Solo exhibition, Kunstverein Braunschweig, 25.9. – 18.10.2020
Themes of drifting and placelessness pervade Markues’s exhibition Prima Quallerina – a portmanteau combining “prima ballerina” with the German word for jellyfish, “Qualle” – in the Remise of the Kunstverein Braunschweig. Disemboweled washing machines lie on the floor of the exhibition space like shipwrecks. Robbed of their domesticity and function, their reinforced side panels, perforations, and apertures stand out as meaningless decorations. On these wrecks, watercolors have settled like polyps. Markues proposes a formal view of these objects and the drawings upon them, which seem as if they could extend in all directions, liquefying before the viewer’s very eyes, flowing beyond the edges of the paper, and spilling over the washing machines.
Jellyfish are exposed to the currents of the sea and have little ability to determine their direction. Like the medusas that a jellyfish polyp forms by dividing itself into new segments, the ornaments in Markues’s watercolor series The Troubled Waters of Ethnic Heritage are separated from their origins. The forms in the drawings are borrowed from Westerwald and Bolesławiec pottery, as well as from carpets, curtains, wallpaper, and playing cards, superimposed in translucent layers like washed-out ceramic glazes in pale blue, violet, gray, and green tones. Markues directs the viewer’s attention to the ornamental, transforming its supposed uselessness into a method of painterly questioning. The works resist clearly defined stylistic or geographical determinations, but they are reminiscent of the decorations found on functional objects in working class environments, which are often chosen out of necessity rather than considerations of design. While individual decorations may have once been symbols of distinction, they are now erratically accumulated symbols without status.
Instead of an authentic illustration of their own biography, Markues deploys a double displacement: the expectation that the artistic production of minorities should consist of marketing their own biographies is only apparently fulfilled by the drawings, while being unrestrainedly exaggerated by their individual titles. The titles are marked as quotations, though their exact source remains unnamed. They stem from the milieu of those who were forcibly resettled in Germany between 1945–1950, who, by positioning themselves as ‘Heimatvertriebene’ (displaced persons), uphold a melange of nostalgia and resentment and conceal their entanglement in the crimes of National Socialism behind woeful tales of their own resettlement. The watercolors cannot be explained by way of their titles, however. They stare back stonily when suspected of identitarian fantasies.
How does one deal with ethnic heritage when throwing it overboard is impossible and affirming it is out of the question? The Troubled Waters of Ethnic Heritage describes such a situation. Through the deployment and superimposition of quotations and ornamental forms, the works manage to find a sense of possibility in the lack of homeland by leaving ethno-nationalism behind. For despite all their ambivalence, the titles have the potential to call to mind various migrant testimonies. The specific context of the quotations as well as the painterly ornaments appear so dissolved that they cannot be conflated with individual experiences nor used to relativize them.
The shimmering curtain Window, which runs in several layers throughout the gallery, stages the exhibition as a space where identity and origin deliquesce. The ribbons evoke light refracted by the water’s surface, seaweed, or a sea nettle’s tentacles. The curtain refers to the technique of radar jamming known as “Window”, in which metal-coated strips are dropped from aircraft to hinder their detection. The curtain’s Chroma Blue coloring is used in digital image processing to isolate objects in front of blue screens, freeing them to be inserted into any scene. Markues thus transforms the interior of the exhibition space into a broken projection screen on which origins can no longer be determined.
Four readings of literary texts will activate the space during the exhibition. What is common to each of the texts is that the protagonist is leaving their ancestral milieu for the first time. They are first generation drifters – Prima Quallerinas.
- 24. September Nadira Husain and Markues read The Bastard by Violette Leduc
- 1. October Ulrike Bernard reads Beside Myself by Sasha Marianna Salzmann
- 8. October Alicia Agustín reads The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun
- 18. October Thomas Love reads Dawn (Xenogenesis) by Octavia E. Butler
Prima Quallerina was curated by Raoul Klooker.
I would like to express my gratitude to Alicia Agustín, Ulrike Bernard, Nick Courtman, Heike-Karin Föll, Benno Hauswaldt, Cornelia Herfurtner, Jule Hillgärtner, Nadira Husain, Nele Kaczmarek, Gerald Knöchel, Linda Kuhn, Mike Laufenberg, Genesis Lauu, Andreas Linke, Thomas Love, Michaela Meise, David Moses, Henrike Naumann, Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Iris Schneider, Tanja Schuez, Valeria Slizevic, Stefan Stark, Lee Stevens, Clemens Villinger, and Eike Wittrock. Without your help, guidance, and support this exhibition would not have been possible.