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September 2, 2010

Whisper

New catalogue by Christiane Budig

A language made of glass

Eva-Maria Fahrner-Tutsek

A sturdy suitcase made of wood. Worn and used, shabby. Attached to the handle is a label showing the name of the Russian airline Aeroflot. As with many of the works by Christiane Budig, who studied art at the College of Art and Design in Halle, viewers need to take a second look. Inside the suitcase, a male and a female torso made of matte, transparent glass lie in a soft bed made of fleece. The work has the solemn title Romeo und Julia (Romeo and Juliet). Is it the epitome of classical lovers who are lying here, now, as worn out as the shabby case? As Christiane Budig tells it, she found the case thrown away amongst the garbage. Did Romeo and Juliet try their luck and find happiness in the West? Seemingly so, since they no longer need the suitcase.

Christiane Budig's works of art often tell a story. These are not complete, ready-made stories that make unambiguous statements. Her objects and installations evoke associations in the viewer, encouraging him to make his own personal interpretations, for instance, in the work Eigenwelt (Own World). It is unclear in what direction this female figure is heading: is she withdrawing into a cocoon, the white, softly rounded tube, or is she in the process of leaving her own world in order to come into contact with the real one? The viewer's own mood and his experiences influence his way of looking at things. This open quality is an important characteristic of Christiane Budig's works.

Using ambivalent scenes, she succeeds in triggering contradictory emotions. And the pithy titles of her works contribute to this. The title of an installation of 12 cushions blown in wire netting that won the Jutta-Cuny-Franz prize in 2003 is Distanz (Distance), at first glance a surprising title. With their velvety, sand-blasted surfaces and their swelling, rounded contours, this assemblage of cushions appears seductive. However, the feelings that are automatically associated with cushions, such as softness, comfortableness, proximity, have something else superimposed upon them because of the precise way that they have been lined up on stele. We are reminded of separation, experience a certain coldness.

For her objects Christiane Budig not only uses glass as a malleable material; she also takes advantage of the contradictory qualities inherent in it. In order to write down her stories, she uses glass like paper. Fragility and firmness, violability or vulnerability, formal abruptness and organic curves, velvety surfaces or gleaming seductions serve to trigger confusion in the viewer. This is heightened by combining it with other materials. There are pink feathers sticking out of ships, a red rubber rope is stretched between two chairs, as if for a children's game, silk tapes constrict glass feet and inscribed metal tapes amorphous glass balls.

The starting point of her work is often the body – as an imprint or a fragment. In the stories told by the objects, this plays its allocated role. In floor installation HaltLos (Stop/go) the constricted glass feet are attempting to escape from the glass panes, to climb up the wall. Long, cut-off plaits in a wooden box mingle with childhood stories. The brain conveys its state of excitement through color. Skin is an empty shell, the surrounding world constricting or exclusive.

The catalogue documents the very personal language that Christiane Budig has found for her artistic endeavors and makes the subjects that she repeatedly addresses quite clear. The focus of her statements is on man, with his pleasures, longings, doubts, mood fluctuations and his entanglements with the past. “Many of my works have their starting point in memory,” she reports. Often, these are real stories, but also invented ones, elaborated to fill in gaps in memory.

Christiane Budig questions human existence from all kinds of different perspective and plays with the material of glass with great assurance. As she tests the contradictory character of this material in ever different ways, the viewer involuntarily does the same. She avoids exaggerated elegance, but nevertheless her objects have a dashed-off lightness to them that is fascinating – and that is deceptive at first glance. The work demands a concentrated gaze and personal involvement. Only then is it possible to see beyond the simple, stripped-down quality, the still sensitivity, to get some kind of notion of what is fundamental to the work and understand the artist's language.

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