Berlin-based artist Sarah Schönfeld stretches the limits of mind and material, making sculpture that melds mediums and explores the inbetween of human and nature, spirituality and space, brain and body. From printed cowhides to up close images of hallucinogenic drugs, Schönfeld discusses the thought and process behind her multifaceted work on display at Marso Gallery at Untitled Art Fair in Miami.
Who: Sarah Schönfeld
Medium: Sculpture, photographs
What are you showing in Miami this year?
I am showing some pieces of my show "Seeing Double" in Mexico City earlier this year: a printed cowhide and some hospital gloves with crystals inserted. The show examined the distinctions between Western and indigenous perspectives on healing. As well there are a few pieces of my work "All you can feel" on display, where I dropped liquid substances, like pharmaceuticals, drugs or neurotransmitters on photo negatives and enlarged the result.
Interaction of speed and a photonegative from All You Can Feel
Interaction of speed and magic and a photonegative from All You Can Feel
What is the story behind your cowhide printed with a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Animals seem to represent nature itself, the materiality of an animal skin embodies the wild, the ancestral and the past. The idea of nature is closely connected to the planet earth. On the other hand the outer space is connected to science and technology. Nature in our understanding is the past where we come from, technology and space could be the future, where we are going to.
The printed cow fur in my work is a loose reference to the shamanistic practices of traveling to other worlds, with the fur as an important part of the equipment. The shaman's coat is a fundamental tool for the journey, and attached to the coat -mostly painted or sewed- are the shaman's helping spirits. They embody the presence of the spirits, much like an appearance on a screen, and if one of the coats is intended to be shown in a museum for example, the seams (the connections) have to be unraveled in order to allow the spirits to escape. These spirits are necessary for orientation and navigation, directions, power etc. in the other worlds. The theoretician and ethnologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro calls shamanism cosmic diplomacy.
I suggest in my work, that this other world, must be in our times and understanding the space, the universe, the new frontier after colonialism on earth. There we can imagine other dimensions, other entities, different realities. Science allows us to go back to Mythology or establish a new one. In this narrative, where the other world is the outer space, our helping spirit in order to get there, to be able to move, to breathe, to navigate etc., is technology. Much like in science fiction the boundaries between technology and magic becomes porous and gives some exciting imaginary space to enter. As the science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke in his 3rd law says: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
The space technology printed on the modern shaman coat, embodies the techno-helping-spirits.
What are some of your main influences in your work?
The relationship between poetry and technology.
Anything exceptional you've seen in Miami while you've been here?
Interesting version of sense making.
I am doing a collaboration with my Dad in spring in an Institution called NGBK in Berlin, it's a show called "Daddy Cool".
How would you describe the Art Basel Miami experience in 3 words?