio track that sounds from nearby loudspeakers and in which Modersohn lets the peat speak for itself. The material protests against the drying out of the moors in the context of man-made climate change and the associated loss of its own purpose, its natural function as a carbon reservoir of global dimensions. Die Erschöpften (The Exhausted) as the title of the work refers on the one hand to the peat, but on the other hand also to us humans. While the peat is exhausted by the drying out of its habitat (as well as by the long march to Berlin), we humans are exhausted by the consequences of our own economic activity, whose highest imperative of unrelenting growth is slowly but surely destroying the basis of our existence on earth. At the same time, Die Erschöpften alludes to corresponding motifs from art history, be it the Christian Pietà or other depictions of suffering and weakness such as Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s Gestürzter (Fallen Man). Modersohn’s peat sculpture stands in deliberate contrast to the dynamic grace of the surrounding baroque statues, but also fits in the juxtaposition with them as if it were a matter of course. What they both have in common is the site-specific reference to places and landscapes in Lower Saxony. The mood among them in the garden of the state representation is filled with cheerful seriousness.

WHEN?

Vernissage: Wednesday, 5. June 2024, from 5 to 7 pm

Exhibition dates: Wednesday, 5. June 2024 to Wednesday, 4. June 2025

Opening hours: Tuesday until Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm

WHERE?

Landesvertretung Niedersachsen
Pohlstraße 67
10785 Berlin

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