Die Gimel-Welt. Wie man Objekte zum Sprechen bringt

by Bettina Brunner

Kunsthaus Graz

04-majewski.gif

Antje Majewski, The Guardian Of All Things That Are The Case, (Der Wächter aller Dinge, die der Fall sind), 2009

Antje Majewski, The Guardian Of All Things That Are The Case, 2009

For this exhibition, the cosmos of Antje Majewski’s ‘Gimel World’ – an imaginary world where everything is possible – comprised a total of seven objects, most of them acquired by the artist on her travels: from an exotic plant called Buddha’s hand and a chunk of meteorite from China to an obscure Osage orange fruit from Oklahoma and a white stone from her grandmother’s house. 
They formed the basis for the exhibition ‘The World of Gimel. How To Make Objects Talk’ co-curated by Majewski and Kunsthaus Graz curator Adam Budak to mark the bicentenary of the Universalmuseum Joanneum, a vast museal complex which includes the Kunsthaus.

The result of two years of research and preparation, ‘The World of Gimel’ was not a classical group show but more like the artist’s own private museum. It examined the circulation, classification and discursivity of objects, as well as the possibility of rethinking the organization of knowledge between artistic research, myth creation and fields studies. As the artist Issa Samb says in La coquille. Conversation entre Issa Samb et Antje Majewski. Dakar 2010 (The cockle. Conversation between Issa Samb and Antje Majewski. Dakar 2010, 2010): ‘Every time a person moves an object from one place to another, he takes part in changing the world, the order of things.’

The exhibition started with a display of Majewski’s seven found items, followed by separate thematic rooms devoted to each one. The artist-curator focussed on the individual objects in a series of six large-format paintings which recall Surrealism: the items often appear enlarged many times over and mostly in interaction with human figures. In The Guardian Of All Things That Are The Case (2009), six of the objects are shown in 
a guarded museum vitrine – an encounter between a 19th-century museum and a baroque cabinet of curiosities, between the need for objective classification and personal systems of ordering.

The show was marked not only by the found objects’ geographical and visual shifts but also by references to their involvement 
in Majewski’s past projects and collaborative works. Mame N’Dyaré (2011), Majewski’s painting of a naked woman looking into a huge seashell, was made for a joint exhibition with Juliane Solmsdorf at Galerie Töplitz in Potsdam entitled ‘Eyland’ (2011). That show also featured Solmsdorf’s Knie (Knee, 2010), an imprint of the artist’s knee, which was included in a ‘Gimel World’ room dedicated to shells. The shell motif appeared multiply in Mathilde Rosier’s Shells and Shoes Collection (2008) – a gigantic object made of painted cardboard behind a screen – while Marcel Duchamp’s Coin de chasteté (Wedge of Chastity, 1954/63) referred to its sexual symbolism.

‘Gimel’ is the third letter of Semitic alphabets but was understood as a symbol for the universal. The word is also derived from the Hebrew ‘gamal’, which can mean ‘to give’. It denotes the circulation of Majewski’s objects while recurring throughout the exhibition in relation to gestures of generosity and bestowing gifts. ‘A whole world can pass through an open hand,’ says the filmmaker and occasional tarot card reader Alejandro Jodorowsky in Majewski’s video La main qui donne (The Hand That Gives, 2010). Another of her videos – La pierre, la boule, les yeux. Conversation entre El Hadji Sy et Antje Majewski. Dakar 2010 (The stone, the ball, the eyes. Conversation between El Hadji Sy and Antje Majewski. Dakar 2010, 2010) – shows El Hadji Sy, a member of the Huit Facettes artists’ collective, presenting Majewski with a gold-painted block of 
metal which was also included in the exhibition under the title Lingot d’or (Gold Ingot, undated). These video interviews allowed Majewski to examine her Gimel objects in dialogue and within different cultural frameworks.

The exhibition was coherent in its specific logic, which relied upon an associative 
flow of knowledge between objects, individuals and the world. Besides Majewski’s paintings, the selected works related formally, thematically or via personal association to the found objects and – in the sense of the exhibition’s subtitle, giving a voice to otherwise mute things – successfully expressed their polyphony.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell

Bettina Brunner

frieze d/e

Winter 2011–12
Issue 3

First published in Issue 3

Winter 2011–12

Most Read

Review

Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Review

Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland
Agata Bogacka, Composition With Eyes, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 114 x 146 cm. Courtesy: Dawid Radziszewski Gallery, Warsaw

Critic's Guide

The pick of the shows opening today as part of Warsaw Gallery Weekend

Culture Digest

Following the recent New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, Dan Fox profiles three independent publishers

News

Vincent Fecteau and Mary Reid Kelley are awarded MacArthur genius grants; Ulay victorious in court case against ex-...

Influences

Mealworms and Chinese scrolls: Ahead of her show at London's Cell Project Space, the Berlin-based artist...
Haegue Yang, Cubes (Small), 2015, commissioned for ‘The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT8). Installation view Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

City Report

Within the city’s tropical climate a tenacious and passionate art scene is thriving

Profile

A newly-released album gives overdue attention to the innovative, politicized music of the late Julius Eastman

Feature

A report from the culmination of the 2016 Bergen Assembly 
David Hammons, The Wine Leading  the Wine, c.1969, body print, 1 × 1.2 m. Courtesy: George Economou Collection, Athens; photograph: Bill Orcutt 

Review

Mnuchin Gallery, New York & The George Economou Collection, Athens

Review

Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK

Feature

A new Smithsonian Museum highlights African American history and culture

Feature

The multiple worlds of Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler’s experimental magazine-turned-exhibition, Mould Map

Culture Digest

From gay communes to surrealist ethnography: what to read about this weekend

Culture Digest

The final part of this week's Culture Digest looks at two recently reissued books by Eileen Myles

News

Finland cuts state funding for Guggenheim’s proposed Helsinki museum; Barack Obama to inaugurate new Washington D...

Picture Piece

Georgiana Houghton's 19th-century spirit paintings

Feature

On using art to reflect on its own labour
Anna Ostoya, A Kiss, 2016, oil on canvas, 61 x 76 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Silberkuppe, Berlin; photograph: Timo Ohler

Critic's Guide

The best shows opening as part Berlin Art Week

Latest Magazines

Frieze Week

London 2016
frieze d/e issue 25, Autumn 2016

frieze d/e

Autumn 2016

frieze magazine

October 2016