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›Garbage Matters‹ 24/11/2018 — 25/01/2019

›Garbage Matters‹ 24/11/2018 — 25/01/2019

  • Dodi Reifenberg

Frankfurt 24/11/2018 — 25/01/2019

One of the most pressing problems of our time, plastic, is the subject and material of the artist Reifenberg. Landscapes made from plastic bags. From thousands upon thousands of hand-cut pieces of the disposable product, he creates dystopian scenes that depict just this: oil fields where the raw material for the environmentally harmful product is extracted from nature, garbage dumps where children search for things that can still be used, and water surfaces where thick carpets of garbage float. With this clearly formulated artistic position, the Garbage Matters exhibition at Lachenmann Art Frankfurt takes a stand on a current problem that concerns us all.

Since 1995, Reifenberg has worked exclusively with the technique he developed of constructing mosaic-like images from individual pieces of smoothed plastic bags. This results in three-dimensional layers of material - 'landscapes of layers', in the artist's words - that move away from the flatness of a mural. A truly herculean task that requires enormous patience and precision work. Over the years, Reifenberg has amassed a huge collection of plastic bags from all over the world, which he stores in dozens of boxes in his Berlin studio, sorted by color. For his motifs, which range from small formats to oversized tableaux, he selects the areas on the bags to be cut out according to color, sometimes also according to writing and language, and uses them to create "microplastics" that are usually a few millimeters in size, but also larger areas. The result is three-dimensional image worlds that oscillate between representational and abstract and address their material itself.

Garbage matters. Garbage has meaning, although this may seem contradictory at first. Things become garbage when they lose their usefulness, i.e. their meaning. However, this meaning only shifts and does not disappear, because plastic waste in particular is returning to us like a ghost. It now appears everywhere in nature, even in the Arctic¹ and in the deep sea. Of the currently around 300 million tonnes² of plastic produced worldwide each year, which is often only used for a few minutes, a staggering 7.5 million end up in the sea³.

In his exhibition at Lachenmann Art, Reifenberg uses his art to show us how the once celebrated material plastic is drastically changing our planet. What began as a material etude for the artist two decades ago has now not only developed into a fully developed artistic signature, but also has a strong connection to a universally relevant problem.

Plastic is described as plastic. Material and theme are inherently connected in the works in the exhibition. They condition and permeate each other, which maximizes the relevance of the works and charges their expressiveness with inner tension on several levels. The artist sees the material of the plastic bag - usually polyethylene or polypropylene⁴ - ambivalently, on the one hand as ›indestructible⁵ and powerful in its nature, but on the other hand as delicate and fragile in its physicality. For Reifenberg, the generally suboptimal use of resources by humans has become an artistic theme as a result of his intensive study of the material. He even ascribes a philosophical metaphor to the plastic Resopal, which he worked with in the late 1980s before turning to the plastic bag as a working material in the 1990s. With its layered structure, it stands for ›a social world order between the wooden lower class, the stabilizing middle class and the high-gloss upper class‹. The multifaceted ambiguity in Reifenberg's oeuvre explores these diverse thematic paths with a keen eye for detail, but never loses the connection to its starting point, the material.

The Garbage Matters exhibition not only inspires thought, but also implicitly calls for action. Every tiny particle of plastic is significant. Reifenberg will probably not be short of artistic material for quite some time.

— Kristina von Buelow


¹ See Goedeke, Lena von (2018): Neukalibrierung (Arctic Circle 2018), Lena von Goedeke (ed.), Berlin, online at http://vongoedeke.com/2018/10/26/neukalibrierung/ (accessed on 7.11.18).
² In the 1950s, it was “only” 1.5 million tons per year. See the following link from the Nature Conservation Association.
³ See Detloff, Kim Cornelius (2018): Plastic waste and its consequences, Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union Germany (ed.), Berlin, online at https://www.nabu.de/natur-und-landschaft/meere/muellkippe-meer/muellkippemeer.html (accessed on 7.11.18).
⁴ See Wikipedia (2018) (ed.): Plastiktüte, online at https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastiktüte (accessed on 7.11.18).
⁵ In the early 1990s, an international beverage company used this neologism to advertise the then innovative reusable PET bottle. The word has now even made it into the Duden dictionary.

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