Mariane Ibrahim is pleased to announce the second solo show with artist duo Mwangi Hutter, Facing Gold. The exhibition will be on view in Paris from February 2 to March 18, 2023.
Mwangi Hutter (live and work in Germany) fused surnames in 2005 to become one artist. Together they create an aesthetic of interrelationship to reflect on changing societal and cultural realities.
Painful Caress by Diana Padrón
The literary figure of the oxymoron represents an opposition of meanings. We could say that the oxymoron is contained in Venus of Many Places (2023), the most recent of the works produced by the Mwangi Hutter duo, which is shown for the first time in their second solo show at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. It contains an oxymoron because the work, as in the whole of their more than two decades of artistic trajectory, deals with the complex duality that the artistic entity Mwangi Hutter itself represents. The installation is made up of a sculpture and a painting that synthesizes the multiplicity of artistic procedures often used by the artist, always characterized by a performative issue. But specially, the work refers to a duality of artistic procedures that complement each other, since each element needs the other to signify. Nor does it do so alone because the installation challenges the audience to participate in the game of balances by introducing a vantage point in which the elements optimally converge. Isn't love a balancing game?
Facing Gold, Embracing and Union Dance painting series' deal with such loving balances, since all choreography requires its counterbalance. They are exercises in inevitable balances because the love that arises between two different subjectivities is necessarily asymmetrical and it is for this reason that it interrupts the logic of economic exchange. In this way, the use of the gold element, which has to do with the eloquence and metaphorical sense of the materials used in the works of Mwangi Hutter, does not allude to a mere market value, but to a symbolic capital of truth and shared wisdom. The wisdom that resides in the sensitive capacity of coexistence, compassion, and empathy. John Berger would say that in all desire there is as much compassion as appetite, that desire is inconceivable without a wound, that the only plan between two lovers is to offer the other a break from the pain of the world. He would say that this is what beauty consists of. This beauty is depicted in the erotic paintings of Mwangi Hutter through bodies that are merging, melting or dripping because, as Bataille indicated, what is at stake in eroticism is an energy of the dissolution of previously constituted forms and a promise about the birth of a different other. Otherness represents the promise, demonstrates the possibility of another kind of existence. The time of promise is the future.
A society of no future is a society that has something to resolve with its erotica. Eros does not dwell in the anxiety of being that characterizes individualistic society, but in what Lacan defined as lack. Mwangi Hutter's work has this awareness of absence that seeks to complete their self with an alterity, which implies transcending the idea of identity. That is why some bodies depicted in their works are covered, thus avoiding biopolitical classifications of gender or race. This is the case of the sculptural figure Dark Golden Ease (2019), which acquires meaning due to its location in physical space, kneeling before us with the forehead to the floor and showing us only its golden palms. It denies itself so that we are able to contemplate the possibility of not being. In mystical processes such as Sufism, this disarming of the self is essential to recognize ourselves as part of a greater whole.
The will to transcend the ego has led Mwangi Hutter to explore a way of being as a community, to contemplate their self in a way that encourages us to rethink a well-known Rimbaud motto: je est un monde. “Please, don't leave me alone” can be heard in the song that gives rhythm to the video This Contemplated Self (2018). Ritual is exactly what gives rhythm to our lives, lending it meaning through the practice of repetition, which remakes the past into the future. In this overlapping of times, the somatography of human bodies is equated with the cosmography of celestial bodies, they rotate in a cosmos of shared totality. That open and ineffable time that contains all times is, of course, intergenerational. Perhaps that is why their own children frequently appear, as in the Of the Times series, embodying the transmission of Mwangi Hutter's complex duality.
As has already been interpreted on other occasions, the Mwangi Hutter fusion may have to do with the search for a lost ancestral oneness, such as the primal space for coexistence in the maternal womb that gives etymological origin to the word amor (amma). Perhaps it was the search for that lost paradise that gave rise to cosmogonies such as that of Genesis, the Mahabarata or Gilgamesh. In the sculpture Genesis (2022), Mwangi Hutter possibly takes Rodin's sculpture La Cathédrale as a reference, but granting a sacred meaning to this first space of life. Precisely, Freud understood the life drive–or Eros drive–as the unconscious will to surround oneself with another soma. Here an embryonic soma is surrounded by hands, because for every artist, hands are an element that generates life.
The fingers, either through the fingerprint or through the representation of hands, are present in the whole Facing Gold exhibition. Every artist is endowed with gold fingers with which they create and imprint the character of permanence on an artwork. Since 2018 Mwangi Hutter has been experimenting with this in their Fingerprint series, as in the pieces One Ground (Luminous) (2021) and One Ground (Lucid) (2021). Their constant use of fingerprints alludes to the ancestral origin of art, but also evokes a caress. Levinas would say that the caress is a game with something that escapes. What escapes is the promise of the future that the loving utopia represents in its will to transcend the tragic destiny of death towards what Octavo Paz defined as a life that is “more life than life”. It is also an omen that, for love to occur, it needs to dissolve previously constituted forms. That is why caresses are painful, but at the same time they create. Mwangi Hutter feels that art inhabits that complexity, they know that from two contrasting images they can create a new reality. This is what happens in the oxymoron when, through two opposite concepts, a third meaning is generated. Perhaps for this reason, the oxymoron is the literary figure that has been used on so many occasions to try to express the ineffable mystery of love.