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The Lady is a Transformer:
Artist Photographer Katharina Sieverding Receives the Goslarer Kaiserring 2004



Katharina Sieverding, Transformer, 1972,
Deutsche Bank Collection, (c) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004



Transformer is the title of a photographic work made in 1973 by Katharina Sieverding. The five-part series shows the heavily made-up, androgynous visage of the artist as it changes from exposure to exposure; each minimal alteration in pose, lighting, and contrast reveals a new personality facet. Sieverding's series oscillates in the field of tension between query and assertion, metaphor and likeness. Her pictures become role images in which she uses her own mutable personality to convey social change - and reflect the glamour, fashion, consumerist cult, gender-specific behavioral roles, and mass media images prevailing today. The title of the series seems almost programmatic for the artist's work, who was born in Prague in 1944; her works on the themes of identity, the individual and society, and the technological transformation of humans and nature have made her into one of the most important German artists for over 30 years.


Katharina Sieverding, Manton, 1997,
Deutsche Bank Collection, (c) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004


Now, with the presentation of the Goslarer Kaiserring in the Mönchehaus Museum for Modern Art on October 9 2004, Katharina Sieverding will be awarded one of the most renowned international art prizes of the day. The city of Goslar has been awarding the aquamarine set in gold with the engraved seal of Heinrich IV annually since 1975. The honorary award pays tribute to the oeuvre of a contemporary international artist who has provided present-day art with "significant impulses," according to the text of the award certificate. The list of renowned artists that have received the ring speaks for itself: from the first award winner Henry Moore (1975) to Willem de Kooning, Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Sigmar Polke, Jenny Holzer, and William Kentridge, the list of ring bearers reads like a "Who's Who" of contemporary art.


Katharina Sieverding, Untitled, 1998,
Deutsche Bank Collection, (c) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004


With her portraits and images of bodies, the artist has made a considerable contribution to the further development of photography, as the jury stated. Sieverding was, in fact, one of the first women to assert herself in the West German art establishment and has been enjoying international success with her work since the early seventies. Influenced by the feminist discourses of the day, and having studied under Joseph Beuys, she began investigating constellations of feminine identity in the early seventies, incorporating found material such as newspaper clippings and film stills into her work. As a synthesis between photo-technical experiment and self-reflective involvement with her own physiognomy, her monumental wall panels combined influences from performance art with media-critical approaches. During the eighties, her images increasingly drew attention to a general political precariousness and danger, although it was the atmospheric content and the undefined nature of media images that were placed in the foreground. Examples of this are the 1993 work Deutschland wird deutscher (Germany is Becoming More German), a billboard piece installed in Berlin's subway stations and other public areas in response to violent incidents perpetrated by the radical right following the fall of the Berlin Wall, or Bombensicher Bundeskunsthalle Bonn die letzten Knöpfe sind gedrückt from 1983 ( Bombproof Bundeskunsthalle Bonn the Last Buttons are Pressed), which addressed the threat of atomic weapons.


Katharina Sieverding,
Bombensicher Bundeskunsthalle Bonn die letzten Knöpfe sind gedrückt, 1983,
Deutsche Bank Collection, (c) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004


In 1997, Deutsche Bank voted Katharina Sieverding as their "Artist of the Fiscal Year" and organized numerous exhibitions of her works from the collection in branches, Kunstvereinen, and museums, culminating in the 1998 exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim, Works on Pigment. Along with international shows and participation in several documenta exhibitions, Sieverding showed together with Gerhard Merz in the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 1997. She has been a professor at Berlin's University of Art ( UDK)since 1992. Currently, her works can be seen in the group exhibition The Future Has a Silver Lining. Genealogies of Glamour at the Migros Museum in Zurich. On October 24 2004, Close Up, a one-person exhibition of the artist's work, will be opening in P.S.1 in New York.


Translation: Andrea Scrima