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PATH/WEG II 2009: Campus, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA
Materials: concrete, steel, rainwater Total dimensions:height: 1,95 m, length 15 m , width 3,07m, weight ca.3.5t
(not including the surrounding frame on the ground)
Artist Susi Rosenberg’s “library of books without words” has been silently growing for more than 25 years. Working in four distinct, yet often-interconnected, mediums—sculpture, drawing, photography and artist books—Rosenberg’s major themes often connect and overlap, as well. Sculptures sometimes carry traces of drawings. Artist books may be three-dimensional or contain sculptural elements.
Three of Rosenberg’s primary themes are “Memory,” “Complexity,” and “Simplicity.” These themes can be seen in the “PATH/WEG“ and “Lehnung” (Leaning) sculptures, and the “Raumzeichnung” (space diagram) and “Echo” drawings. Physical units repeat themselves and develop organically in space. They are woven one into another and depend on each other.
Most of the small sculptures are cast iron. Their models are composed of many fragments that seem to be equal but vary, slightly, in size. When connected, their industrial, inorganic aspects diminish; the sequences of fragments seem, instead, to be growing organically in sets of steps, each one with its own rhythm and direction. The completed sculptures—complex groups of these rhythmic sequences—can be turned either vertically or horizontally, thus altering their overall appearance and effect, and they can have as many as three to five physically-stable and aesthetically-balanced positions.
The elements of the much larger PATH/WEG sculptures are stacked and/or set on the floor in strictly defined distances from each other. In the large-scale pieces, these distances are spaced widely enough apart, that viewers are invited to step in. Like living organisms and human bodies where single cells are complete in themselves, then bond and construct tissues and organs (which, in turn, construct the larger organisms), the rhythmic elements of Rosenberg’s PATH/WEG sculptures are self-contained systems. Assembled in one overall system, they “communicate” with one another and depend on each other to keep their "whole bodies” in balance.
Rosenberg’s use of repeating elements, as well as the repetitive nature of her working process, could give the impression of industrial production. However, because the sculptural elements are each made by hand, one by one, the careful viewer may see subtle differences among them. Each unit has its own individuality, despite its similarity to others.
While the overall shape of the sculptures is measured with mathematical precision, the individual elements are measured by “the memory of the body,” to bring humanity into a quasi-industrial process. The artist works in a repetitive process, learning and experiencing the weight, size and shape of each unit, and then repeats that “memorized” shape as precisely as the human body can remember. Because of the multi-dimensional nature of each sculpture, viewers must walk completely around them to fully decipher their overall effects.
Several pieces refer to the Holocaust. Of these, some are designed specifically as Holocaust memorials. Their overall shapes are as abstract as possible, to avoid literal interpretation, yet the shapes of their composite parts come from the felt experiences of 1st and 2nd generation survivors. Very small things in the everyday lives of survivors can initiate cascades of memories. The second generation has subtle, subconscious knowledge about those experiences—never spoken aloud—which requires finding shapes for them and leads to the wider issue of ways of memorializing.
The repetitive working process represents various aspects of memory, including “memory of the body” and becomes, at the same time, part of the philosophical ideas. Symbols are embedded in a hidden way. What is available to the viewer is “possibility”; the viewer can connect what he or she sees in the present moment to his/her personal, as well as to public, memory. One example is the triangular recesses for rainwater in PATH/WEG II, two of which can—in the mind of the viewer—overlap to reveal a Star of David. Another example can be seen in the “Faltung” (folded) series of drawings, where some Hebrew letters are written on the drawing, over and over, so they cannot be interpreted.
While it is the artist’s intention to create memorials that are places to remember and mourn, she intends that aspects of life and hope be present as well, as in the water basins of “PATH/WEG II”. The water is not flowing, but, as part of earth´s water cycle, it is evaporating, thus putting the sculpture – like all of Rosenberg´s work – into a larger context of what (on earth) is, continuous, connected also in sense of quantum physics, and eternal.
© Susi Rosenberg, 2012
Translation: by Susi Rosenberg with assistance of Ingrid Wendt.
Interview: University of Oregon, November 2, 2009
"Echo 8 - teilig" 2004
Site created with permission of artist.
Page updated June 2014.