Inge Mahn

Selected Works

Schulklasse

1970

plaster over wood construction
230 x 600 x 120 cm

The sculptress' participation in 'documenta 5', conceived by Harald Szeemann, showed that Inge Mahn's work belonged in this „Societal Anti-Form“ common to Concept Art and Arte Povera. In the sculpture shown then in Kassel - Classroom: eight benches with desks and a rostrum - perhaps the most important of the above-named categories was missing: the work was not set in relation to any element of its architectonic environs, but was transportable for varied exhibition situations. It altered and alienated, not the spatial surroundings themselves, but a societal institution: the hierarchical structure of learning became, in its plaster summation even more archaic: the individual mythology showed here, in biographical exegesis, a mythos of the everyday. In a certain way, the architectonic environment was taken into account: a school situation within the 'documenta' was an indication of the problematics of „teaching“ and „learning“ art, and offered itself ironically as an absurd „visitors' school“ in the attic.

Stephan von Wiese, Poetic Interventions. Inge Mahn's sculptural installations in Inge Mahn. Gegenstände / Objects, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin 1985

1m3 Nachbarschaft

1976
plaster, metal, tape

In 1976, Inge Mahn placed a 1-cubic-meter block of white plaster bricks in the Düsseldorf Kunsthalle. This was the maximal size allowed for a sculpture in the exhibition Nachbarnschaft (Neighbourhood), to which all the city's artists were invited. Fenced off by fluttering construction ribbons, the work was not just about the prescribed size parameter. The artist also brought her own working principle into the picture: Inge Mahn's artistic work is a permanent construction site. This applies equally on the material, intellectual and aesthetic levels. The work also cannot be subsumed under any one style: it is diametrically opposed to the rules of the game and the rules of art.

Stephan von Wiese, Construction Sites. On the sculptural oeuvre of Inge Mahn in Inge Mahn. Baustelle / Construction Sites, Wienand, Cologne 2011

Hundehütten

1977
plaster, plastic bowls, chains
52 x 41 x 51 cm

The arc of Inge Mahn's work from 1979 to 1986 curves elliptically and dialectically around two artistic foundations: addition and imitation in the context of a social ambient thereby reflected and commented upon. That can be a petrol station as easily as a factory hall or museum. If Duchamp put the readymade in the museum, making the museal aura a visible constituent of the artwork, now, in reverse, the readymade character of a given situation was cracked by an artistic act.

Stephan von Wiese, Poetic Interventions. Inge Mahn's sculptural installations in Inge Mahn. Gegenstände / Objects, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin 1985

Roter Teppich

1980
plaster, red coconut fiber carpet
width 67 cm

Roter Teppich, 1980 is a spatial sculpture, an energetic line running through the exhibition halls – first at Mahn's solo exhibition at Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, then at Art Basel.
For reasons of content alone, Mahn's otherwise consistently white color spectrum was broadened: the color „red“ was a constant, unchanging emblem of sovereignty spanning the humble ground, a color-symbol whose colorful identity had to be maintained. The fact that the carpet here climbs the walls makes an imaginary walk along it into an Ancension of potentates. The red carpet line becomes independent, loses its function, turns into a piece of art, a sculpture in space. The putative solemnity of the unfurled carpet is presented as a comedy number.

Stephan von Wiese, Red Carpet in Inge Mahn. Baustelle / Construction Sites, Wienand, Cologne 2011

Pfeiler und Boote

1983
mixed media
pillar: 25 x 40 x 450 cm each
boat: 230 x 80 x 70 cm each

„The things which I express are things which I have noticed. You can call them „assertions“. They are formulations, observations, but can also be questions. My assertion is not dogmatic, it is an intermediate storage place, and it can be dismantled again. It is made, made by hand and easily destroyed. You have an idea, you place it there and you are amazed at how independently and uniquely such a fomulation behaves, although it is only one of many. There are assertions which are unsuitable, some are unsure of themselves, some are silly, and they are all possible, like qualities that are constantly present, but never so exclusively. If your thoughts are right, then the form for the thing is also right, like words that you put together to form a sentence with contents. The contents can be read by a person who wants to do so; if s/he does not care to do so, emotions are transmitted and that is enough, too.“

Inge Mahn in conversation with Harald Szeemann, Questions to Inge Mahn from Harald Szeemann in Inge Mahn. Baustelle / Construction Sites, Wienand, Cologne 2011

Säulengebinde

1985
plaster
25 x 400 cm each

„For example, the pillars, before they became supporting elements of construction, were a tree, plant. If five pillars, interlocked and leaning against each other, hold each other up, then they are no longer props, they are plants, a weft, a bouquet. Architectural elements, out of context, lose their function and are given new co-ordinates in space, new content, new form, and become autonomous sculpture.“

Inge Mahn in Stephan von Wiese, Poetic Interventions. Inge Mahn's sculptural installations in Inge Mahn. Gegenstände / Objects, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin 1985

Gewendelte Treppe

1988
Stuttgart
plaster over metal construction
490 x 120 cm

Inge Mahn's sculptures – whether placed as things in a room or installed as an attack on same – are subversive. They tackle and intervene with givens and always bring opposites to play. They take the not-said, the excluded, the anxiety-provoking, the subjective, the lunatic, and turn them inside out, bring them to light – to the space on the surface. Fundamental certainities become questionable in both a material-sculptural and a metaphorical sense. To be robbed of certainties is not at all „nice“. The moment of balance is charged with tension and can be maintained only with tenacity. The power of objectivity is crazy. (...) The matter at hand deepens into a poetic sojourn that actually promises just one certainty: that it could be repeated, that nothing is lost. Plaster in the cast keeps its shape longer than consciousness keeps its balance in a provisional state. Supple thought must continually rediscover itself anew, in a new form.

Angelika Stepken, Solution without End (1994) in Inge Mahn. Baustelle / Construction Sites, Wienand, Cologne 2011

Erbsenzählen

2009
mixed media
98 x 81 cm

In general, kinetics – motion – plays a large role in a body of work in constant transformation; stasis is the exception here. In these sculptures, the forms slide, tip, spin or climb up and down. Often the particular mode of construction is responsible for the drive and motion, but often there are also built-in motors. Along with material kinetics, spiritual motion appears repeatedly in the work. Sometimes sculptures are conceptually, and actually, involved in actions and processes.

Stephan von Wiese, Construction Sites. On the sculptural oeuvre of Inge Mahn in Inge Mahn. Baustelle / Construction Sites, Wienand, Cologne 2011

Becher

2001
mixed media
41 x 27 x 23 cm

"I am looking for things I have either lost or misplaced, and I do that often. I try to keep track of my thoughts and to understand. Once I have understood something, I can express it and hope that someone can get something out of the observation, and if this has a positive effect, then that is not bad."

Inge Mahn in conversation with Harald Szeemann, Questions to Inge Mahn from Harald Szeemann in Inge Mahn. Baustelle / Construction Sites, Wienand, Cologne 2011