Eva Schwab: Hautjob

Paintings and works on paper

Opening: November 13, 2009
The exhibition runs until January 8, 2010









Whoever carries out a skin job, like the Blade Runner in Ridley Scott–€™s film of the same name, needs to have a special relationship to the mysterious external organ enclosing the human body–€™s interior. He needs to be both chemist and hunter, analyst and tracker. Most of all, he needs to be able to break open the epidermis –€“ that precious shell that spreads like a layer of wax over the more deeply rooted layers –€“ allowing its historical plasma to flow, without damaging their cohesion. The material to which he applies the knife, to remove layer upon layer, is the hidden flesh of empathy, the immediate guarantor of the human, which distinguishes the artificial skin from the contingent, the human skin with all its past history.


The Blade Runner poses questions. He inundates the apparently blank nakedness of the skin. He forces each cell to disclose its historicity in order to penetrate the enclosed form of the body: Who are you? Where do you come from? Where do I come from? Who am I?


With precision, Eva Schwab sounds the images of her own history. Photographs from family albums act as a starting point, as do other sources, some of which are foreign, while others have been chosen for their relatedness. These are snap shots, arrangements, which everyone has access to. The familial passes through the ethnic and the political to become a comprehensive historical body, a web of memories and expectations that enclose mere facts. Here, the living, the dead and the unborn are connected like the three dimensions of time, as if they were always simultaneously present and past, as if they created the agitated background of each picture that may well only speak of now, but which, as picture, still remains pure past.


Self-similarities, things acquired through reading, legacy and ornament; the bowed neck of someone receiving news, the supra-personal gesture of waving, the old, the children standing next to each other, the taxidermy on the wall: antlers, hides, ancestors, these schemata of mutually referential growth that are repeated through the individual elements like threads in the flesh of time.


The philosopher Heinrich Rickert called these freely wandering forms –€œunreal sense constructions–€ (–€œirreale Sinngebilde–€), around which –€“ more than around historical facts –€“ cultural memory gathers, creating the secret bond of sympathy that binds together different generations. We –€œbelong–€ to them long before they belong to us. Eva Schwab–€™s pictures –€“ palimpsests of empathy –€“ bear witness to this.


What if artistic forms nested in this body of memory like the androids wrapped in human skin, the copies or replicants pursued by the Blade Runner? What if they took the upper hand in the organism of history like techno-cellular ulcers that accumulate over the ancestral web with its detours and chimerical zones? What if the skin job, the –€œshooting out–€ of the human from its thicket, was newly distributed, if the hunter became the hunted?


Dr. Cathrin Nielsen