Iconic German video artist Marcel Odenbach’s works screened at Biennale

Kochi: Over the course of an engrossing evening conversation here on Wednesday, Marcel Odenbach – one of Germany’s foremost video artists – expounded on infusing art history, meaning-making and architectural aesthetics into his over four-decade-long artistic practice.

An architect by training, Odenbach went on to become one of the pioneers of a new generation of German video artists in the 1970s. His works draw heavily from historical events such as the Holocaust and the Cold War, exploring their roles in post war German public consciousness. His most recent works – two of which, Ein Bild vom Bild machen (Making a Picture of a Picture) and Fishing is not done on Tuesdays, were screened prior to the talk – are a departure from the norm.

“These works are completely different from my past works: both in their themes and how I produced them. These are based on two architectural constructions that embody in themselves the culture of the spaces they inhibit. The two videos, each 15 minutes long, were produced last year. They are part of installation works that need space and a loop effect,” Odenbach said.

The discussion – part of the Kochi Biennale Foundation’s ‘Let’s Talk’ series – was moderated by Dr Martin Wilde, director of the Goethe Institute/Max Mueller Bhavan in Mumbai. The event held at the Pavilion in Cabral Yard was supported by Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, HCL, and Goethe Institute. A collaboration between Odenbach and Wilde – titled Disturbed Places­­ ­­– shot along a stretch from Kolkata to the Sunderbans was screened at the first Biennale in 2012.

In Ein Bild vom Bild machen, the residence of Peter and Irene Ludwig – the couple who gifted the Ludwig museum to the city of Cologne – is the setting. “Ludwig museum has the biggest pop art collection in the world, but it also has all kinds of contemporary art. Last year, for the museum’s 40th anniversary, I was invited to do a work, for which I went to the house,” Odenbach said.

“I wanted to reflect how the lives of the rich were different in the 1960s and 1970s. I wanted to shoot lived-in rooms like the kitchen, which had a coffee machine from the 1950s and the garage, the inside of which has some of their art collection. A garage like that will be hard to find elsewhere. I combined this with footage of the couple,” he added..

For Fishing is not done on Tuesdays, Odenbach spent three whole weeks inside a house he designed and built on the west coast of Ghana. He ended up with nearly 20 hours of video that had to be edited down to 15 minutes for display at this year’s Berlinale. “I wanted to be like a monk to work for this film. I just wanted to deal with the house. The only relation I had with outside word was through a telescope, the footage from which is included in this work,” he said.

“The house is the only one designed by me that has contemporary English design, but adapted to the place it is situated. The living area of the house doesn’t have walls or windows. In the end, we decided to include various dimensions of the house and sounds of the ocean, the sounds from the church, from the jungle and helicopters overhead,” Odenbach said.

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