Kunstverein Göttingen is pleased to present the first institutional solo exhibition of Nina Tobien in the Künstlerhaus, the former home of the Göttingen physicist and mathematician Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 – 1799).
In her exhibition Tobien draws on a specific historical event relevant to this venue. In 1777 the magician Philadelphus Philadelphia, admired by Goethe and Schiller, was supposed to perform in Göttingen. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg was so antagonized by this form of salon magic, that he had fake advertising leaflets produced. Headed by an illustration of an upside-down world, these posted notices described exaggerated miracles that were obviously impossible for Philadelphia to perform. Thus denounced, Philadelphia left Göttingen without giving his performance.
Working from this historical encounter, Tobien develops narrative constructions in collages and installations that are based on an underlying system of order. Questions of epistemology and the theory of knowledge relative to both science and art, that is magic and occult phenomena, play a central role. In conjunction with the exhibition Tobien has also developed an artist’s book, in which she develops a story in accordance with prescribed pattern, much like an author. This “narrative” unfolds through a series of delicate black and white collages, which have been transposed from the book into the exhibition space. Using visual fragments stemming from the Bauhaus as well as Minimal Art, Tobien develops these collages as (conceptual) spaces, in which perspective and point of view play a primary role. Other formal components, such as fans, folds, torsions, spirals, draped fabrics, projections, and stairs, suggest cognitive processes and conceptual schemata.
The installations inspired by these “diagrammatic” collages were developed on site. Tobien has transformed the metastructure of her overarching narrative into an abstract pattern, which suggests scientific models, mind-maps, diagrams, and architectonic plans. In addition to her collage-like ensembles this black and white pattern or plan serves as a fundamental component of the exhibition. As a large-format poster the pattern has been “posted” on the exhibition walls, as Tobien’s own transcribed “Avertissement.” Stage-like scenarios result, in which surreal ensembles call into question the knowledge that has supposedly been gained.
A formal and conceptual structure underlying the exhibition and Tobien’s artist book is the Möbius strip, a topological object discovered in Göttingen by Listing (simultaneous with Möbius). Based on Lichtenberg’s “Avertissement,” which shows a depiction of the world on its head as a clear statement against the “upside-down” world of magic in opposition to that of science, Tobien’s work uses the structure of the Möbius strip to suggest themes of inversion, mirroring, and the correspondence between the two worlds of science and magic. As a surface of “folded space” the strip presents a paradox, because its form contains a continuous transition from the inside to the outside. As a “non-orientable surface” and a “single continuous curve” the strip is both a scientific and magical object.
Nina Tobien (born in 1978 in Hanau) studied at the Städelschule Frankfurt and the Offenbach University of Art and Design. Her work deals with archives and fundamental structures in science and culture.
The artist book created specifically for the exhibition is being published by argobooks, Berlin.