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A Confetti Denkraum of Corrupted Conceptualism

 

She was made up of quirks, of small flourishes in thought that were a tick otherly. Not that she wanted to shirk the duty of an artist. No, not at all. She just knew that it had to be something else, something other what had already been navigated and mapped out in the atlas of art. 

Certainly Berlin had no quota on the number of artists or art it could contain. And when she was a little girl in Braunschweig making ceramic animals-ducks, rabbits, birds, and walruses-and amassing a colletion of spheres, West Berlin was not too far away, behind a wall, an island in the middle of otherness, a non-tropical island inhabited by strange people. Why did she make those animals? She wanted to prove to herself that she could do it, and that’s all. She wanted to be an artist and she did all the right things to become one. But she was an object maker who would eventually give up the objects for the idea of objects made by someone else. 

That was when she made her „Other Room“, a Denkraum. She was given the opportunity to fill a room with objects made by her, Made in Braunschweig, the final work made before graduating to real life where she would be an artist after and outside of the academy. But she didn’t make anything. She didn’t put any objects in the room where they would stand out in their anonymity. She re-made the room, raising its floor some 10 cm high, created a wall out of Y-tong blocks, and made a 1:10 concrete model replication of it all for the garden outside. This Denkraum, this „think-room“, was a truly mysterious thing for 1996, and furthermore she wasn’t playing the role of the artist so much as the role of a gallerist, sprucing up a space for others to show their work. 

A few things at this point in time were known: she was a protagonist of the minimal and a protagonist of fun; she was an antagonist of the minimal and an antagonist of „absolute“ fun.  

She liked round things, polka-dots and spots, in color, no black and white allowed. She made a mini-golf course, she sold ice cream. She invited John Armleder to play the role of host, serving cafe from a steward’s roll cart. Only the airplane was missing from this spaceship world. She did do things, she did create, but more in the sense of creating minimal adjustments: spotted wallpaper, and a string of colored lights reflected in the storefront window so that the street was vaguely polka-dotted with color long-missed from its grey landscape. The city scape was her stage which she would morph into a place where polka-dotted thought might change it.

„Stille Arbeiten sind mir fast lieber“ (Quiet works are almost what I prefer), she says.  In many ways her works comment on the spassgesellschaft (society of fun) of the YBAs, „lustiges aber leeres“, is the way she labels her own work: funny but empty. Indeed when she was asked to exhibit in an off-space in Zurich, a former biker bar, she decorated the emptied game-room floor with confetti from a party that never happened (and placed a stuffed elephant in the corner as a nonsequitor). On the wall opposite, one could play darts, only this time the darts were thrown at empty white canvases, an aggressively fun act against minimalism.

Coming from a famous family of mapmakers, the Westermann atlas was and is something every German schoolchild carries in their backpacks to and from geography lessons. Color, in maps, connotes difference, connotes boundaries: rivers are blue and Finland is pink. By designating space through color and manipulating our way of seeing, Anke Westermann maps the space between the makers and spectators, making a long-distance call with other minds.

 

April Elisabeth Lamm  2004