05/07/2023 – 27/08/2023,

Off the Pedestals: Iván Argote, Eduardo Chillida, Jenny Holzer, Zauri Matikashvili, Joiri Minaya, Leila Orth

, Stadthausgalerie Münster


Iván Argote, Levitate (still), 2022, three channel video, 15:15 Min


The prelude to a programmatic examination of public space and questions of art and the public sphere by the Kunsthalle Münster in the Stadthausgalerie is the exhibition Off the Pedestals, featuring works by Iván Argote, Zauri Matikashvili, Joiri Minaya and Leila Orth. With Eduardo Chillida’s Tolerance Through Dialogue (1992), located in front of the Stadthausgalerie on the Platz des Westfälischen Friedens, and Jenny Holzer’s Benches (1987), located in the southern Schlossgarten, two works of art in public space will also be included in the exhibition and the discussions involved.

Off the Pedestals engages in current political and social debates on war and colonial monuments by raising related issues of identity politics and commemoration practices in the public sphere and putting them up for discussion: To which extent have notions of colonial and imperial power supporting the vision of white male supremacy embodied by these monuments also moulded the memory landscape of our society? How can and should we deal with this kind of heroization of crimes from the imperial past today? Which of the embodied memories are entitled to a place in public space and which are not? And is it necessary to historicize all these surviving legacies? The (artistic) confrontation of such long-repressed questions breaks the silence about past misconduct and invites discussion. Resulting from this is a comprehensive discourse on society as a whole that at the same time brings the city’s specific history into focus.

The idea that entire nations celebrate and honour only themselves from a contemporary perspective seems absurd and outdated. In order to approach the complexity of history open-mindedly, it is necessary, in this context, to integrate other narratives into our historical understanding. For if monuments are about commemoration and history, shouldn’t they also qualify as horizontal and integrative places where differ-ent ideas of our history can be discussed with a view to the past, present and future? An exchange of thoughts about how we collectively create memory in public spaces and how wounds can likewise be made visible—or maybe even consciously kept open—forms the basis of a debate from which new artistic strategies may arise.

A starting point for reflection is a work concerning the immediate environment in Münster. In his film Ihr Alles, ihr Leben, ihr Blut (Their Everything, Their Lives, Their Blood, 2022), Zauri Matikashvili investigates a number of highly controversial monuments of war and colonialism located in Münster and the struggle for their interpretational sovereignty. Some people have been fighting locally against the messages and the visibility of the monuments for 35 years, nonetheless remaining long unheard. Leila Orth’s installation explores the traditional formal language of memorials from a feminist perspective and examines the reproduction of history on display in public spaces. By challenging given forms of demonstration of power, she also addresses the vulnerability of individuals and society.

Juxtaposed with such inventories and interrogations of power representation are the works of Joiri Minaya and Iván Argote, who intervene in existing monuments in order to make visible the ways in which they represent junctures of political power based on a spatial and aesthetic apparatus. In her works, Joiri Minaya investigates the construction of identity of individuals living in transatlantic spaces, along with the related hierarchies. The artist sees her art as a form of reassertion, an exercise in un-learning, decolonizing and exorcising imposed narratives, cultures and ideas. She endeavours to sabotage power relations through artistic means and thus regain individual autonomy. Iván Argote’s recent work is speculating and reflecting on the removal and destruction of monuments, he suggests novel practices of remembrance capable of calling attention to ever-changing and shifting cultural values. Employing humour and affect as subversive tools for criticizing political and social circumstances in a globalized world, Argote creates spaces of debate and dialogue with his works.

The idea of dialogue is essential to the project. Another vital element in this regard is the site-specific work Tolerance Through Dialogue by Eduardo Chillida, referring to the negotiations held in Münster and Osnabrück that had culminated in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Negotiating at eye level as a fundamental principle of diplomacy stood in contrast with the then customary defeat through victory and submission. It was this notion Chillida took up and translated into an abstract form. However, this does not mean that the sculpture fails to convey complex historical events through a concise rendering; the artist has intentionally created an open setting, a kind of forum that invites us to take a seat and enter into conversation with each other.

Jenny Holzer’s Benches, two of which have remained in the city after the 1987 Skulptur Projekte, comment on Alexander Frerichmann’s war memorial from 1923. The benches are a reference to the war in terms of form and subject matter; without arm and back rests, they are reminiscent of sarcophagi or grave monuments. Resembling memorial plaques, there are inscriptions on the seats that soberly the-matize the atrocities of war: “PEOPLE GO TO THE RIVER / THERE IT IS LUSH AND MUDDY / TO SHOOT CAPTIVES, TO FLOAT OR SINK THEM.” The discrepancy between Holzer’s phrases and the tenor of hero veneration and mourning over the lost First World War becomes evident.

With the aid of sometimes simple gestures, the artists involved in the exhibition question the authorities behind the images created, thereby not only shedding light on the colonial past, but also on the present and the persistently problematic relationship between the Global North and the Global South. Off the Pedestals offers the opportunity to engage with a lived culture of memory—presumably posing more questions than providing answers.

Curator: Merle Radtke
Curatorial assistant: Jolanda Saal

The exhibition is supported by:

The programme of the Kunsthalle Münster ist supported by the Friends of the Kunsthalle Münster.

Accompanying Programme:

13/07/2023, 6:00 pm,

Guided tour through the exhibition Off the Pedestals: Iván Argote, Eduardo Chillida, Jenny Holzer, Zauri Matikashvili, Joiri Minaya, Leila Orth with Jolanda Saal

, Stadthausgalerie Münster

30/07/2023, 3:00 pm,

Guided tour through the exhibition Off the Pedestals: Iván Argote, Eduardo Chillida, Jenny Holzer, Zauri Matikashvili, Joiri Minaya, Leila Orth with Jolanda Saal

, Stadthausgalerie Münster

09/08/2023, 6:00 pm,

Jenny Holzer: Bänke. Guided Tour with Jana Bernhardt

, Schloss Münster

21/08/2023, 8:00 pm,

Screening of the Trilogy Ahnen + Artist Talk with Zauri Matikashvili

, Schloßtheater

27/08/2023, 4:00 pm,

[Counter-]Monuments. Memory Practices in Public Space. Prof. Dr. Ursula Frohne talks with Merle Radtke

, Stadthausgalerie Münster

27/08/2023, 3:00 pm,

Curator's tour through the exhibition Off the Pedestals: Iván Argote, Eduardo Chillida, Jenny Holzer, Zauri Matikashvili, Joiri Minaya, Leila Orth with Merle Radtke

, Stadthausgalerie Münster