Artist Chloe Piene presents her third solo show ‘Surgery’ at Galerie Barbara Thumm. Based upon her 2016 staging of ‘Familienaufstellung (Family Constellations)’, the current interactive audio-visual installation tackles the role of the family in a dark, yet immersive setting. Looking at the history of family constellations, Piene unearths a catalogue of voices either forgotten or unheard.
Family constellations are a form of alternative therapy that draw upon elements of existential phenomenology and Zulu family traditions. In a typical session, members of a family are asked to stand in a constellation pattern to present and discuss a pertinent issue. Facilitated by a workshop leader and one family member, the session is said to open and strengthen bonds within a familial unit whilst also exposing its underlying traumatic history. With further influence drawn from the likes of Georges Bataille and Friedrich Nietzsche, Piene looks at the disruption of internal family bonds through a carefully curated relationship between sound and distance.
Her recognition of darkness and light as two balancing forces steadies the colour balance of a black ‘Great Cape’ against white walls. By filling the central space, she asks viewers to not only skirt around the perimeter of a deep history but delve beneath it by occupying the center of discussion. In that space, they are directly confronted with the shape and sound of someone who is not physically present. Instead, the viewer’s body hosts the visual space of a deceased identity, taking on the shape of a living shadow. Without any chance to escape from the series of collage and disfigured faces that oversee the constellation, viewers are compelled to come face-to-face with a pained and isolated history, as well as their own reality.