In the age of social media, we are all made to reconsider the relationship between the public and the private spheres, between the outside and the inside. What image of myself do I share publicly and how intimately? Which parts of our selves need to be shielded off?
In her latest series of works, titled “Kokon”, Süßmilch uses the means of photography and painting to analyse the relationship between protection and threat, fragility and brutality.
The juxtaposition of ironical distance and aggressively claimed closeness encompasses and then breaks the ambivalence of things. She primarily uses humour as a tool for intellectual resistance in order to verbally challenge the inadequacies of humans and their lack of explicability, thus making it possible to avoid intellectual discourse. Here art is also an attitude which helps you to not face the world with fear and cynicism and to turn your inside out. Show your wounds.
Translation: Dr. Mandana Taban.
By Lisa Moravec
Human life is full of literal abstractions. One state of being precedes the next one. Metamorphosis, the process of becoming, the move from a particular bodily state to another is an infinite but not solely linear process. A cocoon temporarily provides shelter, nurtures and protects what is inside, before splitting open and setting free the life it has helped to grow. Although Sophia Süßmilch’s recent work approaches the cocoon from a literal point of view, there is no real cocoon in her work. Instead, she performs a suspended state of being with her photographic and painted works; it is, as if she looks back to sustain the imagination of becoming, of moving ahead of oneself.
In doing so, she tackles the cocoon for real and casts aside its metaphorically complex burden of being in between two states. Her triptychonic comic series Three Stages of Life (2019) takes up the haunting issue of how childhood, puberty and adulthood are connected and exposes their clichés from a fleshly inside. She depicts three distinct early stages of life that give form to abstract bodily ways of human becoming; simultaneously, she also anticipates a certain kind of ambiguity. What was once a lively eating and moving caterpillar in Mediocre Childhood, raps itself up in a cocoon, entitled Fuck Puberty, before becoming a carefree, prickly butterfly making its way through Depressing Adulthood.
What adulthood means for her becomes clearer in her highly sexually-charged photographic works. In Teddy’s girl, she sits comfortably inside a gashed 2.40m high teddy bear, with her legs straddled over the teddy’s legs and her breasts pulled over her tight nude bodysuit. A completely opposite attitude towards her parental upbringing is staged in the photo, A mother is the problem of all problems, where she bends over her biological mother, enveloping her with a long-ragged blonde hair wig. Emphasising te(da)ddy rather than her smothering mother, Süßmilch depicts herself in Real feminists hate dick with a banana ensemble arranged to a banana crown that frames her whole head. Although this seems to appropriate Josephine Baker’s famous banana skirt dance, an intentionally eroticised and objectified performance of a black women, Süßmilch parades here the Eurocentric image of the phallus, and puts an additional unpeeled piece of this sweet fruit in between her legs—her own version of cake, that is yet to be eaten.
The painting Placenta Paradise chews on the bodily states of organs. Freely hanging and spread out globules of placenta are painted in different shapes, sizes, and colours that look all different. Süßmilch’s fleshly entrails do not seem to follow any logic, as the figurative body organs are composed only of abstracted livers, too large or small intestines, undefinable forms of biles, spleens, small guts, and lungs. Chaos in order, her organs are literally abstract in form.
Despite the agitating literalness that is at play in these images, Süßmilch’s works translate and perform visceral aesthetic experiences onto cotton and photographic paper. They diffract bodily aha-moments; for example, the psychedelically coloured painting of an abstract figure painted against a black background calls yoga the neoliberal weapons of late capitalism, whilst her romantic colour coupling of blue and yellow within one field of colour depicts the shell of a pink snail moving towards the left boarder of the picture plane. Süßmilch’s tongue-in-cheek humour is enmeshed with a melancholic and aggressive strain as the gut feeling is the drive that moves against its own cosmically sensed human animality. Reading Sophia Süßmilch’s work allegorically, which means to draw attention to what kind of bond she establishes between two things, living or still, literally documented or abstractly real, demonstrates an intestinally rooted resistance towards becoming another mother; her body of work shows nothing but her very own desiring self.
Biographie / Biography:
1983 geboren / born in Dachau, D. Lebt und arbeitet in München und Wien / Lives and works in Munich and Vienna.
2019 Kokon Krobath Wien, A. WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE A PERFORMANCE ARTIST BUT YOU’RE REALLY JUST A MEME, Tanzquartier, Wien, A. God is a concrete creature & other system failures, Salon no 6, Wien, A. Who the F*ck is Sophia Süßmilch, Büro Weltausstellung, Wien, A. 2018 Die ersten Jahre der Professionalität 37, Galerie der Künstler, München, D. D. Kann ich mal die Braun?, Belvedere21, Wien, A. Das Glück der Erde, Galerie AaCollections, Wien, A. Alles muss man selber machen, Edel Extra, Nürnberg, D. 2016 A. Schlechte Entscheidungen, Kunstarkaden, München, D. 2014 ICH - Sophia Süßmilch, Galerie „Fetti amore“ , Leipzig, D. 2013 the keys to her place, VBKOE, Wien, A. FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN, Rathausgalerie, München, D.