Stefan Vogel has transformed the white cube into a barren landscape. Concrete slabs flatten a path through ten cubic meters of garden soil piled within the exhibition space. Some of the slabs are the result of casts made on site from fresh soil, and contain and conserve photographs – images of personal memories. On the walls: works made of paper and material with fragments of typewriter texts, layers of lines and grids made of thread, in some cases under paraffin or behind glass. Traces and remnants of activity characterise this scenery as a relic of a once cultivated state, reminiscent of petit-bourgeois identity. A vocabulary of symbols representative of Stefan Vogel’s artistic process becomes evident: conserving, casting, inscribing, internalising, transforming and remembering.
In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne, the daughter of Gaia (earth) and Uranus (heaven) represents memory. She is the mother of the nine muses, the tutelary goddesses of science and art. The concepts of remembrance and memory thus combine not only the processes of memory and preservation, but also knowledge, invention, and creative potential. Against the backdrop of the modern separation between reason and creativity, complex associations, which are connected to processes of memory, are all to often simplified. This could also be considered in terms of a fading of the memory of memory since “that which has remained, remains yet fades”, according to the text by Stefan Vogel on the invitation to his first solo exhibition at Jahn und Jahn.
The intricate relationship between objectivity and subjectivity, almost a whole system of repetitive patterns of behaviour, structures of thought and interpersonal relationships, manifest in Stefan Vogel’s work as a kind of map of topographies and interwoven associations. Everything references everything else, everything is relatable in the most literal sense: you just have to follow the lines. Thus, the utopian-ironic triad in the entrance area, which consists of three photographic works showing the artist’s slightly insolent index finger, a right angle and the corner of a room, could form a metaphor of his worldview.
Stefan Vogel’s material pictures and the means he uses to express himself are movingly direct and original. Nothing is refined; the artist is uninterested in exaggeration. Polaroids, typewriter texts, soil, blistered plaster, sheets, traces of work, cracked glass – hardly anything could be more sincere. Yet in the end, nothing could unsettle us more than the experience that a break with knowledge and security as well as or our own failures leave behind a lasting impression. Perhaps that is also why Stefan Vogel’s cartographic works reveal the attraction of places of longing: because the idea of sealing time is magical, but simply too beautiful to be real.
Text By Anka Ziefer