Hildegard Spielhofer was born in 1966 in Lucerne and lives and works in Basel. She made a name for herself as an artist by interacting with new media, and in her first solo show mounted in Kunsthaus Baselland she presents very recent works in which she expresses herself for the first time by means of screen prints and ink drawings.
The nine-part series of screen prints entitled The New York Times, Sunday, September 16, 2001 contains obituaries dedicated to the victims of 9/11 in New York, published by various companies. Jewelry and clothing companies like Cartier, Bulgari, and Chanel, retailers and department stores like Bloomingdale’s, K-Mart, and Sears, investment firms like Prudential Financial, Cushmann & Wakefield, Merrill Lynch, and Allianz Group, as well as furniture outfits like Ethan Allen used these obituaries not just as a way of showing their sympathy, but also to advertise their own corporate identity and products. Spielhofer parses the language employed by the ads that happen to have been placed on that specific day, generating a selection of words whose content suggests a forward-looking and proactive coping strategy even though the words appear in the context of mourning and disaster. Words like “act, active, confident, continue, effort, forget, guide, hope, join, offer, overcome, relief, renewed, stand, strength, unite...” convey an atmosphere that encourages people to carry on in the face of personal and collective trauma. Some of the screen prints of obituaries are superimposed by these strings of words and thus repeat the overabundance of information and instructions given in the immediate wake of 9/11.
A similar atmosphere is conveyed by the title of the exhibition Something Has Slipped Away as well as by the eponymous ink drawings and neon lettering. The message seems to be that something quite extraordinary has occurred but that things will eventually get better. A second series of ink drawings uses motifs gleaned from various newspaper portraits of people facing crisis situations. Spielhofer has diminished the documentary character of the source material and focused on individual elements of the original picture. By opting for watercolor-like drawings on transparent paper and presenting her art as illuminated-box drawings, she transfers an originally singular motif into something that is generally valid. The emotional content is thus emphasized and also incorporates the viewer in the presentation. The ephemeral nature of Spielhofer’s works alludes to past events, dissolution, and memories in general.
As in the works described above, the transition between opposites is conjured up by Spielhofer’s video Wiegen from the Videopoems series. The boxing bout between Henry Maske and Graciano Rocchigiani aired by the German television network RTL is shown in slow motion, highlighting both the fighting and what seems to be embracing. This is footage of two intertwined rising bodies engaged in a dance as well as a dangerous fight.
Something Has Slipped Away refers to a series of very recent works by Hildegard Spielhofer, all of them characterized by a preoccupation with existential transitory moments and moods.