Curator Jeroen Damen met the German sculptress Petra Morenzi in her studio and talked to her about identity, memory and remembrance.
There are two heads hanging on the wall here, hollow heads. They are made of lengths of decorative lace fabric, which have been cut and unravelled, overlapped, kneaded, moulded and formed into the shape of a head. They have then been cast in bronze. The human form is retained but the skin is dehumanized, masked and misleading in its apparent softness, as it is made of hard, patinated bronze. These are the heads I want to hang in Bredelar. Petra describes their surface as 'Baroque' a word that would recur several times during our conversation in her studio.
Seated at her studio table, Petra talks in German about her work and the things that are informing her art at the moment. The theme of twins remains, as does her preference for age-old, real sculptor's materials. Her fascination for combining the classical and the contemporary also endures. But as she keeps talking, I feel I am being drawn towards another theme. A journey across the table, past photographs of previous works, past heads, past an honorary invitation for a planned exhibition in the Museum für Asiatische Kunst in Berlin.
To a tiny town near Schöntal Abbey and an abandoned, overgrown quarry, to memories that light up momentarily, are there for a moment only to fade away again. Memories for which a form must be found. For which stone must be fetched from the quarry. Until, back in the studio, the artist is assailed by doubts 'because it's not so simple, working with memories'.
And in the meantime, her melodious German voice transports me to Berlin, to workplaces full of 'profi's', to the 'Kunstfabrik am Flutgraben', to the Khmer monarch Jayavarman VII in the Berlin State Museums and to stone as the prime material for sculptures. And all this time, without me even noticing, two lumps of marble sit patiently waiting on the other studio table by the window.
She takes me over to them and I photograph them from above. She calls the folds 'Baroque', because folds have to be Baroque, and especially in this case where they form packages that house memories. Pleats and folds serve to conceal, they conceal the true memories, they cover up what really happened. They indicate that something is being remembered, without revealing what is being remembered exactly. "It's really not that easy to make something new out of such an old material," she says, "because it already has so many associations."
This has me gripped: after all, isn't everything we are planning to do at Bredelar, the whole exhibition, to do with what we remember? Not so much with actual memories we can call to mind like a film or photograph, but more with the feeling of remembering something – something that is not entirely clear, something we share, that we carry with us from our previous history, something that affects us all, whether German, Dutch or both? Something in that which makes us people: our memory?
Petra promises me some photographs. The project is far from completed, much of the work will be shown at Bredelar for the first time. It will form an extension of the theme 'protected beneath the skin, the future has already begun'. Because the future cannot exist without memories.