Article by Mary Alexander // June 24, 2019
In Raphaela Vogel’s exhibition ‘Vogelspinne,’ the spider motif features prominently in a seemingly arbitrary collection of sculptural, video and sound pieces that inhabit the artist’s fears and ambitions. As the vagaries of the noisy soundtrack fluctuate from disquieting sounds, free jazz, babies crying and schlager music, visitors enter an intricate terrarium of the artist’s making. Currently on view at BQ until July 6th, the show’s title is not only self-referential, but also recalls the specific spider, the archetypal symbol of fear.
On a large screen in the center of the main gallery space, Vogel’s immersive video installation ‘Tränenmeer’ (“sea of tears”) plays on a seemingly endless loop. Barefoot on a rock, wearing a long pink dress and playing a yellow accordion amid swirling waves, Vogel is the sole character. The footage is edited in such a way that she and the sea appear to constantly spin in a circular pattern, instilling in the viewer a sense of vertigo. A hypnotic self-portrait shot from a bird’s eye perspective using a drone, the video and sound sculpture is the product of audio sampling, most memorably from schlager singer Milva’s ‘Ich hab keine Angst’ (“I have no fear,” 1981), as well as the endless recycling of Vogel’s own video works, including an improvised piano solo by the artist, the tick-tock of a biological clock and the alarming sound of a baby screaming.
‘Tränenmeer,’ undoubtedly the centerpiece of the exhibition, is an entire installation that engulfs the viewer physically and acoustically upon entering the gallery. Framed by a mixed-media structure of collected objects, including dog hair glued to chrome frames, two speakers and a shower chair, the labyrinthine work is a combined installation, video and sound collage that recalls the form of the most feared spider: the tarantula (Vogelspinne is, after all, German for “tarantula”).
Standing on the periphery of this space are three large sculptures (‘Combat,’ ‘Wizard,’ and ‘The Fly’) made with pairs of brightly colored windsurfing sails that overpower the gallery windows and encircle the visitor ominously. What appear at first to resemble butterflies the same height of the gallery begin to transform into menacing forms, staring blankly onward as visitors move through ‘Tränenmeer,’ one of the many spider-like structures in the show. The spider motif echoes the giant bronze spiders and sewn appendages of Louise Bourgeois, whose objects, like Vogel’s, recreate biomorphic forms suggestive of femininity that represent the female psyche, psychological pain and beauty.
The soundtrack, which ebbs and flows between noises that trigger anxiety, fear and comfort, follows the visitor throughout the three-room exhibition space, where images of the tarantula return again and again, constructing a powerful narrative that manages to simultaneously activate feelings of distress and calmness on the part of the visitor. Hitting us with a wall of sound immediately upon arriving, the effect of ‘Vogelspinne’ communicates visions of fear and desire as viewers are carried on a visual and acoustic journey through Vogel’s psyche.