Katrin Korfmann and the Esthetic of the Conscientious Fragment (EN)

by James Scarborough


A group of people sit on an art museum bench in front of Rembrandt’s painting, The Night Watch. We see them from the point of view of the work. The gallery’s green walls can be seen off to the side. The gallery’s entryway frames most of the group and provides a view of other galleries that recedes into the background. Reverent and awed hardly describe their collective attitude. More like indifferent and bored. Skittish.
Though bunched together like tired tourists waiting for a bus they each inhabit their own private world. They resemble participants in a disheveled and suburban Last Supper living tableau. They do anything but stare straight ahead. One points to the left. Another stares to the right. Two read by themselves. One speaks to someone behind them. Two converse with each other. They do everything but study what’s in front of them. This indifference is not a coincidence:  the same dis-interest can be seen throughout the 6-minute DVD loop.
If this is what passes for iconic reflection, then our world is not a very reflective place. If we cannot grant a work of art its requisite suspension of belief, then how can we reflect on other things that matter: our lives, our destinies, and our place in the scheme of things?
Katrin Korfmann’s photographs, installations, and videos describe with subtlety, grace, and humor our indifference to art. Sometimes a studied indifference to art and its trappings on the part of artists can make for a viable subject of art. The whole arte povera movement, for instance, showed a delicious indifference to the ideas of quality and to the sanctity of the viewing space. But that’s not the case here. Here we talk about viewers not makers of art.
Lost in the shuffle is the personal space within which we experience and understand art and by extension experience and understand ourselves. In his PenseesBlaise Pascal described this state of restless superficiality that Korfmann pictures as the essence of the human condition: the product of the inability to sit alone in an empty for an extended period of time...