Shapes of Shelter
Residency, exhibition and programme
between Namibia and Germany
The exhibition “Shapes of Shelter” deals with the “Safe Space”. The term Safe Space has its origins in the feminist and queer movements of the 1960s in the USA and refers to a place where people who feel excluded in the prevailing society can find safety. To this day, it refers to underground clubs, hide- and hangouts or entire neighbourhoods that transform themselves at night and offer the queer “family” a place of community.
Nowadays, Safe Spaces are also used in the context of identity politics. In many countries they offer a safe haven for BIPoC and protagonists of the anti-racist movement.
The multi-media artists Maria Mbereshu and Janina Totzauer – from Namibia and Germany – create their very own “Safe Space” in The Project Room over several weeks. The bidirectional discussion about their common colonial past and their two situations as women from different global hemispheres flow directly into the textile patterns created on site. Symbolic protection rituals and talismans are transferred into textiles and assembled into a huge carpet. The walls are adorned with Totzauer’s “Isles of Exile”, small multifunctional tents that may serve the viewer as secret places of escapism. In between, Mbereshu’s abstract textile patterns are positioned, directly referring to her experiences as a woman and thus paying tribute to being a woman in all its beauty.
On the evening of 6 December, we had the opportunity to listen to three outstanding speakers in their fields at the Intimate Carpet. Hermien Elago, Adriano Visagie and Natache Iilonga summarised their current heart projects in short 20 minute slots. All three are pioneers in the LGBTQIA+ movement and advocates of equal rights for all. Afterwards we had time for questions and to watch the Namibia premiere of Naomi Beukes’ shortfilm “Scarlet Ribbons”.
Residency and artists’ time together in the Project Room:
21 – 28 Nov, open to visitors daily 3-6pm.
Exhibition opening: 29 Nov 2023, 6pm
Exhibition: 30 Nov 2023 – 31 Jan 2024
Intimate Carpet Talks: 6 Dec 2023, 6pm
Supported by the DAAD – German Academic Exchange Service, the Steiner Foundation and the Goethe Institute Namibia.
Video installation/video mapping
4K video loop, fabric, rear projection
each flag approx. 1.2 x 4 m
Goethe’s Mephistopheles already knew: “Blood is a very special juice.” In Odysseus, the spirits of the dead who live in Hades thirst for the “black, steaming” blood, through which they can briefly regain the breath of life. Jesus gave us his blood to drink in the form of wine and the blood of the Passover lamb in the Old Testament was smeared on doorposts and thresholds, keeping away death and destruction.
Blood has always stood for life in almost all cultures on this planet. Blood loss means death.
The work “Red River” shows two giant flags, such as those known in the church as processional flags or pennants. A video rear projection onto the inside of the flag opens up a second level: the blood sacrifice of a cactus. Blood is constantly trickling out of the slashed, spiky stomach. The cactus sacrifices itself for humans in a ritual. A golden bowl of fire stands ready to send drop after drop of blood to heaven.
The work was part of the exhibition “Transformationen. Unsere Schutz(t)räume” at Monastery Schlehdorf
Fotos by the wonderful Magdalena Jooss
Bread and Games
(panem et circenses)
4K video, fabric, faux leather, plush, iron
3:35 mins and 2:43 mins loop
Fotos: Magdalena Jooss
The video installations within the “Bread and Games” series deal with the ruthless human addiction to immediate gratification.The cut-open animal bodies each house a video rear projection showing theset-up of two typical fairground stalls – balloon shooting and the mole-out-of-the-hole game. The fair here serves as an outdated epitome of the hedonistic funfair we encounter every day in the form of Instagram, Tictoc and the like.The animal found its lifetime goal after death in the quick happiness of humankind.
The installation was made for and first shown at the exhibition “zuwege” in September 2023. It was installed in an old, no longer used cowshed.
Sponsored by Verbindungslinien by BBK Bayern.
4K video installation on textile
1 mins loop
„So when you think about it,
it was only when we were shattered that we proved we had souls.“
„Seelenfutter“ is a video installation that traces the path of a soul after its detachment from its body. The four videos, hidden as rear projections in the textile, build on each other and tell the narratives: Extraction, transformation, rebirth.
The German word „Seelenfutter“ is ambiguous. It can be read as „food for the soul“ or as
„inner lining“, a place of security and shelter.
The work is inspired, among other things, by Han Kang‘s book „Human Acts“ which describes the world of wandering souls after the Gwangju Massacre that cannot be perceived by the earthly eye.
The shapes of the video canvas refer to the traditional designs of Bojagi, a kind of Korean wrapping cloth. For Totzauer, the act of wrapping is both – extremely temporary and nomadic. It serves to move things, or even living beings, from one place to another in a protected way. The design serves the artwork as temporary shelter for lost souls, and after the exhibition to bring itself safely on the journey to other exhibition places.
For many years, the artist lives and works in different places around the world.
The nomadic life between Germany, Mozambique and now South Korea shapes
her understanding of the world and her art.
The artwork was created during a three months residency at the Gwangju Museum of Art – International Residency. It was supported by Goethe Institut Korea, the City of Munich and super+centercourt.
3 channel video installation
consisting of Omega to Alpha, Into Ur and CORE
Symbioses between different species play a decisive and recurring role in Totzauer’s video installations. Leeches fertilise the human protagonist. The human finds rare plant seeds in the milk of a tree lichen. Caught raindrops serve as an ingredient for a mysterious pudding, which opens a portal when eaten by a pig. The cooperation between the various creatures and phenomena represents a new form of worldly survival. The individual participants are part of a great global consciousness, which is inherent to our earth “Gaia”.
Totzauer’s artistic focus is on a multi-part video installation whose chapters represent levels in a first-person computer game. By means of the non-linear narrative of the video game, a multi-perspective way of storytelling is created. Places, objects, animals, people and natural events become equal protagonists in the flow of the narrative. The “supernatural” seems to be hidden behind every lush bush and in every glittering body of water. The earth itself appears as a “higher power” and shapes the course of the computer game.
World 1: Omega to Alpha
World 2: Into Ur
The core of all worlds: CORE
The core of all worlds
In part 3 of the symbiosis saga “Core”, the protagonist comes to a standstill for a brief moment in her search for “the solution to the game” and devotes herself entirely to a symbiosis that takes on the role of a source of energy in the dramaturgy of the game. The protagonist explores the coexistence of an octopus and a mangrove tree from multiple perspectives. The tentacles entwining the tree seem to feed on the branches of the tree living in the water. A reddish liquid drips from warts on the surface of the tentacles, like an absurd fountain. While most of this liquid just disappears into the vastness of the ocean, a few drops find another purpose. Passing shell-shaped vessels hope for the right moment to be fertilised by a drop and thus find the purpose of their existence.
World 2 of the Symbiosis saga
While in the first part OMEGA TO ALPHA the protagonist still plays through the reality we know, INTO UR breaks with this in the second part: the player jumps between analogue and digital space. The videos take place in the cosmos between death and rebirth. The viewer takes on the role of a video game character who plays through the video narrative after his death. “Ur” stands for the primordial form of all life, that existed before everything and to which the player must return so she can enter into a new life and and win the game. The video follows the typical mechanisms of an adventure computer game and at the same time runs through a sequence of actions that is characteristically used in countless ritual practices.
The ingestion of leeches, which have previously fed on the protagonist’s blood, and the subsequent birth stand metaphorically for a transformation with the help of symbiosis to another living being. The course of the computer game leads the player from the depths of the sea up to lofty heights, in order to initiate the birth with a crash. Giving birth through the mouth shows us a twisted reality that can only take place “behind our reality” – on the path between death and rebirth.
—> digital exhibition: mana-project.xyz
With the great support of the Bavarian Ministery of Science and Art
Omega to Alpha
World 1 of the Symbiosis saga
“Omega to Alpha” is the first part of a multi-part video installation whose chapters represent levels in a first-person computer game. By means of the non-linear narrative of the video game, a multi-perspective way of storytelling is created. Places, objects, animals, people as well as natural events become equal protagonists in the flow of the narrative. The “supernatural” seems to hide behind every lush bush and in every glittering body of water. The earth itself appears as a “higher power” and shapes the course of the computer game.
Symbioses between different species play a decisive and recurring role. The human finds rare plant seeds in the milk of a tree lichen. Caught raindrops serve as an ingredient for a mysterious pudding, which opens a portal when eaten by a pig. The cooperation between the various creatures and phenomena represents a new form of worldly survival. The individual combatants are part of a great global consciousness, which is inherent in our earth “Gaia”.
With the great support of the Bavarian Ministery of Science and Art
Eye to Eye
Full HD Video
EYE TO EYE witnesses countless wordless dialogues between non-human and human animals, with the human behind the camera being replaced by the audience as point of contact. At times, a reflection of the human can be detected in the animal’s eye and then disappears again. Who is watching whom?
The lack of a telephoto lens forced the artist to approach the animals at a distance of 40 cm. The trust between the species, built up over weeks, serves as a basis that resonates at all times. Based on Donna Haraway‘s concept of multispecism as a vision for the survival of our planet, the video pays respect to other animal species that the human animal has denied them for so long.
Fotos: Ausstellungsansicht in der Galerie der Künstler*innen Sept 2021 zur Ausstellung DEBUTANiNNEN von Janina Totzauer und Videostills von Janina Totzauer
Planet Earth Symphony
Edition of 5
In 1977, humanity sent two golden data discs with image and sound information of the planet Earth into space to give possible extraterrestrial life a hint of our existence. Misleadingly, the records contained to a large extent music and voice recordings of human origin. In order to present a clear picture of the planet Earth, the artist has taken it upon herself to condense the sounds and noises since the birth of our planet 4.6 billion years ago into a 16-minute symphony. Surprisingly, modern man plays only a 0.04-second role in it.
The sound was then scratched onto a record and is now waiting for a benevolent sponsor to make the journey into space possible.
In collaboration with Dr. Ferdinand Hitzler, astrophysicist and soundmaster.
Exhibition view at Galerie der Künstler*innen.
Foto 1: Magdalena Jooss
Foto 2,3: Janina Totzauer
How to Escape
Full HD Video
“How to Escape” is an instruction manual for building a raft as through a weeks-long repetitive process of cutting, gluing, and painting the viewer sees a cardboard raft forming while audios from DIY YouTube Video tutorials describe the steps to follow. After completing the task, in the last minutes of the video Totzauer brings the raft to a lake to try it out, only to be confronted with the physics of her construction that begins immediately to sink as the artist tries to move it around with a paddle with holes, reinforcing the irony of the situation and the pointlessness of her task. The video exemplifies Totzauer’s belief that the only possible answer to the Absurd is the enjoyment of meaninglessness itself. “How to Escape” depicts the attempt of the artist to escape from the human world by turning first to a repetitive Sisyphus-like task and then to the natural world as she becomes one with the lake trying to navigate it. She filmed the video between 2018 and 2019 and she edited it in 2020. By then, we were in the middle of the corona crisis and Totzauer found a form of escapism in watching DIY videos on YouTube, a window into the natural world during the lockdown. The videos were mostly made by men, instructing on tasks such as building a bird house, a boat, or “How to survive in nature with your girlfriend”, and were filled with sexist undertones, delegating women to a doll-like role, unable to contribute to such “man-like” activities. Therefore, Totzauer made the decision to include in the video installation the audio of these YouTube videos.
Text by Lucrezia Morenos
4K three channel video installation
I shall plant seeds. Post-anthropocene seeds that only come to life in about
30,000 years. Only then will they break open and bloom. Like time capsules they contain memories of the world as it is now. About humankind, about the feeling of being human. So that the seeds survive thousands of years unscathed, they are given nutrients along the way. A small placenta is embedded in each seed. An energy source that nourishes. And an obulus for possible payments on the way to the future. The planting performance was repeated during the diploma exhibition 2020 in the garden of the academy. Many seeds will still have to be planted in this world.
Planting performance during Diploma exhibition
Artist / production: Janina Totzauer
Camera: Matthew Bremner
Fotos: Mara Pollak, Ludwig Dressler
The installation follows the last remaining human on earth. The video shows her and her dog searching for a way to handle the last moments they have left. The loneliness each human might have encountered in his or her life finds its peak. The beautifully conserved objects, that the two might have used to navigate and survive, were displayed together with the video in a post-anthropogenic museum of the year 4589.
Fotos: Mara Pollak
Lab 1 was part of the exhibition “Spielzwang” and handled different human matter in order to continue a game that we stopped playing while growing up. It’s an hommage to the unserious.
Dr. Totzauer shared her lab with Dr. Quast.
A black monolith stands threatening in the room. An artifact from another dimension? Another time? What is inside? Powerful he rests – now and then he communicates through vibrations in a language unknown to us. In the foot of the sculpture – deep in the underground – the sensor of the monolith registers every movement. Monotone noise and diffused light attract the visitor and lures him in. Exposed to the Ganzfeld effect he loses his sensory perceptions – and thus his body – only to connect with a higher reality. The intensity of the vibration in the upper part reflects the visitor’s altered state of consciousness.
With Sebastian Quast.
Fotos: Mara Pollak
Der Magen der Hexe
5 hours / 7 days
The “Magen der Hexe” (“The witch’s stomach”) is a resting place in between the worlds. There, all kinds of creatures find comfort and safety on their journey between our ‘reality’ and the world behind it. By practising different rituals I keep the door to the other world open.
The melon and orange seeds are used by controvercial communities around the globe to threaten their enemies. I bring these symbols of death far away from the mainland to the island of Helgoland and bury them alive. Before I leave they get nurtured with my own tears.
Botse is the Tsonga word for “good”.
The performance Cassiopeia is completely dictated by two tortoises, Schildi and Knorpl. By walking in specific patterns, they told the artist which objects to use and which gestures to act out. If the wisest creature on earth doesn’t know, who does?
The audience followed the performance through a window in the top part of the laboratory.
In “Säk Ho” plays on the roof top over the bustling capital city of Mexico. Traditionally the washing stations on the top of each house are hardly ever used by men, so each brick and every tab is soaked in women’s sweat and scent. My cleansing ritual is nurtured by the feminin aura of this place.
Pestpuppe (plague doll) is the second part of my research on forgotten rituals. This time I hyperbolize the rituals. I adapt them in my own way. The girl’s tears that are needed to fight goat are forced out by lemon juice; the fish is sewn together again and tucked to the ceiling…
1 hour / 10 days
The performance 2393 plays in the year 2393 when human kind faces extinction due to environmental change. Fear has taken over the rest of people that survived and hid in uninteresting places like libraries. The performance refers to the essay “The Collapse of Western Civilization. A View from the Future” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway and is performanced together with the actress Julia Windischbauer.
Photo credits Mara Pollak.
Verdunkelung shows a child’s room in a war zone. Found everywhere in the world and dedicated to the artist’s father who left his room behind after fleeing from Soviet grounds in 1945.
5. July until 10. September 2017 at Kunstarkaden Munich.
Fotos: Tom Garrecht.
Bread and Nuts
Bread and Nuts is based on the Nick Bostrom’s theory that the world, we live in, is an ancestor simulation. If we are all part of a simulation, what does time, life and death mean to us?
I installed a living room in the exhibition space at Kunstarkaden Munich and used it as a film set. The finished film was then shown on the living room TV at the exhibition. Visitors could watch the actors go through time and space, fall out of it and play with natural forces. The film lets you wonder about so called “reality”. It ends with a live broadcast of the visitors sitting on the couch.
Fischseele (fish soul)
In Fischseele (fish soul) I experiment with old traditions and rituals from the Alps region. Throwing a fish on the ceiling to see if it sticks, letting a candle run down the river, saying a prayer before going to bed nackedly, baking so called “key bread” to secure enough food supply the whole year. Everything has a meaning. The experiments move between superstition and religion, nowadays believe and entertainment.
The rituals were filmed during the AlmResidency at a cabin owned by Gut Oberkammerloh in Bavaria.
Watch also the interview made for the programme “Volle Kanne” at ZDF.
Second prize in the category Media Art at Fünf-Seen-Filmfestival 2017.
Leid hören & Zugewandt
Voices wisper from the underworld of the Ludwigs church in Munich. They are quietly describing different war photographies such as pictures from Abu Graib, the spanish civil war or the Vietnam war. As soon as the visitor walks over the grid that covers the subterranean heating system, he hears the whispers and is forced to get closer to understand. The church is covered with human bodies lying on the floor. The work is dedicated to Susan Sontag and her reflection on displaying human misery in photography.
Photo Credits: Mara Pollak
In “Zugewandt” two benches in the church face the opposite direction as they are supposed to face. The space invites people to communicate with other humans instead of God.
Photo Credits: Mara Pollak
This room belongs to Mrs. Jäger, an imaginary character who combines various human characteristics. The need of nest-building, the need of safety and the inability of letting go.
Mrs. Jäger is an obsessive hoarder. She is part of a group of people that see more then just an object in the things that surround them. Mrs. Jäger has a relationship with each and every object she owns.
Visit her at the Notel Prinzregent, in room 104
Ismaninger Str. 42-44,
from the 2nd – 19th of June
The glass coffin allows the artist a look into the sky. Seeing the snow slowly and gently burying her.
The Pilgrimage to Cape Town
I erased the streets off the maps, I left the important things. I marked holes
and obstacles in the streets, zebra crossings and their number of stripes,
ash trays, rubbish bins, benches, traffic lights and the timings of their red
light periods, beautiful trees, security men, bus stations with and without
roof (important for rainy days), dead trees and many more.
I casted lead sculptures of corners of the city. A screw, the edge of a
pavement, a thingy on a post and many more. They are important to me
and probably completely irrelevant to everybody else.
Performative Video Installation
The Portal brings openess into a closed space. It combines agoraphobia with
claustrophobia. It is a live and interactive art piece.
Connecting the outside world of a desert with the inside world of a tunnel in the exhibition space by using a live video conference.
The first active live video conference between desert and tunnel took place on the 5th of June 2015. The tunnel was located at the Michaelis Galleries in Cape Town, South Africa. The outside station was located in the Karoo desert at position 32°19’31.8″S 19°44’38.9″E. The visitor could watch the desert live in the tunnel and the desert could watch the inside of the tunnel live on a tube tv.
Meister und Werke
What is art? Who decides over the art market and the horrendous prices?
Why can’t you order art like you order a chair or a kitchen desk?
Don’t we need affordable art for everybody?
Our group, consisting of nine art students from different art fields like sculpture, media art, drawing or painting, founded an Art Production Company called “Meister und Werke” to find out about nowadays meaning of “art”.
For four weeks we opened our “Flagship Store” in the well known Kunstpavillon in the heart of Munich. We opened a website, arranged our office and presentation room, learned about financing and law and finally opened up our store. On the 6th of November 2014 the big performance started.
With the help of one of Germany’s biggest newspaper, the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and some good advertisement, costumers literally overran us. Weeks of producing “art” and receiving more art orders followed. On the 29th of November we finished our performance with a great finissage show, the exhibition and handover of all orders. We left lots of happy and a few dissatisfied art costumers who were all part of our performance. We brought the concept of art orders of previous decades to the present society – Did it work? Or did it fail? Every performer/customer found his and her own answer.
Do Not Disturb
Live Endurance Performance
A bed in a big wall of beds. My private space. My hideout. A basic human need: Sleep. How does it affect my body and mind when I sleep in public. When I change my sleeping rhythm days before so I can sleep during day and be wide awake during the night. Equiped with ear plugs, sleeping pills and sleeping mask I started this ten day experiment.
Live Endurance Performance
Which space is private, which is public? What happens when private space gets public? When there is no more chance to hide? When the Internet – our spy-glass to the world –
becomes the spy-glass to our inner self? What happens when the observer becomes the observed?
In my selfmade Panopticon 2.0 you can watch me, observe me. It’s a box with four cameras inside, which screen the inside of the box on the outside monitors. I am inside. For hours. The box is my selfmade home. Because it doesn’t matter anymore, if I stay in a surveillance box like this or if I am outside in the world. Everybody can watch me at every time. Thank the Internet, thank NSA.
Visually supported Audio work
All friends I’ve had from birth till now are each represented by an instrument and its sound. I can now listen to my life. Some friends are louder, some more quiet, some just stayed for a while and others for a life-time. The graphic supports the sound.