by Sukanya GargDec 05, 2019
Celebrated Swiss artist Miriam Cahn’s (b. 1949 Basel) exhibition I AS HUMAN revolves around the artist’s deliberate and implicit commitment toward humanistic principles and the question of what comprises humanity at present.
Curated by Kathleen Bühler, the exhibition was on display at the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland till June 16, 2019, and is now on display at the Haus der Kunst in Munich till October 27, 2019. It will subsequently travel to the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw between November 29, 2019 to February 23, 2020. In addition, Cahn will have another solo show at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, in 2019 itself.
With more than 150 works from all creative periods, the exhibition which is currently on display at the Haus der Kunst, honours Cahn’s artistic career, which has spanned more than five decades. Her work provokes a discussion about new images of the body and humanity today, through painting.
Having studied at the School of Applied Arts in Basel, not only did she become well-versed with the more traditional techniques like painting and graphic arts, but also indulged in the knowledge of performance and video art. The exhibition brings together key works from all phases of Cahn’s artistic career - from the early Super 8 films, sculptures, larger-than-life chalk drawings and water colours, to the oil paintings which constitute her main body of work. Many works have been created especially for the exhibition or are key works in the possession of the artist.
In her pictorial worlds, Cahn counters the traditional representation of the female and gender-specific roles. Through her works, she has repeatedly questioned the conditionings and standardisation of society, and since early 1970s, she was publicly vocal against patriarchal systems, hierarchies and representations, advocating for a larger role for women in the public realm.
Cahn’s approach has constantly focused on the human body, the works in the exhibition then exploring both the internal and external processes and what it actually means to be human. She says, “We do not really know what skin is or where the boundary between the outside and the inside lies.” Her depiction of the human body is often devoid of an emphasis on gender per se and the works from the later part of her art practice and life resonate with a destruction of identity and a process of depersonalisation.
According to Kathleen Bühler, the curator of Kunstmuseum Bern, “The exhibition title, I AS HUMAN, is programmatic. Miriam Cahn strives not only to see things from the perspective of an artist, but to view the world as a human being who in our age and time should act humanely among fellow humans. She has always adhered to this ethical principle in her art.”
Winner of the 1998 Käthe Kollwitz Prize, awarded by the Academy of Arts, Berlin, Cahn is a major figure in the art of her generation. Her most recent powerful demonstration of this was her showing of works at documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel (2017). This is reason enough to introduce, to a broad audience, her diverse oeuvre and her resolute, radical artistic approach.