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Annual Theme 2015: STRUCTURE

The term “structure” is used not only in art but also in the humanities and science. With its thematic concept, the 2015 exhibition series presents works of art in which structure plays a fundamental role. These are works that also draw on structures in other disciplines, such as social or mathematical structures.

Since the beginning human history, people have observed and analyzed microcosmic and macrocosmic structures in nature, and attempts have been made to find explanations and reasons for their existence. Representations of seasonal changes in nature, the constellations, the human body, and groups of animals are themes that appear in images thousands of years old, which could be considered as early works of art. Over the course of the history of art, two principles have emerged in terms of how artists have approached reality: the mimetic principle (of representation) and the constructive principle (of creation). Every single period of art history is marked by both principles—but with differing emphasis.

Mimesis is a Platonic and Aristotelean notion. Its core meaning refers to the representation of reality, the portrayal of the relationship between reality and the individual human, i.e. subjectivity. One device for depicting visible reality that has been developed to perfection over time is illusion, the annual theme for 2014 at the European House of Art.

The principle of construction is rooted in an examination of the physical world through an investigation of reality as independent of humanity, i.e. objectivity. This approach is closely related to science as a practice of research, observation, classification, and analysis. The principle of construction is foregrounded in periods when art and science merge. For example, during the epochal upheavals of the Renaissance, artistic inventions played an important role in scientific innovation (as in the work of Leonardo da Vinci) and technical developments played a major role in art (as in the development of the printing press and the work of Albrecht Dürer).

Subsequent eras were dominated by the opinion that art and science were opposing disciplines and that their aims, products, and tools were unrelated. In visual art the principle of mimesis once again took on a predominant role, reaching a high point in the illusionism of the Baroque and Impressionist periods. In the traditional arts, such as architecture, sculpture, and painting, for a long time no decisive technical innovations occurred, and essentially periods characterized by one taste and style were followed by opposing eras (in correspondence with changes in society).

With the explosive paradigmatic shift in science and technology that took place at the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century came also a turning point in art. With the emergence of the modern era the relationship between the mimetic and the constructive principles began to change. Whereas up until this point, architecture had been dominated by the ornamentation of various stylistic tendencies (such as Art Noveau), suddenly constructive elements became visible, and new building materials were employed (cement, steel, glass, etc.). The art of the avant-garde developed in parallel: Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism. Along with new technologies emerged new art genres such as photography and film. Functionalism and design, i.e. the linking of form and function were the questions of the day.

In the period of the Neo-avant-garde in the 1960s brought a strengthening of constructive aspects of visual art, as at the beginning of the century. Once again, science was placed in the foreground. New artistic genres emerged, which emphasized the experience of movement and time, such as video art, performance, Fluxus, and installation art. An important tendency in visual art was geometric abstraction, so called Art Informel, which addressed the reciprocal influences of visual art and mathematics and the visualization of mathematical ideas.

During this period philosophy exerted a strong influence on science and art. In socially oriented discussions, Structuralism—as expressed in the writings of Claude Lévi-Strauss from the 1930s—took on central importance. Developed as a method for describing ethnic structures, this approach developed in the 1950s and 1960s through the work of Jacques Derrida and others to become a means of structural analysis not only in sociology but also in literature and the visual arts. Emerging in the 1970s, Poststructuralism then addressed artistic devices such at the use of quotation and shifts in context or meaning.

The formal language of these different artistic genres, which had an increasingly strong and opposing effect on one another, began to merge. In painting, photography, film, performance, conceptual art, and installation modes of expression and elements were incorporated from both sides and further developed.

In the current era, new means of communication and global media have given rise to new possibilities in visual art. Digitalization is permitting a new convergence of all types of audiovisual media and the incorporation of interactive elements, while the internet is providing fast connections across cultural and geographic borders.

Eike Berg, director of the Center for Art

Opening hours

For Exhibitions:
Tuesday - Saturday: 1 pm - 6 pm
Sunday + holidays: 10 am - 7 pm

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