Art

Architecture’s Impenetrable Imagery and Rarely Seen Machinery

Viewing mechanisms: formwork units collapse space as surface images produce depth in Franka Hörnschemeyer's exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
Viewing mechanisms: formwork units collapse space as surface images produce depth in Franka Hörnschemeyer’s exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

BERLIN — The interplay of flatness and dimensionality in Franka Hörnschemeyer’s site-specific installations yields images seemingly more penetrable than the adjacent structures. The Berlin-based artist’s current exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab consists of constructions of architectural materials alongside floor-to-ceiling photographs by Jan Bitter of the German School in Madrid by Grüntuch Ernst Architects. The exhibition is the third installment in the Room in Room series — a collaborative project developed by Grüntuch Ernst Architects, artist Susanne Schuricht, and architect Karsten Schubert. Initiating a convergence of architecture and architecture-related art, the series takes an interdisciplinary approach to conceptualizing space and its representational modes. This installation exposes the communicative properties embedded in architecture’s materiality and the often-impenetrable spatial systems it generates.

Interchange of surface and space: formwork structure alongside painted trade fair construction panels in Franka Hörnschemeyer's exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab (click to enlarge)
Interchange of surface and space: formwork structure alongside painted trade fair construction panels in Franka Hörnschemeyer’s exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab (click to enlarge)

Hörnschemeyer disengaged metal structures used for casting concrete walls from their coverings, leaving them unbound from solid, closed forms, to constitute freestanding grids. In the resulting installation, the potential for communication materializes in the interwoven lines of the grid. The walls become windows — evoking the geometric seriality of the modern curtain wall — but the mediating glass between interior and exterior is absent. It is a barrier open for exchange. However, this openness is at times an illusion. The spaces engendered by formwork units are not always accessible, though they are visible. The depth evoked by see-through walls — where the wall is a mechanism for viewing — is paradoxically flattened out and reproduced as image, as surface. Perception of these spaces is intertwined with the physicality of motion and changing relationships to structures.

Hörnschemeyer similarly mobilizes used trade fair construction panels — the favored material of temporary exhibitions — to form another series of spaces. Reconstituted as a self-supporting sculptural installation, the panels’ traces of use, markings, wounds, and stains remain exposed. Moving around and through the piece, the temporary nature of constructions, their processes of transformation, and their material memory are made palpable.

Detail of of Franka Hörnschemeyer's exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab
Architectural renderings stacked between Heraklith panels in Franka Hörnschemeyer’s exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab (click to enlarge)

In another room, fragmentary architectural plans are stacked between panels of Heraklith (an insulation material) in a floor-based, multi-component installation that melds abstracted conceptualizations of walls with their physical surfaces. Positioned between renderings, the permeable material’s function as a layer that is used interchangeably as internal lining and external cladding manifests in literal — though alternative — terms.

The systems generated by Hörnschemeyer’s works entangle the viewer and transform the space of the gallery — in this case, the classrooms of the former Jewish School for Girls, completed in 1928 in a Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) design that privileged functionality. Formwork units weave through the space from one room to the next in an expression of continuity, while disrupting the adjoining passageway and producing a marginal, nonfunctional gap between gallery wall and formwork “wall.”

The relativity and relational aspects of such spatial configurations also prompt considerations of the means of effectively transferring architectural forms and concepts into the context of an exhibition space — as an artificial realm that is both directly engaged in and disconnected from this discourse. A recent exhibition at Architektur Galerie Berlin similarly examined modes of communicating and experiencing architectural projects within this space. Architectural Fashion featured architectural projects interpreted and displayed through fashion designs and viewed, in part, through expansive mirrors that both conformed to and manipulated the gallery’s space.

Installation view of Franka Hörnschemeyer's exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab
Space and inaccessibility: large-scale images constructed as architecture in Franka Hörnschemeyer’s exhibition at Grüntuch Ernst Lab (click to enlarge)

The translation of architecture into clothing designs further engages with the ideas at play in Hörnschemeyer’s work, which recasts structural elements as material and internal structure as outer cladding. This is most apparent in the trade fair panel installation, onto which a rendering of a fabricated grid structure has been painted. The grid pattern — like that of a woven fabric — visually and materially manifests a communicative network, only to disturb it, destabilizing the perceived relationship between surface and space.

Embedded in Hörnschemeyer’s materials and filtering through the space, layers of time, history, and functionality remain perceptibly interconnected within the depth of surface.

Franka Hörnschemeyer’s exhibition continues at Grüntuch Ernst Lab (Auguststraße 11–13, Berlin, Germany) through May 21.

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