In her place

Munich’s Haus der Kunst is currently presenting a landmark exhibition as part of its ongoing re-examination of overlooked histories. Inside Other Spaces. Environments by Women Artists 1956–1976 reconstructs legendary works including Judy Chicago’s Feather Room and Aleksandra Kasuba’s Spectral Passage.

Spanning three generations of artists from Asia, Europe as well as North and South America, the exhibition reframes the accepted artistic canon by presenting women’s fundamental role in the development of immersive art. Situated at the threshold between art, architecture and design, the term environments was adopted in 1949 by the founder of Spatialism, Lucio Fontana, to define a new type of artwork that actively involved its audience. Over the years, environments became a major feature in the international art world, however not unusually, historic narrative focuses almost exclusively on the works of male artists.

Inside Other Spaces is the first show of its kind to reconstruct the immersive art works, following a three-year research process, supported by the help of conservators and researchers digging deep into archival material, such as photographs, architectural plans, reviews, materials’ lists and providers’ invoices. Andrea Lissoni, Artistic Director, Haus der Kunst, said: “Given the experimental nature of environments – most of them were destroyed right after their display – their art historiography is characterised by a sense of loss. Therefore, the erasure of the fundamental contribution of women is a double loss. The reconstruction of these historical and to-be-historicised environments as close to their original condition as possible aims to bridge the gap between then and now and let the works of women artists come to the fore.”

Trailblazing feminist artist Judy Chicago’s iconic Feather Room, described as “a soft feminine space; an architecture that disappears” was originally filled with 300 pounds of chicken feathers one foot deep, a soft and airy room that induces a temporary sense of loss in terms of the room’s beginning and gravitational pull. It has since been developed, and updated with cruelty-free materials at Chicago’s wishes. The environment can be read as a critical dialogue with the tradition of hard materials adopted in the history of male-dominated architecture.

Julien Pacaud: of gods and men

Maria Nordman’s FILMROOM EXHALE consists of a silent double projection divided by a wall and features the same armchair the two actors sit on in both films. The side-by-side projections conceived “for two persons at a time,” aim at identifying the actors in the film as viewers, and viewers of the artwork as actors.

Inside Other Spaces is installed alongside and in dialogue with the futuristic world of American artist WangShui to provide a contemporary perspective on today’s environments. Advanced by the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence simulation, WangShui’s Window of Tolerance features ethereal paintings etched into aluminium, each co-authored with a machine-learning programme trained on previous paintings by the artist.

Inside Other Spaces. Environments by Women Artists 1956 – 1976 runs until 10th March 2024 at Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany.

Words by Fabzirio Mifsud Soler

Images:

Maria Nordman: FILMROOM EXHALE 1967-PRESENT, 1967-Present

Installation view Haus der Kunst, 2023 Photo: Agostino Osio


Nanda Vigo: Ambiente spaziale: “Utopie”, nella XIII Triennale di Milano, 1964 Installation view  Haus der Kunst, 2023 Photo: Agostino Osio

 

Judy Chicago Feather Room, 1965 Collaboration with Lloyd Hamrol and Eric Orr

Installation at Rolf Nelson Gallery, Los Angeles, California © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023. Photo courtesy of Through the Flower Archives

 

Nanda Vigo Ambiente Cronotopico, 1967

Galleria Apollinare, Milano Photo: Giorgio Casali

 

Lea Lublin: Penetración / Expulsión (del Fluvio Subtunal), 1970

Installation view  Haus der Kunst, 2023  Photo: Agostino Osio

 

Wangshui. Window of Tolerance

Installation view Haus der Kunst 2023 Photo: Milena Wojhan

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