Monika Stricker

Clages, Cologne, Germany

The exact meaning of the square plaster and wire objects lying on the floor is not immediately obvious. There are three in total, and another hangs from a nearby wall like an empty sack. Their surfaces are uneven, furrowed, with what might be the marks of hands or other body parts. I am tempted to touch them – carefully, though, as they appear fragile. But what do they mean? The title given to each of these works, Exhaled (all works 2017), is no help.

These pieces, presented in the first room of Clages, Cologne, must have something to do with the human body, not least because they are faced by large, hung screenprints that resemble body-prints but are in fact drawings. Each of the two canvases (My Mate and Another Primate) show a naked woman rendered in black lines, her hands raised above her head, spinning on her own vertical axis. Triumphant, like a goddess, she seems to be dancing around the plaster trophies strewn beneath her.

web_mono-f.jpg

Monika Stricker, Mono F, 2017, silk print, 100 x 70 cm. Courtesy: Clages, Cologne

Monika Stricker, Mono F, 2017, silk print, 100 x 70 cm. Courtesy: Clages, Cologne

An additional white plaster sack hangs in a separate room. This one, Inhaled, seems to be full, with two bulges visible in the lower area. Buttocks, perhaps? On the floor, neatly aligned, are two plaster spheres. Balls. At last, I get it: the sacks hanging on the wall are scrotums. In the first room they are without air, empty and slack. Lain at the feet of the naked dancer, they are like sacrifices: powerless, perhaps conquered. In the second room, they are loaded, bursting with potency. But this doesn’t seem apt, for this exhibition, entitled ‘Stereo Balls’, has a tragic quality to it.

Somehow, these works recall those of certain women artists of the 1970s – Ulrike Rosenbach and Carolee Schneemann, for example. At that time, women artists (the first generation to self-identify as feminists) were putting their own bodies and the battle of the sexes at the forefront of their work. Their works were earnest, accusatory, and aggressive, set in direct opposition to the discrimination that was rife within the art world and in society in general. Humour took a backseat. The situation was too serious for that. To remain calm and composed was a tall order: as a woman, one was much too involved.

web_installation-view_stereo-balls_5.jpg

Monika Stricker, 'Stereo Balls', 2017, installation view, Clages, Cologne. Courtesy: Clages, Cologne

Monika Stricker, 'Stereo Balls', 2017, installation view, Clages, Cologne. Courtesy: Clages, Cologne

It is surely no coincidence that Stricker chose to revisit this brazen aesthetic today, when the question of women’s role in art seems to be topical once again. The past few years have seen a spate of large-scale exhibitions centring on historical feminist positions and, after many years, young women artists are openly declaring their commitment to the feminist cause. But while Stricker invokes many of these first generation artists, her work differs from theirs in a fundamental way – and this difference is key. Stricker’s 21st-century statement comes cloaked in a calm humour. She addresses the sexual tensions, games and dependencies between man and woman, but does so playfully, with relaxed wit: here the dancing naked woman and the out-of-breath man, there the man with his virility.

On the floor of a third room lies the titular Stereo Balls: eight plaster spheres (six small, two large), arranged like a group of billiard balls and equipped with piezoelectric buzzers that play sounds recorded by Stricker in the exhibition space – grouped gonads turned resonators. On a neighbouring wall hangs another screenprint titled We Are the Stereo. With its scratchy lines set against a vivid red background, it shows an erect penis and a man’s hands reaching for a vagina. These coupled works are indicative of Stricker’s exhibition as a whole: in part humorous and relaxed, while also illustrating that – fortunately – the relationship between man and woman is still fraught with tension.

Translated by Nicholas Grindell

Main image: Monika Stricker, 'Stereo Balls', 2017, mixed media, sound installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy: Clages, Cologne

Noemi Smolik is a critic based in Bonn, Germany, and Prague, Czech Republic.

Issue 192

First published in Issue 192

January - February 2018

Most Read

Ignoring its faux-dissident title, this year's edition at the New Museum displays a repertoire that is folky, angry,...
An insight into royal aesthetics's double nature: Charles I’s tastes and habits emerge as never before at London’s...
In other news: Artforum responds to #NotSurprised call for boycott of the magazine; Maria Balshaw apologizes for...
At transmediale in Berlin, contesting exclusionary language from the alt-right to offshore finance
From Shanghai to Dubai, a new history charts the frontiers where underground scenes battle big business for electronic...
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, UK
Zihan Karim, Various Way of Departure, 2017, video still. Courtesy: Samdani Art Foundation
Can an alternative arts network, unmediated by the West's commercial capitals and burgeoning arts economies of China...
‘That moment, that smile’: collaborators of the filmmaker pay tribute to a force in California's film and music scenes...
In further news: We Are Not Surprised collective calls for boycott of Artforum, accuses it of 'empty politics'; Frida...
We Are Not Surprised group calls for the magazine to remove Knight Landesman as co-owner and withdraw move to dismiss...
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is both gorgeous and troubling in equal measure
With Zona Maco opening in the city today, a guide to the best exhibitions across the Mexican capital
The question at the heart of Manchester Art Gallery’s artwork removal: what are the risks when cultural programming...
In further news: Sonia Boyce explains removal of Manchester Art Gallery’s nude nymphs; Creative Scotland responds to...
Ahead of the India Art Fair running this weekend in the capital, a guide to the best shows to see around town
The gallery argues that the funding body is no longer supportive of institutions that maintain a principled refusal of...
The Dutch museum’s decision to remove a bust of its namesake is part of a wider reconsideration of colonial histories,...
At New York’s Metrograph, a diverse film programme addresses a ‘central problem’ of feminist filmmaking
Ronald Jones pays tribute to a rare critic, art historian, teacher and friend who coined the term Post-Minimalism
In further news: curators rally behind Laura Raicovich; Glasgow's Transmission Gallery responds to loss of Creative...
Nottingham Contemporary, UK
‘An artist in a proud and profound sense, whether he liked it or not’ – a tribute by Michael Bracewell
Ahead of a show at Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum, how the documentarian’s wandering gaze takes in China’s landscapes of...
In further news: Stedelijk explains why it cancelled Ettore Sottsass retrospective; US National Gallery of Art cancels...
With 11 of her works on show at the Musée d'Orsay, one of the most underrated artists in modern European history is...
Reopening after a two-year hiatus, London’s brutalist landmark is more than a match for the photographer’s blockbuster...
What the Google Arts & Culture app tells us about our selfie obsession
At a time of #metoo fearlessness, a collection of female critics interrogate their own fandom for music’s most...
A rare, in-depth interview with fashion designer Jil Sander

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

October 2017

frieze magazine

November - December 2017

frieze magazine

January - February 2018