Maria Hahnenkamp


Fragments of Body Ornamentation
On the works of Maria Hahnenkamp

Maria Hahnenkamp’s works form a dialectic link between a female-coded body language of absence, expressed through graphic reduction, and the traditional ornamentation of art history, which addresses power structures
within gender-specific issues.

From the outset, Hahnenkamp’s works have alluded to psychoanalytical moments inherent in the perception of images, where the reduction of the motif pushes issues of desire into the foreground. This concept runs like a
thread throughout her work and is constantly re-defined and developed.

One possible interpretation of her works can be traced back to the psychoanalytical theories of Jacques Lacan, who considered desire to be related to absence and moments of “lacking” (in French manque). For Lacan desire is not about the wish for gratification nor for love, but rather deducting one from the other, thus making it seem almost impossible to satisfy desire, because it continues to reproduce itself.

The reproduction of desire is manifested in various work cycles which Maria Hahnenkamp is showcasing in her exhibition at the Krobath gallery. Her latest work is a clear reference to the aforementioned psychoanalytical
instance of lack: an installation consisting of white-coloured fragments of frames in different sizes, widths, lengths, and imitation ornamentations from the 20th century. The viewers’ imagination is stimulated to fill in the void (lack) of the non-existent image that evokes an infinite chain of desire based on the historically different types of ornamentation and the power discourses attributed to them.

The second, newly developed series consists of texts and ornaments sandblasted onto white glass, representing an interaction between bodies and their inherent mental processes and their imagined spatial situations. This
series also raises a number of issues. In these works projections and wishful thinking are unleashed, reminiscent of Freud’s concept of Wunsch, which Lacan followed in his theory of desire (désir). However, in these images
Hahnenkamp specifically alludes to the writings of the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard by integrating quotes from his texts into the images. Instead of a real portrait, the texts and ornamental lines indicate a desire for
a physical-spatial relationship which is characterised by the lack of a real motif. In his psychoanalytically influenced text, Bachelard refers to this as intermediary zones (zones intermédiaires), located somewhere between the unconscious and rational consciousness. In his poetic images these intermediary zones are illustrated as contemplative dream visions – Hahnenkamp expresses this in the following quote: “You have to take
everything away to create a phantasmagoric space where new windows can open up.” The perception of the actually visible moment (of the text as image) is epistemologically reminiscent of something that lies behind it or
something unconscious.

A wall installation consisting of 21 photo fragments from a portrait series featuring the stage actress Regina Fritsch from Vienna Burgtheater illustrates the relationship between representation and absence of the female
body. Fragments of body parts, which almost disappear behind foils lit by flashlights, have been turned red using negative photographic processing techniques and combined with black-and-white prints. The way in which the
photos are arranged all over the wall is a reference to the Pergamon Altar, where fragments of a Hellenistic altar have been reconstructed and reassembled to form a new imaginary whole.

In her works, Maria Hahnenkamp explicitly explores the possibilities of photographic construction (dispositif), where formations of shadows and reflections have a considerable influence on the construction of identity. The
reduction of the motif and the minimal aesthetics of the ornaments within the gender discourse inherent in her photographic, textual and tactile works lead us into a game of deception created by desire’s imagination. She subjects this game to a permanent reproduction in order to evoke various psychic processes that are rooted in the history of female representation and gender-specific power discourses.

Walter Seidl