Presentation speech for the GWK Young Artist Award 2011

by Susanne Schulte

Kristina Berning’s sculptures do not represent anything. They are what you see: sheer forms in a combination of materials, somehow raw, made out of everyday objects which were no longer such by the time they were picked up by the artist, and which have been used and hence individualised, and which are unique, broken rubbish. The found items, both fragments and whole objects, have been assembled by Kristina Berning, albeit frequently merely placed next to, inside or on top of each other in precarious balance, the joints sometimes held together with hot glue or sticky tape. The production process is perceptible and palpable as being tense and rapid, simple, playful and spontaneous. Her objects appear home-made, temporary and improvised. They are all unique and non-reproducible; they are ephemeral, as if capturing a fleeting moment. What we see is bricolage turning refuse and discarded items into toys and reusable materials. Everything about these objects is surface, naked presence, transparent and concrete, real and vulnerable. The sculptures are delicate; a quick push is enough to destroy them. Yet because of this very fragility, they emanate an intrinsic, forceful stability. It comes from their individuality, their indivisibility in a sculptural, material and non-material sense. It is no surprise that associations with humans arise – for each object appears to have its own personality and to be alive. This stems from their design, from the unity of their form in which everything is deliberate, rooted in ratio and intuition, with nothing left to chance. A state of balance has been achieved by the sculptor. The combination of colours, shapes and materials is in equilibrium, reflected in the balance and tension of the physical weights of the individual elements. Berning’s sculptures develop poetic power – the power of a world-trusting poiesis, an independent creativity, which fulfils neither a social target nor a prior concept. New, tangible, authentic certainties are produced from old realities. This creativity – the encounter with ‘poor’ and ‘worthless’ materials which kindles enthusiasm in the artist – spawns the law of this process: as laws in the plural. After all, each law is valid only once – for a sculpture. This is not a subject at work impressing itself on things, but rather a self which opens itself up for them, which is touched and guided, seduced and carried by them, which does not seek the unknown in change, but finds the shared and experiences its own freedom and vitality in it. If the objects refer to anything at all, it is to this freedom of the artist, her work in connection with the world. And in doing so, the sculptures also point to the freedom of those looking at them. And they suggest interpretation - or even the change of practice - as poiesis: “Fill it with imagination,” as a picture by Kristina Berning so fittingly reads.

Translation: Chris Abbey