Apr 17, 2021 · 5:53 PM

Helen Mirra

(Field Recordings 1–3)

It is a great pleasure for us to begin our annual program with the American conceptual artist Helen Mirra (born 1970 in Rochester, NY, lives and works in Cambridge, MA). For many years already, Mirra has been going on precisely planned walks in various parts of the world: in the context of art, Helen Mirra sees walking as a form of being, and in this way it also forms the basis of her new group of works, “gehend (Field Recordings 1–3)”.

Helen Mirra – gehend, Exhibition view Museum Haus Konstruktiv, 2012, Photo: Stefan Altenburger
Helen Mirra – gehend, Exhibition view Museum Haus Konstruktiv, 2012, Photo: Stefan Altenburger

With her walking projects, the artist draws on the tradition of land art, an art movement which emerged around the mid-1960s, the most prominent representatives of which include Hamish Fulton, Robert Smithson and Richard Long. However, compared with the works of Hamish Fulton, for instance, who also realized a comprehensive exhibition at the museum Haus Konstruktiv in 2004 and who mostly links his walks with elements of language and typography, Mirra’s works are more reduced. Helen Mirra’s solo exhibition at the museum Haus Konstruktiv is a result of cooperation with Bonner Kunstverein and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art – Kunst-Werke Berlin: the differences in the geographical zones, within which the three participating institutions are located, constituted the initial prerequisite for this cooperation – with Bonn situated at the transition point between the Rhenish Massif and the Lower Rhine Plain, Berlin representing the city with a larger area than any other in Germany, and Zurich with its close proximity to mountains and lakes.

With the title “Field Recordings”, Mirra refers to a term used by ethnologists for documentary sound recordings in nature. Following the ethnological method, Mirra also left her studio in summer 2010 and conducted her field research in the respective surroundings of the three exhibition locations Bonn, Berlin and Zurich, making her recordings in the form of prints. For the routes through the surroundings of Bonn, Berlin and Zurich, each taking 30 days to complete, the artist developed a specially defined ordering system based on temporal, as well as formal-aesthetic criteria: at hourly intervals on her 7-hour walks, she looked for objects by the wayside. She inked each found, dead object, whether broken-off larch twig, dried horsetail plant or fir bud, with a mixture of walnut and Japanese sumi inks, and made a print, right then and there, on rectangular canvasses cut to size. Thus, she recorded seven motifs each day, mentioning the place and time in the works’ titles. The size of the individual prints varies from series to series, as does their arrangement on the wall. All dimensions are related to Mirra’s body – her foot, her hip, her shoulder. Despite how controlled and objective her ordering systems appear, her method is equally complex and sensorially poetic.

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Apr 17, 2021
5:45:00 PM CEST