Low Plaza

Visiting Artist Programs Foster Artistic Exchange Between Columbia and Germany

By Kristin Sterling

Sue de Beer & Laura Parnes, Heidi II, stills from video, 1999
Courtesy: Deitch Projects, NY

Over the past three years emerging artists from Germany have had the opportunity to spend a semester at Columbia's School of the Arts and gain exposure to the New York art world, thanks to a collaboration among Columbia, the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Dresden and Philip Morris GmbH. And through another Philip Morris cultural program, this fall Columbia alumna Sue de Beer (MFA 1998) began a fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, to work on a two-channel video project.

This year's German artist in residence at Columbia is Jenny Rosemeyer, a student at the Dresden Art Academy (Hochschule für Bildende Künste) and a native of East Berlin. She was selected by an international jury that included a member of the Visual Arts faculty to spend six months in New York.

"Jenny is part of a group of young German artists that are currently invigorating the Berlin art scene by mounting artist-curated exhibitions that take place in apartments and non-gallery situations," said Jon Kessler, chair of Columbia's Visual Arts Division.

Rosemeyer's experience is culminating in a multi-disciplinary exhibition entitled "… and now we dance" at Columbia University's Prentis Hall (632 W. 125th St.), currently on view by appointment, through Dec. 15. She also participated in a group exhibition on Nov. 17 and 18 at Artpact 2001 at the Harlem Flophouse. In conjunction with her residency, Rosemeyer will display her work in Dresden and publish a catalogue upon her return to Germany.

Rosemeyer specializes in silhouettes, which often leads her to further media such as models, photographs, collage and installations. She presents her black-and-white silhouettes in distinguished rows, series or sequences which, when put together, create a sort of "sentence."

"The technique of silhouettes allows me to isolate the subject of depiction in a way that the eyes' ability to abstract and thereby the imagination is asked. Implications turn into assertions," said Rosemeyer.

Jenny Rosemeyer, Untitled, silhouette

Rosemeyer often transforms her silhouettes, photographs and models into installations, bringing her world of ideas into their own special reality by including additional elements such as: pieces of scenery, music, smoke, stroboscopic light and water. Black and white colors dominate the pieces in order to allow viewers to use their imagination. Within the installation, Rosemeyer often adds acoustic, visual and tactile effects, creating atmospheres that can be perceived by all of the senses.

"Her installations aggressively invade the space with wall drawings, objects, fountains, sounds and lights and envelop the viewer in a labyrinth of images and emotions," said Kessler.

"Combining different media [such as music] enables me to address all our senses and helps [viewers] to enter my little microcosms more easily," explained Rosemeyer.

In light of the events of Sept. 11, she is considering altering one of her exhibition methods. "I use steam and have explosions [in my exhibitions]. It makes it a little strange for me to use it now. I don't want to remind people about it in my work."

Each installation is a separate work that Rosemeyer installs on-site and only displays during that particular exhibition. Rosemeyer's work is inspired by experiences, observations, recollections and advertisements, reflecting her varied points of view. She feels that her works often remind viewers of other works. Although single parts of an installation may appear and function as notes for pieces of photographic scenery.

"I am really German in my work," said Rosemeyer. "I connect with German poems, old silhouette cards and films, particularly 1920s abstraction films."

Rosemeyer has enjoyed her time in New York and is particularly grateful for the opportunity to interact with other emerging artists. It is this interaction with other artists, both emerging and established, that makes this program successful and beneficial to the visiting artist. The Dresden/Columbia exchange has already proved beneficial to last year's Philip Morris Visiting Artist, Martin Eder. As a result of the connections he made while at Columbia, Eder is now working in both Germany and New York. This summer, he had 14 pieces in a group exhibit at D'Amelio Terras in Chelsea. He has recently participated in the Cologne Art Fair, Germany's most important art fair and the flagship for international fairs. Prior to showing at Cologne, Eder traveled throughout Italy, lecturing.

He is currently working on a layout for a new catalogue to be published by a German museum. In February, he plans to have simultaneous shows at the Berlin Gallery and at the Armory Show in New York.

While the foundation of this visiting artist program is a collaboration between Columbia and Dresden, Columbia alumna Sue de Beer was selected from candidates nationwide for the Philip Morris Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, a program designed for emerging and established Americans engaged in artistic endeavors, humanities and public affairs. During her nine months in Berlin de Beer is shooting, editing and exhibiting a two-channel video, which was originally set to focus on domestic terrorism.

"It is a difficult and complicated piece… it is amazing to have a piece like this funded," said de Beer.

Based on her experience teaching a Projects Class at NYU last fall, de Beer was interested in creating a piece describing the fatal attraction to destruction that is particular to teenagers/young adults, represented by the wave of school shootings in the late 1990s. The story that she created last year included protagonists with interests ranging from late 1990s American counter-revolutionary figures (McVeigh and the school shooters) to 1960s German terrorists such as the Beder Meinhof gang. In creating the story de Beer looked at ways to carry-over these types of domestic terrorism events and show their historic parallels.

In the days prior to her scheduled Sept. 11 departure for Berlin, no one, including de Beer, could have imagined that the events of one day could have so drastically affected her project.

"This piece paints a picture of America before Sept. 11," said de Beer. "It took a lot of development, but now I realize it is a naïve position to imagine another student engaging in a school shooting in light of these tragic events. "

In the weeks since de Beer finally arrived in Berlin, she has revisited the storyline. "I want to have a more prominent juxtaposition of the reality of the violence of a terrorist act versus thinking about it—dreaming about it," she said.

Upon her return to New York, de Beer expects to have her video screened.

Since completing her MFA, de Beer has been gaining national exposure. Her two-channel video, "Heidi 2," a sequel to Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley's collaboration, was shown at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibition (LACE). De Beer is also an accomplished photographer. She had a solo exhibit at the Sandroni Rey Gallery in California that was reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. In September her work was part of a group show at the Atlanta Contemporary Center that featured other Columbia alumni, including Banks Violette.

Published: Dec 05, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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