A floating graveyard. Twelve white heads, hanging in a circle at eye level to the onlooker. Twelve identical reproductions of a young man's head. Laying on the floor directly below each head, two red bricks, on these a round loaf of crusty bread with a rolled and knotted cotton gauze bandage. Parallel to this, twelve sheets of paper, on which Jaeggi has captured the various thoughts that have led him to the execution of his project "Peaceful Heads".
This new installation by Jaeggi was seen for the very first time at Berliner Kunstprojekt in June 2003. After much noticed exhibitions in New York and Paris among other places, where his extensive painting work has been shown, in Berlin a new facet of the painter, opera singer and sculptor Jaeggi is brought to light in the shape of a sculptural installation of extremely complex contents.
First, it surprises one that this very harmonically arranged group of figures which allows the onlooker generous room for interpretation is accompanied by the explanatory additions of these drawings. Does the artist not trust the impact of his work? Does a glance at the working process, a glimpse behind the scenes not take away the mysterious effect of the floating sculptures? On the sheets, one finds photographs, drawings in charcoal and pencil as well as excerpts from texts. If one is looking at the contents of these sheets of paper, one has to answer in the affirmative as well as to deny the above questions at the same time.
One has to answer in the positive because Jaeggi dissociates himself somewhat from the sacred aura of the installation through his humorous additional notes. As an example, a scrap of paper is found with the inscription: "For Tuesday, June 3, 2003 order from the Bumann Bakery 12 flat Valaisan breads of 7 x 7 inches." On a different sheet, next to a head study drawn over a scale grid, the added remark: "Yes, yes, I use scale grids just as Vermeer and Duerer did." To allow the onlooker such profane glances at the creation of an art work makes the artist sympathetic, it brings him closer to his audience.
One has to answer the questions in the negative if Jaeggi's drawings take away from the onlookers freedom of her/his own associations, because they show the very large scale of Jaeggi's own approach to the theme which in the end initiates a thought provoking process rather than a set formula of interpretation. Pictures from the TV station BBC World showing marching soldiers, the mummified head of Ramses II, head studies drawn by the artist's mother Pia Jaeggi-Candrian and a small picture of her grave are just some samples.
Jaeggi says he is interested in the transformation of body types following the course of historical periods. In connecting the rolled-up gauze strips on the bricks (= tomb stones), which could come from the grave site of a minor Egyptian dignitary, with the representations of a young man's head of today's proportions, Jaeggi draws an iconographic circle. The twelve variations of the same model allow an intended confrontation of cloned beings and permit therefore a glimpse into a not so distant future.
For me, the installation in its regular formation radiates the calmness and harmony of a cultic grave site. The floating heads seem like ghosts of the deceased. I see in them 12 entire bodies, their feet being the red bricks still anchored solidly into the ground, the body reduced to a loaf of bread, the dirtied gauze rolls a symbol for the injuries collected during a life time and, of course, the head which has been seperated from the ballast of all things earthly.
The strength of this work lies ultimately exactly there: to take the onlooker first by her/his hand and let her/him take part in the thought process and the manual execution of the art work, without however making any final statements, which allows one in the end to approach the work with one's own associations, on eye level with the artist and his "peaceful heads".
By Ralf Katzenstein for NY Arts Magazine / Berliner Kunst
Exhibition: "Peaceful Heads" Spatial Installation
Gallery Berliner Kunstprojekt, Berlin (Germany)
& Agora Gallery SoHo / Chelsea, New York City