Work in Progress: Charlotte Posenenske at Dia Beacon – Mike Zahn

Spring 2019

Charlotte Posenenske
From Series DW Vierkahntrohre, 1967
Installation view
Dia Beacon, 2019

From its inception, Dia Beacon has presented itself as deeply engaged with a materialist record of artistic production.  Its site north of New York City on the lush banks of the Hudson River underscores this awareness.  At Dia, the relationship between humans and nature is mediated by its comprehensive making, observed in the museum’s collection as passing from the phenomenology of orthodox minimalism to the semiotics of its anti-form twin.  Yet a tremendous and somewhat unexpected presentation of works by the German artist Charlotte Posenenske destabilizes this reading, and discloses an even more radical proposition.  It’s that in which expression takes an abrupt turn towards the faculty of mimesis.  The subsequent epistemological rupture enacted by this direction is the key premise in understanding Posenenske’s influence.

Fra Angelico
The Annunciation, 1437-1446
The Convent of San Marco, Florence

How may one become mindful of the world?  How is it possible to recognize that which is before one? Things show themselves to one, in their sensuous presence and over the steady unfolding of time, through the channels of language. One may recognize the mystery which is the world as that integrated with one’s sense of it through a grasp of language as such. Language thus resists instrumentalization, and in this way insists foremost that the world truly has the potential to communicate with one. This message may be recognized, and reconfigured in concrete terms, as resemblance, as affinity, as likeness, or as image, with sacred and profane falling where they might.   

Charlotte Posenenske
From Series D Vierkahntrohre, 1967
Installation view
Dia Beacon, 2019

In ‘Doctrine of The Similar’, an essay written in 1933, Walter Benjamin surmised that nature creates similarities, not as imitation, but as examples of the irreducible elements of itself.  In this respect, language is a medium in which there’s found the human ability to follow nature in kind.  As mimesis is grounded in litanies of ritual, compiled in ancestral archives, and asserted through the desire to become Other, it supersedes the play of nature and becomes an eminently historical product, that which constantly changes while social developments themselves ceaselessly do the same.  This last point leads directly to the fundamental manner in which Posenenske’s work functions.  The Vierkahntrohre, fungible series of square tubes of her own manufacture in sheet metal or cardboard, elicit a living awareness of experience comprehended as openly evolving embodiment.  That the artist would have suddenly left sculpture behind for another form of engagement with the world as she perceived it shouldn’t be surprising.  In fact, it would appear to us, as it possibly did for Posenenske, that she was doing no such thing.  Just as with Benjamin, her life, as well as her art and her thought, moved towards extreme positions where language operates as a structure without limits.

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