Raphael Danke (born 1972 in Aachen, lives in Berlin) is presenting his first institutional solo exhibition at Kunsthaus Baselland. After studying at the Berlin Academy of Arts, Danke became known initially for his collaborative work with his brother Tobias Danke. Since 2005/06, he has been working exclusively on his own and has earned himself quite a reputation through solo exhibitions at up-and-coming galleries, such as Sorcha Dallas in Glasgow and Sandra Bürgel in Berlin.
The title of the exhibition, which includes collages, sculptures and installations, is “Filer à l’anglaise” — a French expression equivalent to the English “to take French leave”, i.e. to slip away without saying thanks or goodbye. Danke’s special collage technique relates aptly to the concept of disappearance: he uses print material from fashion magazines, literally making the human figures disappear from the selected pages by cutting them out. The fashion business, which has often been described as an industry engaged in the production of distorted body images, and its primary publicity vehicle, the fashion magazine, supply the raw material for the artist’s genuine, material manipulation of bodies: he removes the bodies from the pages and rearranges the remaining coloured segments in new and complex patterns. The resulting compositions often have a surreal touch — the fall of a dress, fragments of hairstyles and accessories peeking out from between the severed edges, and new patterns of shape and colour emerging from the freshly-cut lines. Only the titles point to what has disappeared — taking maybe French (or English) leave. Moreover, each collage has its own passepartout format, resulting from the difference in size between the original picture and the newly assembled composition. This somehow preserves the parts that have been removed (the human figures) as the proportional reduction in size creates a reference to what is missing. Referring back to the origins of his material, Danke presents some of the collages at Kunsthaus Baselland on fan-folded cardboard. The bodies that have been removed in the making of the collages are for the first time made to reappear by means of a slide projection: present for just a brief glimpse, each is replaced quickly by the next image of an — in most cases female — human body that has been arranged to conform to the aesthetic requirements of the advertising industry.
In his sofa installation Dunkle Bereiche vergrössern (“Enlarge dark areas”, 2006), Danke reflects on the creation of an image of himself, using a so-called aura photograph self-portrait, an image of his own aura, as a template for a sofa cover which otherwise fulfils the same function as it usually does in private settings — protecting a sofa from dirt and wear. With the help of the Photoshop filter “Enlarge dark areas”, Danke removed the image of his body from the photograph, so that only his colourful aura remained. The artist has placed the woven sofa cover from this picture in the entrance area of Kunsthaus Baselland, creating some confusion in visitors’ perception of public versus private space.
Reflections on the nature of space and the human figure, on how they relate to each other and on the disappearance of the human figure also inspired the sculpture series titled Filer à l’anglaise (2008). The well-known Russian dolls, in which the shell of the biggest doll conceals a number of smaller replicas inside, are nothing but spatial volumes that house and/or hide figures fitting into each other. As in the collages, the sculptures include fragments or traces of the human figure.
Ansicht 1 : 1 (la différence) (2006) is an installation that combines a specially made pair of black shoes with worn-out high heels and plaster board panels. It relates to several reference systems and quotes the human figure through the potential fetishistic object of high-heeled shoes in men’s size. Invoking the relativity of all things and of life itself, Kurt Schwitters wrote: “To relativity all life is subject: so while one heel’s run-down and abject, the other heel, we may infer, is — straighterer.” Taking his cue from this image for his installation, Raphael Danke places the shoes on plaster board panels which in their turn are based on Carl André’s Equivalents I-VIII, a floor sculpture made of bricks. The floor plan of the installation is modelled on Umberto Boccioni’s Futurist painting Dynamism of a human body. Danke interweaves the substance of the fictitious space and the physical and psychic energy of the human body. His reference systems supply insights that emerge during or after production and ‘cling to the works like residues’.
Text by Sabine Schaschl