Wiebke Siem: Collection
3 February – 28 April 2001
Exhibition in Galleries 1, 2 and 3
This exhibition brings together all the works which make up Wiebke Siem's four 'Werkgruppen' (workgroups).
These pieces - 136 in total - made between 1989 and 1997, have only been shown together once before since their completion in 1997, when they were exhibited at the Kunsthalle Bern. Dispersed across Europe in different public and private collections, their reassembly allows the artist another chance to temporarily 'complete' the work by designing a 'museum' display specially for the Institute's galleries.
Wiebke Siem (b. Kiel 1954, now based in Berlin) has for a number of years been concerned with the question of authorship and idiom. If everything has already been tried, what can an artist make? If we live in a supposedly post-modern age, why are we still so deeply reliant on the idea of 'the modern'? Is the notion of style as a sign of personal expression completely redundant?
Siem has used her 'workgroups' to play out the idea of the artist and artist's oeuvre, proposing to us a distinctive corpus of work which is, in fact, premised upon the disappearance of the author and the absence of a signature style. Despite their meticulous fabrication, the artist’s hand is mysteriously absent and these works exist in a strangely timeless zone, in a museum of disparate collections where everything becomes equal. Groups of types - theme and variation - propose an anonymity which is at once visually appealing and intellectually unsettling.
The different sets in Siem’s collection - costumes, accessories, wigs, masks, carts, stones, textiles and toys - may hark back to the Renaissance cabinet of curiosities (or 'wunderkammer') but they also ask us to address more seriously subversive questions about the possibilities of making art now. Shown in the Henry Moore Institute they encourage viewers to focus more particularly on the relationship between sculpture and object, and relate also to this year’s series of collaborations with the British Museum.