Corinna Schnitt and Pia Stadtbäumer


Holding Court

Video and sculptures


Opening: January 22, 2010, 6-10 pm
The exhibition runs until March 7, 2010



The Baroque and Rococo periods are often associated with ostentatious court festival culture, playful, coquettish eroticism, masquerade and role-playing. However, all this exuberance isn–€™t the result of unforced naturalness but a highly artificial system of rituals, codes and gestures. It is no accident that the Baroque age was also a period of great mathematicians, and one marked by a fascination with machines and the movement artificially generated by these.


Baroque sculptures are often animated with a force of movement that seems to transcend the inflexibility of wood or marble. In Rococo gardens and parks, the sculptures are eternally fixed in exalted poses that a living person would have difficulty holding for a few minutes. The same could be said for a series of coloured figures by Pia Stadtbäumer that represent a marked departure from the frontality and statuesque quality of many of her earlier works. Even where there are no specific art historical references, it is still possible to find similarities with the figures populating the paintings of Watteau, Boucher or Fragonard in which mostly young women or men amuse themselves alone or together: a private sphere into which we, as observers, are permitted to cast a secret glance. These poses and gestures, which repeatedly echo each other in a frivolous game, are taken up again in Pia Stadtbäumer–€™s figures, though now alone, unreciprocated: the –€œGuitarman–€ plays air guitar. The considerably smaller-than-life-size sculptures carry the names of the people that acted as models, and their naturalism, resembling that of wax figures, carries the traits of our time. The coquettish narcissism is rendered immobile. The mirror into which –€œBarbara–€ exhibits her backside is black.


Mirrors, which endlessly multiply the halls of palaces, might also act as a symbol of the Baroque period, whose complexity Richard Alewyn, in his wonderful book on court festivals, reduces to a simple analogy: the world is a theatre. And Corinna Schnitt leads us into a kind of theatre production in a film made in 2002 at Schloss Solitude. This hunting lodge, built in the 1760s to the west of Stuttgart, currently houses a summer academy and guest studios for artists. A courtly lady in historical dress strides through the Rococo rooms and examines herself in a mirror while singing in monotone, mechanical repetition the sentence –€œIch bin was Besond–€™res–€ (–€œI am something special–€). This is answered by a chorus, which, as the continuous tracking shot reveals the front steps of the Schloss, turns out to be a police choir from the present. Thus, the present radically enters the closed historical staging. Subjective narcissism is answered by an objective instance of state power.


Behind these high spirits are not only power structures, but also life–€™s fundamental transience. This is given particularly strong expression in the art of still life that flourished in the 17th century. Pia Stadtbäumer–€™s –€œHasenkopf–€ (–€œRabbit Head–€), an earthenware terrine, recalls the animal heads often found in 17th-century Netherlandish still lifes. This type of painting is also echoed in the arrangement of dishes, flowers and fruits in Corinna Schnitt–€™s film –€œHänschen Klein–€ (–€œLittle Hans–€). Rather than in a richly furnished bourgeois interior, however, the arrangement is presented on a terrace table in the elegant minimal setting of a conspicuously unadorned modern housing estate. A seesaw next to the path looks like a piece of public art, as yet undisturbed by a straying child. Everything seems as unused and artificial as on a stage. Corinna Schnitt has already shown in a number of her other films that just as many perspectives can be discovered on the stage of contemporary everyday life as in the hall of mirrors of Baroque theatre.


Ludwig Seyfarth


Exhibition view