Whitehot Magazine

Recombining Realities: Charlie Stein, Jorinde Voigt at Berlin Gallery Weekend

Recombining Realities, Exhibition View. Photo: Roman März 

April 29,  2024

The two-person exhibition "Recombining Realities" unites the works of Charlie Stein and Jorinde Voigt for the first time. Although their works appear radically divergent—Stein's are figurative paintings and Voigt's are abstract sculptures—they converge on a common point: their methodical approach to their practices. Charlie Stein states, "Pluralistic realities are brought into dialogue with each other in such a way that something new, responsive, and resilient emerges." This unexpected union reveals where Stein’s figuration blends into moments of abstraction and Voigt’s abstract sculptures take on figurative qualities through a visual language. The show opens on Friday 25th at Roam during this year’s edition of Gallery weekend Berlin. 

In Legacy Russell's "Glitch Feminism," Whitman's assertion from "Song of Myself"—"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)"—serves as a reflection on what the glitch can do as a means of creating radical potentials outside of the normative constraints of the present. Whitman, though a product of his time, claims a vastness that defies strict definition. This claim challenges the rigid structures of patriarchy and whiteness, which typically dominate and define space, instead of confining the body it opens it to vastness. The two-woman exhibition of Charlie Stein and Jorinde Voigt, titled “Recombining Realities,” brings together works of two seemingly very different artists from two different generations in a common dialog. They share both a deep connection and a methodological approach that, in Stein's words, merges “pluralistic realities into dialogue with each other in a way that something new, responsive, and resilient is created”—in other words, to have the courage to contain multitudes.

Charlie Stein, Still Life, 2024. Oil on Canvas.

Charlie Stein's artistic exploration of blurred boundaries and identity in the digital age resonates with Russell’s claim that the “glitch,” in which “the body conceived of as a machinic assemblage becomes a body that is multiple, contains multitudes, a body that is gooey, blurry, full of seams, or simply glitched, is one that both absorbs and refracts, becoming everybody and nobody simultaneously." This concept of the body challenges traditional surveillance and categorization, questioning whether an unrecognizable body can evade the omnipresent digital gaze, and thus "ghost" or cease to exist in recognized forms. In her series "Virtually Yours," Stein paints close-up moments of legibly female body parts covered completely in protective black vinyl whose surface shimmers with reflections of light. Parts of the body that often signify the feminine or effeminate, but just as easily slip out of the confines of binary gender, are empowered through protection, morphing into new selves, slipping in and out of digital skins, celebrating erotic fetishes (slipping between digital and IRL), recalling the vinyl community and the body made otherworldly, another form of slip, between legible and illegible, melting or morphing into something unrecognizable. The works on one hand recall Christina Ramberg's whose paintings depicted fragmented body parts—torsos tightly wrapped in shapewear, limbs constricted by fashionably restrictive garments, and elaborate hairstyles, but moving beyond the metaphor of eroticization and critique the societal constraints imposed on women, Stein’s work take seriously the empowered glitch of the virtual in the moment of fusion between body and machine.

Jorinde Voigt, März XVII, 2022. Holz, Mineralfarbe, handbemalt, 55 x 36 x 47 cm. Photo: Roman März. Courtesy: Jorinde Voigt © Jorinde Voigt / VG Bild-Kunst

The term "glitch" originates from the Yiddish word gletshn (to slide, glide, slip) and the German word glitschen (to slip). Thus, "glitch" is inherently dynamic, suggesting motion and transformation, a motion that appears both in the refracted light off the bodies and in the melting and slipperiness of vinyl. In "Virtually Yours (Melting)," the paintings also touch upon moments of intense personal grief and mourning, prompted by her partner's death, and reflect a profound engagement with themes of identity and transformation, akin to Russell's discussion of bodies that evade easy definition and recognition. Stein uses small overlapping brushstrokes and collage-like techniques to create images that appear cohesive from a distance but break down into abstract components up close, mirroring the glitch aesthetic where the body and identity are not fixed but fluid and multifaceted. Moreover, Stein's emphasis on the fetishization of everyday objects like latex gloves and the eroticism of hands covered by them speaks to the protective layers and barriers that individuals navigate in both physical and digital realms. These elements underscore the psychological and protective responses to vulnerability, both in personal health crises and broader societal interactions during the pandemic.

Stein and Jorinde Voigt share a commitment to engaging with the world through art, with a certain absoluteness, an “Unbedingtheit”. Both artists respond to their surroundings and societal changes, creating art that offers a platform for dialogue about our complex, often contradictory experiences. Their work presents a rich ground for exploring the "glitch" as an artistic and existential modality, where disintegration and reformation provide a means to challenge and renegotiate identity and reality in our increasingly digital world. As Voigt noted, “grasping out of what surrounds us, we are in a process of naming the things which we are confronted with and giving it back as discussion to society.”

Jorinde Voigt, März X, 2022. Holz, Mineralfarbe, handbemalt, 57 x 43 x 30 cm. Photo: Roman März. Courtesy: Jorinde Voigt © Jorinde Voigt / VG Bild-Kunst

Jorinde Voigt's series of eleven sculptures titled "März," translating to "March" in German, consists of intricate works that recall the traditional theme and variation from a set of rules or scores but move beyond the logic system of 1970s conceptual rule-based art to incorporate profound references to emerging from the depths of a long, dark, bleak Berlin winter into the hopeful blossoms of early spring—a shift that also serves as a metaphor for seeing the hopeful horizon beyond the quagmire of the present war in Ukraine. "März" encapsulates a profound narrative of survival and adaptation through its modular sculptural forms. Voigt describes the sculptures as systems composed of spiky modules that echo the thin, sharp leaves of spring plants - namely the crocus, and yellow modules that function like connectors, embodying the flower's stamen and potential for life in the form of pollen. These elements are not only aesthetic but symbolic, representing the resilience and interconnectivity required for survival. Each piece in this series incorporates wooden elements arranged in complex combinatorial systems, painted by hand using mineral paints in shades of light blue-violet and vibrant orange. The sculptures' aesthetics and construction draw on the history of minimalism, recalling, for example, the abstracted forms of David Smith's "Cubi" series, where industrial materials transpose into near-lyrical compositions. The sculptures evoke the delicate yet resilient structure of crocus flowers, specifically highlighting their petals and sepal in blue, and their stamen and pollen in yellow. The experience of witnessing the first crocus flower bloom of Spring after a long winter is profound, evoking a sense of absolute sensitivity and vulnerability within oneself. This delicate moment, where one encounters such a tiny and fragile creature, deeply affects both the body and perception. It stirs an emotion that is uniquely triggered by the perception of this delicate being, adding a certain depth to one's emotional landscape. This sensitivity in the surroundings brings about a change within, influencing and shaping one's emotional state in a way that wouldn't have been possible without it. This moment serves as inspiration for creating artwork that abstractly captures the essence of this flower, reflecting both its fragility and the transformative effect it has on the observer.

This series is deeply embedded with personal and historical layers, reflecting Voigt's experience of living in Berlin during the onset of the war in Ukraine—a stark juxtaposition to the spring's symbol of renewal. The proximity of the conflict evokes a visceral response, resonating with Voigt's childhood memories shaped by her parents' experiences of war. These sculptures then become a medium through which she explores the transgenerational transmission of trauma and the survival mechanisms that arise from such deep-seated emotional scars. Voigt's use of repetitive asymmetric shapes, one of which she refers to as "zigzag" forms, embodies the notion of "the glitch" as discussed in Legacy Russel's "Glitch Feminism." Here, the glitch is not a malfunction but a deliberate intervention—a remix of elements that challenges and expands upon the original form. Through this lens, the sculptures act as metaphors for gender and societal norms, seen as "original recordings" that can be rearranged and repurposed to forge new, emancipatory narratives.

Charlie Stein, Portrait (Shoulder), 2024. Oil on Canvas, 250 x 140 x 2.5 cm.

As Russel writes "To remix is to rearrange and add to an original...the spirit of remixing is about finding ways to innovate with what's been given, creating something new from something already there...By viewing culture, society, and gender as materials to remix...reclaimed, rearranged, repurposed, and rebirthed toward an emancipatory enterprise." Russel's manifesto emphasizes the body as a "machinic assemblage," a concept that resonates with Voigt's sculptures, even if Voigt only ever uses figurative elements like the parts of a visual language and not as representation of human form. Each assembly of shapes and colors does not depict flowers but suggests something more and beyond; one can read abstracted bodies in a way that relates to Stein's use of cropping and zooming of body parts. By incorporating elements that visually interfere and juxtapose—like the contrasting colors and forms—Voigt's is also a "glitch" as remix.

Both Stein and Voigt create works that are a reflection and as well as an abstraction, inviting the viewer to perceive bodies and identities not as fixed entities but as fluid, constantly being reshaped and redefined. In the context of Legacy Russel's concept of the "remix" as a survival strategy, Voigt's work can be seen as a remixing of materials and memories to navigate and cope with the present realities. The modular nature of the sculptures represents the rearrangement and repurposing of inherited narratives and personal histories. Each piece, through its form and connectivity, suggests how individuals and societies might reassemble the pieces of their shattered pasts to form a resilient present and future. Thus, "März" acts as both a physical and metaphoric remix, transforming the artist’s personal and collective memories of conflict and renewal into a visual and conceptual exploration of survival. The sculptures stand as testament to the power of art to forge connections across generations, helping to heal and articulate the often ineffable experiences of trauma and recovery. WM 



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