Philipp von Rosen

Judi Werthein

12 Feb - 02 Apr 2011

© Judi Werthein
Cosa, 2011
Air of Cologne in the shape of an elephant
Das Land der Freien
12 February - 2 April 2011

We are proud to inaugurate on February 11, 2011 Das Land der Freien (The Land of the Free) an exhibition by Judi Werthein. It is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Germany.

This exhibition includes the video installation La Tierra de los Libres, 2008, a 2-channel video, 8 min., sound, color), in the gallery’s lower space, giving the exhibition its title. Along with this is Cosa, 2009, a sculpture that fills the space of the gallery's entrance area. Finally, also on view is the work The Box: One Second, a work comprised of 24 photgraphic prints.

Cosa (Thing) is filled with the air of city in which it is exhibited, larger-than-life-size textile elephant that blocks access to the gallery’s exhibition spaces with its gigantic body. The artist ordered an elephant via telephone from a Chinese company. Werthein's simple parameters were the possibility to inflate it, and that the weight of the piece was equal to the maximum FedEx shipment weight. The work refers to the American idiom: "there is an elephant in the room,” which is used describe the situation when a group of people consciously ignore a specific topic that is taboo, like sexual orientation, race, religion, or politics, even if they agree on its importance. The piece has been traveling around the world since August 2009 taking the shape of the negative space of several exhibition rooms and never displaying its own full form.

The unsaid word leads us to the group of 24 framed photographs that have been created for this exhibition under the title The Box: One Second. These prints are displayed on a long shelf in the gallery. Werthein shot images of her TV as she was zapping from channel to channel. In these photographs the artist captured a broad group of televised films. Closed-caption texts appear at the bottom of her TV screen, corresponding to each scene. The artist uses these images to compose a fotonovela - a narration made of images that let the arbitrary zapping through the programs appear as an act of a subjective narration, individualizing the mass media of television.

For the installation La Tierra de los Libres, Werthein asked an Arrullo-band in a restaurant in the slums of Cali, Columbia to perform their own characteristic folk version the official Spanish translation of the "Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the USA. In the adaption of the original text to their Arrullo-music, the musicians adjusted the lyrics of the anthem in concordance with their own rhythms. For instance, band members sing "you say you can see" instead of "oh say can you see." This act of translation functions on multiple levels when the revolutionary words of the original song are re-interpreted. When sang by the band’s members, the lyrics are ‘re-revolutionized,’ attaining a new significance that calls the US dominance of Latin America into question.

A recording, in a limited edition of 100 LPs, signed and numbered by the artist is also available.

Judi Werthein lives and works in Buenos Aires and New York City. Her work has been exhibited by MUSAC (Leon, Spain); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (New York City); MUAC (Mexico City); Sala Siquieiros (Mexico City); MOCA (Miami); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (Madrid); De Appel (Amsterdam); and Tate Modern (London).

She has also participated in the 41 Salón Nacional de Artistas (Cali); Manifesta 7 (Bolzano); Biennial for Contemporary Art Gothenburg (Sweden); Bucharest Biennale; Plot 09, organized by Creative Time (New York); InSite_05 (San Diego/Tijuana); and the 7th Biennial of Havana.

This year the artist will participate in the Biennial of Lyon, and have a solo exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA.

Tags: Judi Werthein