Text by Dierk Höhne
Tina Kohlmann’s first solo exhibition at Philipp Pflug Contemporary is titled “Transzendentale Turbulenzen,” which translates as “transcendental turbulences” and fittingly – as well as typically of the Frankfurt-based artist’s playful stance – describes the mode, in which the works may be located in terms of concept and aesthetics. Transcendental (from the Latin word trancendentalis) emphasizes the epistemological level that the works refer to, the level of the indescribable, of that which transcends knowledge. In Kohlmann’s diverse oeuvre of artifacts, allusions to ethnological or craft reference points are always part of the form through which their metaphysical world may be accessed.
However, the term artifact seems to partially miss the mark when it comes to Tina Kohlmann's work. Alongside the clearly hand-crafted carpets and masks, we find natural produce such as sea shells or fist-sizes egg shells, in which it is only an engraving made on the object, or at times even just a carefully placed light that testifies to human workmanship. A further facet to her artistic practice lies in growing minerals using laboratory equipment. Kohlmann’s work production hence reveals itself as a process that is simultaneously scientific and experimental.
With her multi-layered and comic way of imbuing objects with life and stories, the artist manages to interweave and reinterpret discourses on the profane and sacred, spiritual and esoteric. As hybrids of contemporary and traditional symbolism, they reflect the ambivalent history of reception inextricably linked to ethnological references. This is exemplified in the series of masks made of ropes and LED elements, which Kohlmann is showing here for the first time. The objects are reminiscent of neo-shamanist devotional objects, their shapes alluding to pop culture or grotesques. She cites auratic attributes, which are so readily ascribed to original art works, in her use of spotlighting – and translates the putative aura into a physical and ultimately quantifiable value.
In this exhibition, the artist also looks at the enduring question of finding alternative possibilities for spatial intervention. Arranged in groups, the works suggest functionality as ritual objects, yet they do not answer the question as to who might want to use them, or which kinds of ceremonies they are meant for. Their staging puts the traditional categories of sculpture, installation and display up for discussion. As does the grid theme, which contrasts the playful lightness of the works on display and is used as a presentation surface, as well as in images woven into carpets.
Kohlmann finally turns the entire gallery space into a place of radiative energy through the application of fluorescent wall paint.
Interesting aspects may be found in the historical, ethnological and contemporary references, as well as equally in their points of intersection. The work’s content is again multiplied when taking the production techniques and the placement of the art works in the space into consideration. In “Tranzendentale Turbulenzen” Tina Kohlmann’s mercurial art thus becomes a medium of the (in)comprehensible.