Henrike Naumann: Aesthetics of Power

Thursday, Jan 14, 2021 – Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

Shot in 2017 with a handheld camera, the image is shaky and occasionally appears somewhat frantic. It moves through a room containing a disorganized collection of furniture and household appliances, including cabinets, shelves, dressers, armchairs, mirrors, and televisions, whose stylistic peculiarities point to a ’90s aesthetic.

The location in Berlin where the video was shot is of historical importance: built in 1663, the Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince’s Palace) of the Hohenzollern was used from 1919 to 1937 as a new department of the Nationalgalerie to house its collection of modern art. After sustaining damage during World War II, the palace was rebuilt between 1968 and 1970 by Richard Paulick as the guest house of the Magistrate of the German Democratic Republic. It was here that the German Reunification Treaty was signed in 1990.

The film is accompanied by sound recordings of a historic event from the more recent past: the storming of the United States Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. Three reporters can be heard commenting on the events unfolding against a background of violent noise, where continuous shouts leave no doubt as to the attitude of the mob.

This frightening soundtrack appears to correspond with the filmed sequence. Among the furniture, a horned helmet is visible, inevitably bringing to mind the images, widely circulated in the media, of the Donald Trump supporter wearing a similar headpiece who was photographed loudly rioting in the Senate Chamber. By bringing together two different locations, times, and circumstances, the violence heard in the sound recording is suddenly brought very close to home, and the vulnerability of our social and democratic values is made evident.

Henrike Naumann, born in Zwickau in 1984, explores consumer culture, the media, social life and politics, especially right-wing movements. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Belvedere 21 in Vienna (2019), Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig (2019), and honored at Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach (2018), among others.