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'I Prefer Life': Joanna Kirk at the Weserburg Museum for Modern Art

May 23, 2016 by Mary

The exhibition “I Prefer Life” brings together more than 100 pictures, sculptures and video works that investigate in a quite sensual and convincingly provocative manner issues of identity, the assignment of social roles, and also existential areas such as life and death. Highlights and previously undisplayed works from the Reydan Weiss Collection will be presented. The collector was born in Istanbul, grew up in Jordan, went to school in Jerusalem, and came to Germany as a young woman. The fact that she has access to several cultural contexts turns the exhibition into an experience that extends its perspective far past the bounds of Europe out onto the world. In addition to renowned artists such as Cindy Sherman, Nathalie Djurberg, Bettina Rheims as well as Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer and Robert Longo, the exhibition presents many surprising new works, including African, Oceanic, Chinese, Japanese, Latin American and Caribbean positions.


Joana Kirk, Benevolent, 2012
Pastel on board, 196 x 122 cm

The handling and enduring of cultural and individual differences, of tradition and modernism is a fundamental theme of the exhibition. Examples of this are changing photographic identities of Cindy Sherman, exceedingly strange shapes by Charles Fréger, and the not only initially threatening figure of Mircea Suciu concealed in a burka. But also issues such as life and death, beauty and old-age resonate in a convincing manner in many of the works on display. Mat Collishaw's photographic series “Last Meal on Death Row” shows composed still lifes that turn out to be prisoners' final meals before execution. Manabu Yamanaka presents photographs of naked, extremely old women who have been deeply marked by life. Through his death portrait, Andres Serrano is able to convey insights into the normally closed-off area of pathology.This collection includes some surprises never seen before in northwestern Germany.

The large number of outstanding, in some cases abstract paintings is remarkable. If one examines the pictures a considerable cross-section emerges of what is relevant and valid as painting in the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition to works by Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer, as well as by Jonas Burgert, Norbert Schwontkowski, and the Lebanese artist Etel Adnan, there are works by the Australian painter Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, who up to now is not so well-known in Europe. His works are hung coequally alongside those of Bernard Frize and Peter Halley; precisely in spite of their contextuality and direct connection to the aboriginal culture of Australia, they are able to assert themselves in juxtaposition to many works marked by the European-American tradition. In other words: Tjapaltjarri is not assigned any “ethnologically” influenced special status, but takes his place in this collection as an international artist alongside many others whose works are on display here.

The focus is repeatedly on the question of how the diversity, sometimes even the exclusivity of intellectual claims and manners of thinking can continue to exist alongside and among each other. Transferred into the sphere of art, this means: whether and in which way an interconnection between aesthetics and ethics exists and can be experienced in the work of art. It is a matter of learning processes within the framework of an international exchange which are relevant to a broader and younger audience. It is also a matter of attaining another and new perspective onto a world that to some extent has become unhinged, of revising fixed concepts, and of attaining one's own standpoint in the world, alongside and together with other persons.


Etel Adnan, Helene Appel, Emma Bennett, Bertozzi & Casoni, Nicole Bianchet, Jeremy Blake, Katharina Bosse, Ulla von Brandenburg, GL Brierley, Daniele Buetti, Jelena Bulajic, Jonas Burgert, Yoan Capote, Shen Chen, Patrick van Caeckenbergh, Mat Collishaw, Johan Creten, Tony Cragg, Keren Cytter, Nathalie Djurberg, Slawomir Elsner, Elger Esser, Inci Eviner, Paul Fägerskiöld, Famed, Claire Fontaine, Charles Fréger, Bernard Frize, Patrycja German, Rachel Goodyear, Paul Graham, Henriette Grahnert, Sigurdur Gudmundsson, Peter Halley, Dan Halter, Mark Handforth, Flora Hauser, Julie Heffernan, Evelyn Hofer, Linde Ivimey, Du Jie, Bharti Kher, Anselm Kiefer, Joanna Kirk, Ragnar Kjartansson, Imi Knoebel, Shio Kusaka, Alicja Kwade, Thomas Lerooy, Graham Little, Robert Longo, Rosa Loy, Rosilene Luduvico, Alastair Mackie, Kate MccGwire, Alex McQuilkin, Olaf Metzel, Marilyn Minter, Mohau Modisakeng, Jean-Luc Moerman, Yasumasa Morimura, Wangechi Mutu, Shirin Neshat, Julie Nord, Saskia Olde Wolbers, Jacco Olivier, Catherine Opie, Claire Partington, Elodie Pong, Shannon Plumb, Ged Quinn, Till Rabus, Bettina Rheims, Gerhard Richter, Daniela Rossell, Dennis Scholl, Thomas Schütte, Grace Schwindt, Norbert Schwontkowski, Sigga Björg Sigurðardóttir, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Andreas Slominski, Carolein Smit, Kiki Smith, Martina Steckholzer, Anett Stuth, Mircea Suciu, Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, Sandra Vàsques de la Horra, Nil Yalter, Manabu Yamanaka, Zhou Yangming, Young-Jae Lee.

Weserburg Museum of Modern Art
Teerhof 20, 28199 Bremen, Germany

21 May 2016 – 26 February 2017