Anja Luithle


The Personification of the Shell

Anja Luithle is a sculptress, and yet her works are not sculptures. It is in fact difficult to term them three-dimensional art, even though they are figurative art in a highly traditional manner. However, they are made neither of stone nor of wood, nor are thy cast in bronze or any comparable solid material. Anja Luithle´s objects are fragments of figures, and usually embody a shroud cloaking an imaginary figure. The works themselves are made of fabric, a soft material, and one that constantly changes shape somewhat. Normally however, the shape of these "pieces of clothing" is only moderately flexible, since they are held in position by certain corsge-like elements. In this way, like sumptuous robes they remain permanently flowing, but, at the same time, are capable of retaining their shape. Anja Luithle forms her objects from beautiful fabrics which are uncommonly attractive both to the eye and to the touch. Almost without exception, the shining fabrics of her works spontaneously attract the viewer´s eye as they possess an almost tangible visual appeal. The beauty of her objects is always compulsive, and, in a certain way, soothing, allowing the viewer´s gaze to rest upon them, to enjoy them. And then there is the beauty of the shapes themselves. These are always female shapes outlined by the flow of the garments, their pleasing proportions irresistible to both male and female viewers. In what I have described so far, Luithle´s love of material and of detail attests to the great sensual intensity her works convey. The objects accordingly seem to be something precious, made of wondrous materials.

However, quite apart from the materials she uses, Anja Luithe´s work has one characteristic which fundamentally distinguishes it from the concept of traditional sculptors. With a few exceptions, all Luithle´s works are set in motion by buitlt- in motors and apparati. Either, as in the case of the "Rote Dame" and busybusybusy, it is the whole object which moves, or, as in Durchschnitt or Rosendame, only the individual parts move. This dynamism distracts the viewer´s attention from the beauty of the materials and the shapes used by the artist. As a rule, for something to be considered beautiful, it must be whole, an intact shell. The act of opening and destroying this shell constitutes a violation of the beauty; indeed, such a violation is seldom considered beautiful. In a number of Luithle´s works,the movement sets something in motion which considerably disturbs the works "safe little world", which encroaches upon the self-contained whole. In Durchschnitt, it is the sharp blade of a knife which revolves in a circle in a slash straight through the middle of the figure, as if wanting to divide the figure in half. in Rosendame, the sharp tip of a Japanese knife is pointed at the figure´s breast. What is remarkable about the above examples is that the weapons appear to be protruding from the insides of the figures. In Durchschnitt, the knife´s handle is hidden within the body itself. Thus, it is not so much the case that these weapons create an impression of violence inflicted on the figures by an aggressor, but rather it is one of self-destruction. In Durchschnitt, however, the revolving knife conjures up two associations: it bisects the figure, and, at the same time, it juts aggressively out of the figure, pointing at the viewer, and keeping him at a distance. In these figures, a process of aestheticization is applied to the destructive act which is familiar to us from ceremonial Japanese suicides. For the Japanese, this ceremony is the ultimate self- determined, heroes act by means of which a person may safe his honor- even if this is only possible in death. In Rosendame, the austerity of the physical shape coupled with the classically austere ornamentation with fabric make a fundamental contribution to this aestheticized appearance, whereas the action of knife opposes it.

In a large number of the works, as for example the vibrating Rote Dame, the "entire body" moves. But these sases it is the movement which, as in Rennende, follow such bizarre rhythms that they automatically an overly aestheticized appearance. And yet these movements, this strange mixture of staggering and running, seems to express a physically comprehensible psychological state. The movements convey psycho-physical moods, which appear familiar to the viewer, even though nothing about the quality of the movements directly corresponds to such moods.

Blurred Beauty

She stands there in splendid red. As beautiful and as if her stepped out of a fairy tale. Beauty often presents itself in somewhat naive self-portraits. And it is, above all, the color red, and her stance, with slightly extended arms, which convey the impression of the almost child-like beauty of the object, or rather of the oerson associated with this object. Innocent beauty which knows no vanity.

However, what we see is not the figure of a child, The body around the contours of which this red dress fits so snugly appears to be that of a mature woman. What could have been simply an attempt to portray herself, has become a conscious display, a highlighted presentation. Rote Dame , the red lady, - and the work is almost automatically personified- is wearing this red dress which constitutes her hole personality, in order to make herself the center of attraction. The charm of the figure is considerably increased by the soft, visibly velvety fabric, which is able to convey the entire range of its tactile feel to the eye. The red lady´s presence is so tangible that the viewer is deeply tempted to touch her, to fin out more about her by tracing her with our fingertips.

At the same time, all the charm of this figure is transmitted via the eye. And this very fact leads to a substantive rupture, all the charm of the figure is transmitted via the eye. And this very fact leads to a substantive extension, for the red lady eludes our gaze. Our initial impression, that this self-portrayal is a mixture of naiveté and self-consciousness, is called into question when we look at the figure at second time. We can see the velvety red, but we cannot bring the whole figure into clear view. And after we have spent a long time trying to bring the figure into sharp focus, we realize that the red lady is not standing still, she is vibrating. She becomes a quivering figure who eludes the glances which peruse her so intensely, attack her even, by means of her movement, by becoming slightly blurred. Soft and red, she imposes herself, only to elude us, trembling and in soft focus.

Archives: "Rote Dame"

Karriereleiter, The Career Lader, and the Appeal of Shock

Everybody wants to get on in life. In our western society hardly get as much recognition as successful pursuing a career. As a rule, this involves a great deal of work. And thus work, the tireless endeavor to further one particular cause, is also considered an outstanding quality.A career which has not involved a great deal of effort does not count for as much. Constant, selfless effort is also expected of an artist. Only if the artist is willing to put his or her entire heart and being into the work, will he or she be taken seriously, can he or she become accepted as an upstanding artistic personality. You cannot expect to take a stroll up Mount Parnassus unless you are a God, you can only scale those heights by investing a great deal of toil. Only the Gods can achieve this effortlessly, but what human is a match for the Gods?

A pair of red dress shoes- the shoes of an ambitious woman, red because she wants to make an impression- glide slowly up a steep metal track. Slowly, step by step, deliberately but inexorably. The viewers can take their time to watch the progress. It looks as if she will reach the top. The shoes, or rather the woman in the red shoes, approach the uppermost point, an imaginary goal. But as soon as she reaches the top, the full force of gravity hits her. The shoes detach themselves and plummet, back down the whole distance she has just managed to scale, tumbling more and more quickly as they go, finally crashing loudly at the bottom end of the track. The noise of the crash causes the viewer to start. It sounds as if somebody has been injured, sounds like fractured bones. It is reminiscent of the sound of the guillotine crashing neckwear's, putting an irrevocable end to somebody´s life.

A pause then follows, where the viewer can hear the machine humming, and then the whole process starts all over again. The shoes start to climb painstaking upward again. Slowly, step by step. And the viewers? As a rule, they are not in the least inclined to leave the scene of events, but prefer to watch the process again. To wait for the shoes to reach their zenith so that they can start and, even they where expecting it, to hear the crash as they hit the bottom and to jump. This sudden fall and the ensuing crash allow the viewers to experience just how long the process takes. First they are frightened that the shoes are going to fall, and then this fear immediately transforms itself a fear of the impending crash, thus gaining in intensity.

Because the process constantly repeats itself, the path taken by the shoes assumes the dimensions of a Sisyphean task. Like Sisyophus with his rock the shoes never really reach the summit. They just touch it, but have no chance of resting there. And as far as the creative process is concerned, the reference is less to completing a work than to the vacuum after a work has been completed. Once a work has freed itself from its artist, what he or she has to look forward to is a free fall, and then a hard landing. Considering the force of the crash, we are surprised to see the shoes start on their way again, climbing tirelessly.

A shock, and particularly an anticipated shock, always has two emotional sides to it. It is frightening, but it is also amusing, pleasurable. The frightening element to the shock depends on our fear of sudden, unexpected death. The nightmare of free-fall. Karriereleiter allows the viewer to consciously experience that shocking second. The first time the viewer sees the installation the shock is genuine, it literally cuts him "to the bone". And yet most viewers stay looking at it for longer, wanting to experience a somewhat milder form of this shock a second time. Even after the viewer has turned his back on the work, it remains acoustically present in a dominant form. And the crash comes at such great intervals that we seem to have forgotten about the whole apparatus when the machinery suddenly starts to hum and we are reminded of its presence by a loud crash. We can foresee just when the shoes are going to fall and when they are going to crash, but we cannot determine the moment exactly. And each time we die a second death.

Archives: "Karriereleiter"

Dr. Thomas Köllhofer, Kunsthalle Mannheim for:
"Anja Luithle Objekte", Städtische Museen Heilbronn 1998