In her multidisciplinary work, the Berlin artist Hannah Hallermann combines clear, essential forms with complex social issues. In her sculptures, which often evoke abstract architectural elements or sports equipment, she explores the relationship between bodies and objects, the contemporary narratives of constant optimization and the need for leaps of faith, new beginnings and breakups. The strong spatial presence of the work is closely bound to a resonant sense of the metaphorical.
Her series of Startblocks, for example, made of various combinations of materials, can, on the one hand, be read in the light of a tradition of minimalism, but they are simultaneously imbued with a symbolic narrative. A starting block is an object for taking off as well as representing a challenge to one’s personal limitations and fear of heights. It concerns both hesitation and the need to rev oneself up, a point of departure at which contradictory emotions coalesce – yet a decision has to be made.
A few neon-yellow metal stands (Hürde(with a warm eye), reminiscent of parts of the hurdle or the high-jump, rise straight up, apparently awaiting their task. Stripped of their function of challenging a body to perform at its peak, these objects appear somewhat lost in space, though they cannot fail to maintain their posture. Impulses concerning urgent questions about the contemporary world emerge in Hallermann’s work. How much can and must you accomplish? How is your body formed by things? How can you stay true to yourself while shaping society?
In the long foyer of the Kunstverein on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, a heavy cloth soaked in loam wraps itself around a bright yellow branch, which appears to be held up only by the tension and weight of the blanket. As is often the case with Hannah Hallermann, the implication of sculpture in this work is a contradictory one. Is it about a tent-like shelter or the struggle between two objects that want to drag each other down to the point of exhaustion? (0.T.)
To create her sculptures, Hannah Hallermann works the materials by hand in her studio, often pairing competing sets of materials and ideas: identity and nature; reduced forms and socio-political observations; the past and the future. The materials she chooses are powerful transmitters of movement and energy; she often uses materials such as steel in combination with loam. One of the most ancient building materials, loam can be manipulated and reused over centuries. It is never static, just as fire (Phoenix, hex, hex) h as always been and still is a place of gathering, exchange and transformation (Paul).
Have exercise and spirituality been commercialised? Is their purpose no longer to lend poise and insight, but rather to make one a more efficient servant to the meritocracy? In her work DMÜ, H allermann dissects religious attitudes as she reveals dogmatic positions in the religious and minimalistic stand. Hannah Hallermann is critically aware of the minimalistic avantgarde being a male-dominated movement, yet she was able to learn to ‘listen’ to minimalism and considers listening to be an essential tool in shaping one’s surroundings and reinventing public space.
Listening is also key to understanding cause and effect. In her works from both the hurricane series and Eva, the artist asks where female stereotypes come from and how we can reform them. From 1930 onwards, meteorologists have given hurricanes female names.
In 1979, this led to protests. Now hurricanes carry alternating female and male names. Since then, those hurricanes with female names have statistically caused more deaths. Male names sound dangerous, female ones harmless – this is what thousands of years of cultural history have taught us and the consequence is that hurricanes named things like Sandy, Pauline or Dolly are usually underestimated.
Hannah Hallermann’s artworks are never unambiguous and address individual growth as well as collective transformation. They provide paradox with form and refuse to accept a state of stagnation.