Level 0 | Ground Floor
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The earliest works in the exhibition Vertauschte Köpfe (Transposed Heads) by brothers Andreas and Konrad Mühe reflect how they deal with the death of their father, Ulrich Mühe, in 2007. Just one year later, Konrad Mühe starts to watch films with Ulrich Mühe in the leading role and to select sequences, which – with a new plot – produce a conversation that has never previously been conducted in this way about the relationship between father and son. Although the title Fragen an meinen Vater (Questions to My Father) suggests a dialogue, we hear only his answers. But is it the father giving them, or the actor in the roles he plays?
In his photographs entitled Februar 2007, es geht nicht mehr weiter (February 2007, There’s Nothing More We Can Do), Andreas Mühe reconstructs the exact situation in which he found out that there was no prospect of recovery for his father and that his life would soon come to an end.
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The start of the exhibition on the 1st floor forms a prologue of portraits by Andreas and Konrad Mühe; this picks up on the title of Hängung #24 at KUNSTWERK, Vertauschte Köpfe (Transposed Heads), borrowed from a story by Thomas Mann. The consideration of own identity and the medium of photography in its temporal conditionality is reflected in the 24-part ensemble Mühe-Kopf (Mühe-Head) by Andreas Mühe. At the same time, in the photograph Oskar I, he makes historical, biographical reference – which is also essential for the concept of the exhibition – to his grandfather, Oskar Hahn, who moved with his parents from Kornwestheim to Uckermark in 1937.
The video projectors moulded in wax in the Tome series by Konrad Mühe are another form of portrait. Reminiscent of death masks or an ancestral gallery, they refer here to the subjective projection contained in each narrative. His video sculpture Ava looks like a kneeling child, gazing with fascination into the play of light in a chandelier. Switched on and off in various phases, its flashes outshine the coloured images projected by Ava. An interaction emerges between the projected being and the old lamps that appear to have fallen from the ceiling: a dialogue develops between one’s own internal being and the external being of others, which is the basis of any identity formation.
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Inspired by the tradition of middle-class family portraits, representing finely coded relationship structures in the grouping of the subjects, Andreas Mühe devoted himself to his major project, Mischpoche (Tribe), from 2016 to 2019. Both of the largescale tableaus, of the families on his father’s and his mother’s side, are at the centre of the front section on the 2nd floor. Produced in complex processes, each comprising four generations, the artist inserts lifelike figures of those who have already died. Corresponding to the current age of the artist, they are likewise each represented at the age of almost 40. Although the deceased in the family appear to be brought to life, the detailed set orchestration of the people and staging emphasises the nature of the images as an artistic construction.
The tableau Hahn II, which shows the artist’s mother, theatre director Annegret Hahn, in the centre, strongly reflects the identity-shaping function of origin and family history for her two sons. In the combination of person and place, which also stands behind the objects used in Konrad Mühe’s staging, the view focuses on the home of his grandfather in the northeast of Brandenburg. Juxtaposed with the family portrait, Andreas Mühe’s subject is the fate of Oskar Hahn’s parents, Gottlob and Anna, who were murdered by the advancing troops of the Red Army in 1945, hung on the arch over the gateway into their farm.
Konrad Mühe’s video sculptures examine existential questions concerning the perception and impact of images and the construction of identity. Johannes offers a narcissistic human image, which alternates between self-reflection and the perception of an engineered ego. Although the video sculptures represent technoid objects and comprise furniture such as tables, cupboards and shelves as well as projectors, they immediately create the impression of living beings, and this is further emphasised by the artist’s titling of the works. Here, our animist tendency to attribute human characteristics or features to inanimate things, reacts to the shape patterns stored in our minds. In respect of Konrad Mühe’s video sculptures, these routines of perception create a personal basis of analysis, the content of which is deepened respectively in the combination of form, surface structure and film projection.
Whilst the works on either side of the family portrait on his mother’s side concentrate on the history of the Hahn family, the high hall area opposite the tableau Mühe II (groß) features pieces by Andreas Mühe, which focus on the picture of his father, Ulrich Mühe. The torso, which looks like an ancient kouros appears – installed at an elevated point in the room – unattainable and to a certain extent idealised, whereas the impressive portrait of his father is presented covertly behind an exhibition wall. The father image that this creates and the deconstruction of the same result in an evocative area of tension.
Alongside the objects used in the staging, aspects of family biography emerge more strongly in two further pieces by Konrad Mühe. In his two-part installation, Philipp, a semi-erect creature apparently lying on the floor looks at the last things in life. In the style of his ancestor, priest-mechanic Philipp Matthäus Hahn (1739-1790), they are represented orbiting in a cosmic model. Konrad Mühe develops another vanitas image in collaboration with his wife, artist Sonja Schrader. In the gesture of mutual support and carrying, the sculptural work Klakeur displays portrait video sequences of bouquets, which suddenly collapse and – without pausing – focus on the overlapping of events.
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In the video installation Weissglas (White Glass), we see Konrad Mühe himself, how he moves between the different levels of wall and floor. However, normal physical laws seem to have been suspended. The familiar concept of space is countered in a deceptive tease that is both confusing and fascinating.
The works from the Obersalzberg series, in which Andreas Mühe critically grapples with the pictorial aesthetics of the Nazi dictatorship, form the conclusion of the series of works comprising landscapes and portraits. Pictures of Hitler’s retreat in Berchtesgadener Land by photographer and cameraman Walter Frentz form the starting point. Andreas Mühe has singled out individual figures from Hitler’s entourage and had their posture imitated by actors, to examine how much of the “gesture of obedience” is still conveyed there.
In horizontal lightboxes and a largescale photograph, Andreas Mühe examines the Chernobyl liquidators. The helpers who risked their lives at the radiation-contaminated facility after the reactor disaster were referred to as “biorobots”. With the sculpturally staged representation of the people in the elaborate yet useless protective clothing, Andreas Mühe once again challenges the myth of heroism.