KATRIN BAHRS
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SHIPWRECK WITH SPECTATORdeutsche Version
by Wiebke Gronemeyer
In the works of Hamburg artist Katrin Bahrs, everything seems connected – shapes and colours, foreground and background, details and the picture as a whole. On the surface, abstract bodies and colourful entities negotiate their placement with each other, finding themselves within the artist’s composition, a composition that testifies of an intensive, meticulously detailed process, serving up the broadest range of media and aiming at a single goal: the ideal pictorial arrangement, a precise, never-random ordering of lines and spaces, shapes and colours, figures placed on grounds that are in no way backgrounds.

These grounds are grounds for preparing the stage for an interplay between deals and dealing, in the most ambiguous of senses: The artist deals with the pictorial material she has found in the histories and stories of art, culture and the day to day, in the computer, not just to reshape it, but to shape it anew. We as observers are forced to deal with it when we stand before the results and are faced with the ontological question: What is hidden in this picture – what are these pictures? In view of the manifold grounds and causes, these questions seem much too rough, undifferentiated and aimed at single grounds. Therein lies their charm, however, because in the end, they are not directed at a comparison between foreground and background or at specific confrontations between sharp and soft shapes or figures that are fan-shaped or full of momentum, but at the composition as a whole.

The observer seeks not only to describe what he sees in the works of the artist, but to discover their meaning as well, which the artist allows only to a certain degree but, for the most part, harshly prevents. To her, the works are about a sort of un-conceptuality, what it is that we think we know in the essence of things that cannot be comprehended or said.

"The process of knowing is calculated toward loss,"¹ wrote German philosopher Hans Blumenberg in his "Theory on In-conceptuality ," in which he attests to human beings a speechlessness necessary for their existence. Katrin Bahrs strives to transcend this speechlessness. Her works are not just an optical illusion or decorative ordering but are about fathoming the pictorial space that presents the very horizon humans are forced to confront in the description of their existence, despite their desire to transcend it. Her pictorial compositions are made up of many stories, references and archival traces. It is not easy to say where the level of meaning rests here: on the surface, in the sheer and unendlessly monochrome depths or even in the eye of the beholder.

The spectator’s perception collides with a wall dividing knowledge from the unknowable. There are "almost-points" in the work to which the familiar patterns of perception could possibly, but absolutely do not need to, connect. Much more than that, they are open for new associations, new dimensions and new perspectives. The artist does not deny the question of the origin of her pictorial materials but establishes it as a suspicion through the way she masks them as equivalent shapes and colours. While our observations become sight, a kind of codification of symbols, the codes cannot be written by the artist or by the observer or by the phantom community alone. They emerge through and within communication – and that is just where the existence of these works, not just their meaning, is to be found. The place where communication via speaking, as Blumenberg states, always only has as its objective transcending its own conceptuality, is where, for Katrin Bahrs, it is about transcending representativeness as mandatory knowledge. Her works offer us the possibility of transcending this horizon.



¹Hans Blumenberg: "Towards a Theory of In-Conceptuality (Ausblick auf eine Theorie der Unbegrifflichkeit)", in H. Blumenberg.: Shipwreck with Spectator (Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer), Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997, S. 85-106