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Itamar Gov: CCTV Breker, 2023

Published by Kunsthalle Mannheim, 52 pages, English and German

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Excerpt from “UNFOLDING HISTORY(IES) –
ON THE ARTISTIC PRACTICE OF ITAMAR GOV” by Pia Goebel

Itamar Gov’s research-based practice deals with forms of personal, collective, and institutional memory. The artist‘s video works, (photo-)graphic series, sculptural and spatial installations take documentary materials, literary anecdotes, orally transmitted stories, or biographies of historical figures as a starting point.

Gov’s practice can thus, in the broadest sense, be attributed to that phenomenon of contemporary art that Juliane Rebentisch describes as art’s border crossing into the field of historiography. That said, one must emphasize that the description of post-conceptual artistic practices by analogy with those of historiography does not for the most part entirely add up. As Susanne Leeb aptly states, it reaches its limits, since »most artists who occupy themselves with history are interested less in a compelling narrative of the sort that is still acknowledged to be the primary object of historians, than in undermining such a narrative.« This is undoubtedly true of Itamar Gov, who, by posing questions that (must) remain unanswered, rather conceives a counter-program to the scholarly search for unambiguous answers and conclusions.4
Gov addresses his sometimes found but mostly meticulously researched materials with different theoretically informed approaches and aesthetic procedures. His works are characterized by a singular relationship between the materials and their processing. What they have in common is a moving into view of the ambiguity of history and its reverberations in the present. Recipients are invited to join Gov in his interrogative observations and readings of the history(ies) he unfolds.

[…]

For his exhibition in the STUDIO of the Kunsthalle Mannheim, Itamar Gov continues his exploration of the complex relations between history, ideology, and aesthetics. With his multi-channel video installation Breker CCTV the artist responds to the fact that today there are more than three hundred works on view in (semi-)public space in Germany and Austria that were created by artists who appear on the so-called “Gottbegnadeten-Liste“ („God-gifted list“) from 1944, that is, artists who were patronized under National Socialism. Gov filmed 16 of these works in situ, all figurative nude sculptures from the years 1933 to 1945: works by Arno Breker, Ludwig Kasper, Fritz Klimsch, Georg Kolbe, Willy Meller, Richard Scheibe, Hermann Scheuernstuhl, Josef Thorak, and Adolf Wamper in Berlin, Bochum, Frankfurt am Main, Hanover, Cologne, Kyritz, and Lüdenscheid.

Based on the footage, Gov created an installation that brings into mind a video surveillance room. While the ‚monitored‘ nude sculptures are initially seen in full figure, they increasingly appear in extreme close-ups that focus on individual parts of their bodies. The ‚video surveillance‘ acted out by Gov can be described as one under inverted premises. For while artworks in museums are monitored for their protection, with a potential danger emanating from visitors, Breker CCTV raises the question whether the videographically observed nude sculptures pose a threat (to the viewers). They are expressions of, or at least irreversibly linked to, an ideal of beauty and body image, deeply rooted in racism, that was propagated by the Nazis at their time of creation. Charged with an ideology that, in view of the current developments in Europe, can be said anything but dead, they might even be considered a threat to liberal democracy. At the same time, they are part of the German cultural heritage. They are, if not guarded, preserved, and exhibited in public space. Against the backdrop of these circumstances, Gov challenges what he perceives to be the underlining legitimization for leaving the sculptures in public space: the assumption that they are not dangerous. His interrogative observation spans a wide net of questions that touch upon (cultural) politics after 1945 as well as on those of the present.

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