Christina von Bitter creates paper sculptures. For the Auftakt Exhibition, she has proposed an artwork that, according to her, looks like the one on page 145 of her oeuvre catalogue, with the title Cherubim. She also suggests making it a little smaller, and has included a photograph of another work, which she believes would also be quite suitable. (No title yet, here: proposal).
What it all comes down to now is observation. Observation involves the use of language. Sculptures cannot exist without language. Or rather, sculptures can exist without language, but we can't. We need language to get closer to sculptures, to identify the differences, to observe their effect, to – at least partially – understand them.
Observation takes effort. It is often a complex task. In order to do it right, many aspects must be accurately identified, including their effects. Accurate identification means literally describing what can be seen, in order to avoid needless guesswork. Finally, all of those effects must be combined for a decision to be reached.
Let us start with the size. Cherubim is quite large. Very large, actually – larger than us. We look at it and are impressed by it. A number of sculptural features immediately attract our attention: the large size, which usually suggests enormous weight and immovability in a sculpture, is here emphasised here by the contradictory quality of weightlessness. The enormous structure is not standing, but instead hangs from a few thin, nearly invisible strings.
This large structure, with a height of four metres and a diameter of two metres at the bottom, consists of a number of rings, which hang under each other, independently, at regular intervals, with empty spaces in between, at the bottom of the upper part of a dress or camisole . It is a gigantic dress with horizontal slits. The dress is made of wire wrapped in paper.
The slits in the enormous dress reveal that the form is empty. Even though no cherubim can be seen in the form, the dress still retains its shape. Perhaps she (the cherubim, an angel) has just taken off the dress, or will come to collect it soon, or perhaps she is present in the dress in invisible form. I personally prefer the latter theory, because I'm not familiar with many dresses that retain their shape when nobody is wearing it. All the dresses I see in my wife's wardrobe are flat.
I don't know how big a Cherubim really is, but it must be quite large, judging from the size of this dress. According to tradition, the Cherubim guarded paradise, so they needed to be pretty sturdy.
Large but not massive, hollow but not empty, tall but not heavy, complete but not total. Observing the size has already revealed quite a bit. We have even touched on the structure, but this has not led to any conclusions. Christina does not offer any insight, but has provided a photograph of another proposal, which is also a dress made of paper and iron wire, although this one is almost completely sealed, with the exception of a slit in front, and has square windows grouped in circles. It is clear that it is important to Christina that the form be empty. I can't help but think that there must be a presence inside, despite the empty forms. The presence of something (someone, an angel), invisible yet definitely present, whose place has been occupied by the garment that she (he/it) normally wears. As if the dress were a removable skin that has been put aside for awhile.
Clothing as skin, which retains its shape even when it is put aside. The skin as an external layer, as an epidermis, which can tell us a lot about the being that inhabits it. A dress like the one in both proposals covers the body as a second skin, while the attached skirt moves loosely around the lower part of the body and the legs. The upper part clings and straps, while the lower part provides space and air. The shape of the whole dress is female, even though angels are genderless. Nevertheless, in the Christian tradition all angels wear a dress, with the upper part leaving space for the wings.
Present and not present, at the same time. The space is reserved just in case, the place occupied in advance, and in that way the rightful owner, who is still in the future, is already here. The sculpture can consist of strips, because it already takes up all the space that will be needed later and, despite the thinness of its appearance, no one would doubt its importance.
This is observation. Using language to draw conclusions from what has been identified. Language that suggests possibilities that do not yet exist, that formulates impressions that are not yet reality. Without language, we would not associate these dresses with angels, with cherubims, or with each other. Certainly not with ourselves and with our presence in this paradisical space.