Mannheimer Morgen
Saturday, 28 April 2007

Photography: The London based artist Liane Lang asks questions about different forms of aliveness
By our correspondent
Bernadett Gross

Antiques with Extras

It is night time in a Sculpture Cast Collection. A woman’s arms embrace chest and loin of an antique ‘Germanicus’, a second child, a teenager, leans on Michelangelo’s ‘Madonna and Child’ and in the arms of the Greek God Theseus lies acquiescent (or maybe dead?) a young woman in a summer dress.
Liane Lang has arranged and photographed these scenes in after hour sessions at the collection of the Royal Academy in London, where the German artist lives and works.

The result is technically as well as artistically of high quality and very complex.
The Heidelberger Kunstverein exhibits five large-format photographs and two smaller objects. The latter reveal that the 33-year old artist is dealing with animation, the effort to manipulate inanimate objects to make them appear alive. Through a stereoscopic viewer a woman’s naked legs next to Cupid’s stone ones, regain their three-dimensionality. And looking at the mirrored centre of a rotating cylinder, it appears as though a woman’s arms are stroking a man’s chest. It is a pleasure that this transition from image to film, from flat surface to spatial illusion can still be retraced. But these are just secondary considerations.
Essentially Lang shows the interlacing of death and life, of solidity and decay. On closer inspection the supplementary woman’s hands appear unreal, the limbs, at first ascribed to a living person, don’t fit together, here and there are some legs missing, some anatomical incongruities, what at first appeared so lively suddenly capsizes – and now speaks of decay and decomposition.

Lang’s figures, with which she supplements and artistically re-designs casts of young and antique sculptures, are made of wax, latex, silicon and hair; a hand stretches out in rigour mortis from the Laocoon Group, others have gnawed finger nails, as though rotted off or nibbled. Out of this contrast the classical figures emerge young, fresh and full of life. They are themselves now pushed into the realm of the living, in spite of their complete artifice, being made of stone, plaster, latex and wax, transformed further by being presented as a photograph. Nonetheless, as with all good art, this speaks of life and of death.
Our collective memory of images tells us: Laocoon, Madonna etc are Art. The levels of perception are so nested, that deception and revelation intertwine, real and fictional bodies emerge and disappear, spinning a continuous web. This is artistic self-reflection, posing the question of ones own space within history. The desire for the old, the beautiful, the everlasting, gains new strength through the classical aesthetic of the sculptures, the precisely composed ‘additions’, through the capable use of the materials and the sharp and exacting realisation into two-dimensionality.

i Heidelberger Kunstverein, Hauptstrasse 97, until 17 June. Tue – Fri 12.00 –19.00, Sat-Sun 11.00-19.00

Kunstverein Heidelberg