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>> Reviews on the exhibition of Kara Walker's works


Reviews on the exhibition of Kara Walker's works

In the Berliner Zeitung, Sabine Vogel finds the cutouts wonderfully obscene. Delighted, she describes the figures’ "swollen lips voraciously opened wide for fellatio," their "juicy corporeality" and "uncivilized lust." For Vogel, the subversive in this art lies in the form: the cutout is commonly considered to be a harmless occupation for nice girls. Walker, however, uses it to "dreamily invent the forbidden fruits of female desire, castration fantasies, and perversions." Thus, she frees her figures "from the censored canon of politically correct art," according to Vogel’s words of praise.

That’s all very well, but is she allowed to? is what Karsten Kredel asks in the taz, while at the same time posing the opposite question: does every black artist who deals with racism have to assume the "burden of representation?" According to Kredel, Walker doesn’t reject the role of the voluptuous "negress," but rather takes it on experimentally: "to be, as someone who is both desired and feared, 'a little bit of a slave’ in order to counter the measuring gaze and to draw up a relationship of mutual dependence… by not leaving the realm of fantasy to white men, she rejects the responsibility of representation." This could be seen negatively, but one could just as well value it as a "liberating act."

In the Tagesspiegel, as well, Katrin Wittneven challenges the idea that Walker's works make racism seem harmless. According to Wittneven, Walker is ultimately confronting her own situation as a black and a woman: "While encountering her own identity, the artist always draws the ironic comparison to Josephine Baker, 'whose success in Europe was chiefly based on her Negroid features'," according to Walker. 'She met the exotic ideal in a perfect manner and implemented this accordingly.'"

In the Welt, Gabriele Thiels praises the change in function of a "harmless ladies' handcraft" into "stories of power and subordination, lust and violence." What at first glance appears harmless suddenly applies to "each and every one" of us.

The FAZ, on the other hand, turns up its nose: a little bit of heroism, a little bit of idyll, and between the two a little bit of Enlightenment - this is what Gislind Nabakowski sees united in the silhouettes. She finds it all "politically correct," yet two paragraphs later she poses the query: "How should we look at this oeuvre of a thirty-three-year-old who is provocatively coming out of the closet as a 'negress?'" The fact that the "negress" has two exhibitions at the same time in Germany (in the Kunstverein in Hanover and the Deutsche Guggenheim) is another thing Nabakowski doesn't like very much. She heard "rumors" that Walker "herself was at the bottom of it." And where would we be if black women artists were suddenly just as good at business as white male ones!

Anja Seeliger