Tina Kohlmann at Philipp Pflug Contemporary in Frankfurt.
Tina Kohlmann: Paradoxical Passages
15 January - 20 February, 2021
Philipp Pflug Contemporary, Frankfurt
In response to Tina Kohlmann’s Artefakt & Phantasma
“... If I often paint caves that is because they are my plunge into the earth, dark but haloed with brightness, and I, blood of nature- extravagant and dangerous caves, talisman of the Earth, where stalactites, fossils and rocks come together, and where the animals mad by their own malign nature seek refuge. The caves are my hell. Forever dreaming cave with its fogs, memory or longing? eerie, eerie, esoteric, greenish with the slime of time.”
Aqua Viva, Clarice Lispector, 1973
She entered the room without asking permission; she didn’t need to. She was there and not there at the same time, transmitting the heaviness of perceiving both/all worlds simultaneously. “Unexplored?” she asked and looked right into my eyes. I followed her into a darker room. She stayed on the other side of the bed, holding a vessel that looked like a log. It contained a message. As she poured the clear water it made a sound much louder than its volume would suggest. She poured it into a white serving plate on the bed. Nothing was served, yet this was almost a portal – a time portal made of water, or water made of a portal, or time had caused the water to open a portal. It was a generous gift from the Dirillo river: over the years, water had run through the portal into the river, tears flowing over her hair into the river. Time was fluid, time is fluid –
A portal that was fluid, with long tentacles that covered her eyes when she didn’t need to use her sense of sight anymore. This reminded me of the curious worm portal from the movie Donnie Darko. I was trying to keep myself calm yet open, trying to hold onto memories, memories of others.
She was openly asking questions rather than seeking answers. Hecate was guiding the way for the wanderers. It was another attempt, an experiment to recall the placements, what to put where and in which order to create new portals. This intuitive knowledge brought a sense of relief to the room, of things having been settled. The room that calls itself space, where one knows that by repeating a particular sequence, a flow will inevitably begin to be established. And will flourish.
A whale was moving slowly, generously sharing its charm in cold waters while keeping the hell gate wide open. Bodies were lustfully crawling into each other; words were repeated time and again, which brought forth new ways of telling old stories. She enjoyed holding the doors open but at the same time their resistance frustrated her. The shamanic nature of ritualistic tradition was almost embedded in that moment, and I knew that at one point I would need to get involved.
She started telling me stories of many women, of extraordinary beings, peculiar underwater creatures and their rituals. She never mentioned when or whether I would ever be in their presence or in which order I ought to position the objects that would lead me to their portal/s. She just showed me that one could ask, and wonder, not only about what was behind the mask but how to reshape the facade. Just try to bite it, taste it, mold it, understand it.
It was a challenging time to consider covering myself at that moment; the transparent curtains flowed or moved almost as if they were the unwanted ghosts of the house. Yet they were what truly made up the households, what held memory in the place, not hiding behind masks but rather flowing in the air, creating gaps for the locked or hidden parts. Bells without a jar, that was the last thing she recalled of the water. Wet hair on a giant mouth of tolling bells preparing the night for the room after her leaving.
To cut the mask, to give it a mouth, yet to put bells into it rather than teeth or sound – it must be a call for a time when one can only be heard through the obstacle of the cloth, I whispered into the void of the room. Moments that felt like years passed by, she left, I stood by the abandoned wet cloths. Fear left in its place a sense of obligation. I listened to the voices from prelinguistic times until they left the room to its emptiness.
Bells within masks, masks covered with hair, tear catchers waiting to be filled with water, on mirrors that will bend the time to seek others – it was a bodily ritual in which we only asked questions and tried even as we failed over and over again.