Mona Schulzek28. October - 25. November 2023
Gravity and Grace
„We have to feel the universe through each sensation. What does it matter then, whether it be pleasure or pain?“ Simone Weil
The young artist Mona Schulzek, based in Düsseldorf, aptly names her debut solo exhibition at nouveaux deuxdeux "Gravity and Grace," drawing inspiration from the title of the collection in which posthumous excerpts from the notebooks of Simone Weil – one of the most idiosyncratic European thinkers of the twentieth century – were published. The artist selects Weil for a compelling reason, as her words, viewed through an art historical lens, read like poetry and clarity, resembling instructions or scores of conceptual art. Lines such as "To equate oneself with the universe" are particularly evocative.
Indeed, the artist continually situates humanity within the context of grander schemes. In this exhibition in Munich, visitors will become resonators in the macrocosm between the Earth's interior and outer space. This experience is not just visual but also auditory and physical. A deep hum reverberates through the gallery. The sources of this sound, two organ pipes, are easily recognizable. While originally from churches, the artist, in collaboration with organ builders, has modified them to engage figuratively with their surroundings. The newly crafted pipe heads emit a frequency of approximately 16 Hz, a sub-contra C,’ often referred to as the "note of humility" within the context of organ music, marking the threshold of human audibility. This tone, like all low frequencies, resonates with the human body, specifically its gas-filled cavities. Thus, humility is not solely a metaphysical concept; it is not bound to God but rather a physical response. Schulzek delves not only into the unknown, the realm of infrasound – which allows the largest mammals on Earth to communicate over great distances – but also the fine line between religion, mysticism, and natural science. The sensation that the organ pipes can evoke is akin to one of the few, intimidating moments when humanity genuinely interacts with the forces of nature. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or meteor impacts also generate sounds at similar frequencies. Therefore, the installation titled "Spitting off the Edge of the World" (2023) presents a profound work Schulzek initially exhibited as her final project at the Düsseldorf Art Academy and has now adapted for nouveaux deuxdeux. Enclosed within lattice structures, the organ pipes emit tones that could signify nothing less than the end of the world.
In the series 'Atmosphere ≠ Totality' (2023), created around the same time, the artist also focuses on the different spheres that frame human existence. The artist refers to each piece in the series as a diorama, where metallic grips hold relics from the earth's core and outer space as if in mid-flight, secured by screws. These relics consist of solidified lava and meteorite fragments, serving as symbolic specimens of foreign worlds. Schulzek started collecting this rock while staying in Iceland, motivated by the realization that these exhibits have broken through the earth's crust and atmosphere, reminding us of its porosity. The rock's descent to the earth's surface finds its equivalent in the dioramas depicted in stainless steel and frosted glass plates. This is also reflected in the abstract visualisations of the earth's atmosphere that can be seen on the metal.
Man's relationship and connection to the world and the cosmos is one of the primary themes in Mona Schulzek's very coherent young work. The artist has been fascinated by space and associated phenomena that tend to evoke fear in others - such as the idea of an infinite expanse, the deep black, the unknown - since her childhood. This is expressed time and again in her practice, also in a humorous way. The works "Ottomane (Cosmos)" (2016) and "Wormhole" (2019) are dedicated to the phenomenon of weightlessness and wormholes using metaphors from everyday human life. In later works, the artist moves away from the earthly and concentrates on communication with extraterrestrial, intelligent beings - not without reviving the aesthetics and euphoria from the pioneering days of these scientific activities in the 1970s. As in the days of US astronomer, astrophysicist and exobiologist Carl Sagan, Schulzek has developed "Plaques (OST)" (2021) and "Plaques (IAÄ)" (2022), plaques with messages that could fly into space on space probes.
With "Extraterrestrial Alphabet" (2021), she has designed a language to communicate with extraterrestrials and finally, with "Outer Space Transmitter" (2021), she has constructed a radio station herself, which she is allowed to put into operation after passing a radio licence in order to broadcast her art into space.
- Text by Lydia Korndörfer
Mona Schulzek, born 1992 in Moers, lives and work in Düsseldorf. She completed her master's degree under Gregor Schneider at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2023. She has already been awarded several prizes and scholarships, such as most recently the prestigious art prize "junger westen" in 2023, which is accompanied by an exhibition in the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen.
Her works have been exhibited in renowned institutions such as Museum Insel Hombroich (Raketenstation), Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Künstlerhaus Dortmund, Kunsthaus Graz, Sprengel Museum Hannover and Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Cologne. Schulzek's works are part of the collections of the Kunstmuseum Bochum and the Max Ernst Museum Brühl.