Bernd Halbherr’s Intersections, Organic Relations and Phenomena

Nov 24, 2015 9:33AM

Intersections: Bernd Halbherr Solo Exhibition

November 11th - December 11th 2015

Savina Museum of Contemporary Art 

Supported by Arts Council Korea (ARKO) 

                      Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Korea

                      Arts Management Service  

Written by Kang Jae-hyun (chief curator, Savina Museum)

Korean-English Translation is supported by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Arts Management Service

Translated by Ewha Research Institute for Translation Studies

The Savina Museum of Contemporary Art presents the works of Bernd Halbherr, a German artist well known in Korea for his spherical installations coated with panoramic photographs. Halbherr’s works suggest a new take on spatial perception that goes beyond visual limitations by allowing the gallery visitors to perceive a 360-degree space at a single glance, thus expanding the way we see the world. He was born and bred in Ulm, Germany, which is situated between Stuttgart and Munich. Ulm is home to the Ulm School of Design, the first college of fine arts established for the purpose of continuing the legacy of Bauhaus (1919-1933), as well as clusters of public and business research institutions befitting its reputation for being a city of science. Such an environment, it seems, is not irrelevant to Halbherr’s creative process, which begins with scientific thinking and interests, and finishes with ceaseless research and experimentation. It has been a decade since Bernd Halbherr settled in Korea to work as an artist.The Bernd Halbherr exhibition was designed to examine how his relentless investigation of visual perception has expanded and changed, where such interests originated, and how his creative process and technique reflect the current times. This exhibition showcases the artist’s scientific thinking and exquisite sensibility, and the perspective derived from his experience as an expatriate manifested in the form of visual images and installation with a focus on photography. In particular, this show was arranged in order to give the visitors a glimpse into Halbherr’s expanding concepts and the results of a diverse range of experiments conducted to overcome the limits of photography, by rearranging his early works with his current ones. The artist’s creations appear in diverse forms, but he pays particular attention to phenomena he has encountered accidentally or inevitably in his workshop. Such phenomena, accompanied by visual and physical movement, deeply permeate the works and are revealed by the visitors’ active participation.

Sommermärchen, installed at the entrance of the exhibition hall on the first floor, has a metal frame interlocked vertically, which is designed to be opened only by the gallery visitors to see the image inside. Pulling the handle, like the opening of a window, reveals the sky and earth hidden under the frame. Soon, the door is slowly closed and the sky and earth are brought back together to become one in silence. This exhibition presents a total of four spherical installations, and the locales expressed in the spheres have been recorded and stored as a space of Halbherr’s own experience and memory. Here, Namdaemun Gate is stuck in the past, prior to having been burned down, and the stable of his childhood has been demolished with nothing left. A net has been installed on poles with red markings (which seem to indicate gradations of time), and the ball thrown in the net reflects the landscape of the Anseong Campus of Chung-Ang University where Halbherr teaches. By taking photographs, the artist holds captive a world he has experienced in the sphere and creates fragments of time and memory.

Recently, Halbherr has been creating a series of works that transform photographs using an open source program. Three of the works displayed in this exhibition—Tokyo Life, Collective Unconsciousness, and Happy Rain—have been created using this program. The photographs have been collected from the Internet and the figures in the photographs are made into countless pixels, transformed into images unable to hold their original shape. The content and sense of immediacy in the photographs disappear and are converted into abstract images that allow visual perception only by means of light. Could it be that the images we perceive and remember are moments of such obscurity? Could it be that the images we perceive and remember are moments of such obscurity? Capturing a memory is often not only extremely subjective but also unclear. His video work Happy Rain displays this process through images found by searching for the keyword “happy.” The results end up being covered with falling dots of colors and replaced with other images, allowing the gallery visitors to witness the moments of appearing (creation) and vanishing (extinction). In Savina Stories, he records a video of the Savina Museum and arranges the series of stills in a line to make them look like a single pattern. The work composed of detailed images is viewed as one pattern from a macroscopic perspective. CNN News features 400 CNN channels cramped onto a single screen, playing their video clips and sounds simultaneously, thus leading the visitors to confront a state of burnout beyond the saturation of sounds and screen.

   Bernd Halbherr’s Kinetic Object, Without Title is a reproduction of his 1992 work and it is said that back then he was keenly interested in the principles of physics behind these movements and energetically performed a variety of experiments. The work, produced by connecting three thin, bent, stainless steel rods together to enable them to keep balance and move stably even at the touch of a gentle breeze, invites the gallery visitors to ponder the “three-body problem,”[1] which has yet to be solved. This work extends the point of view over a time lapse of twenty years, allowing for multi-layered insight and interpretation. His installation Without Title (acryl mirrors) is composed of small mirrors. When we pass other people with mirrors positioned in between, we see in the mirrors reflections of ourselves and of others as well. The movements of the visitors, in other words, allow a glimpse of oneself as well as the discovery of others. Also, Flag that brings together the national flags of EU member countries, and Transformer 1 featuring the photos of Korean apartment complexes and traditional hanok houses fit together like blocks reflect the artist’s viewpoint as an expatriate toward Germany and Korea, respectively. In Flag, the flag that seems likely to be installed in a soccer stadium is a metaphor as well as paradox of the sportsmanship of the EU promoting itself as an economic community. Transformer 1 holds the time and space of the past and present in a single three-dimensional form that can be transformed by the gallery visitors; it is also a rendering of the artist’s impressions of the incessant urban development in Korea.

The works of Bernd Halbherr look in reverse at temporal and spatial limitations not only to captivate visually, but also expand the visitors’ ideological perspectives and thoughts, and furthermore subvert them gradually. His life in Korea began in Paju City, Gyeonggi-do in 2006, and since 2011 when he became a professor at Chung-Ang University, he began to experience real Korean society. A Korean way of thinking and the social system should have been realities that the German artist would find difficult to adapt to, yet still expected to overcome. The process of psychological and mental conflict and reconciliation that he has likely undergone under such circumstances seems to have translated into a deep interest in not only himself, but also in all the interlocking organic relations and new phenomena that were transformed and created in such a movement. His works, featuring an array of outcomes and phenomena occurring at the moments when images converge and change, hover between consciousness and unconsciousness of what we see, rather than attach concrete meanings or convey specific messages. The Bernd Halbherr exhibition at the Savina Museum will, rather than be a conventional exhibition showing his works in a fragmentary manner, be a meaningful experience that offers the gallery visitors an opportunity to explore the overall flow of his oeuvre. His constant inquiry into a phenomenon will continue to reflect the changes of the times onto various representations through new experiences and technical experimentation.

[1] The “three-body problem” deals with the question of when three objects with different masses move along certain orbits due to universal gravitation, how we can predict their orbital courses and positional values after a certain period of time passes. A typical example is to measure the orbital courses of the Sun, Earth, and Moon in their motions. It has been proved that a universally applicable “general solution” is impossible to find, although equations under special conditions and a consequential “specific solution” can be obtained (summarized from a combination of two sources: news article; and Doosan Encyclopedia;