Gam Bodenhausen’s black and white drawings depict landscapes. Or, more specifically, structures in landscapes shaped by nature and humans. For her solo exhibition at NN Contemporary in Northampton, UK, she took the small local Church of the Holy Sepulcher as inspiration. The ironstone building had evident traces of erosion. A network of lines eroded due to both ages of natural forces and human scratching. The works she presents echo these. This text takes a closer look at the work of the Eindhoven-based artist, and illuminates it from the point of view of the rhizome.
The majority of the drawings are large-scaled. Pencil lines fill up meters-long sheets, giving the viewer an immediate wondrous and monumental sense. Drawing with graphite, the depiction of stone poetically comes together with the drawing material. The material expression in the drawings is remarkable, considering it ‘only’ consists of pencil on paper. Gam Bodenhausen adopts different techniques. These vary from delicate to rough strokes, and from smudging to scratching. The result is a vivid scene that is recognisable and at the same time speaks to the imagination. The choice to stay restricted to black and white is deliberate. She argues: “you see so much more when you leave elements of reality, such as colour, out.”
Creating a World
The works are not representational. That is to say, Gam Bodenhausen uses photographs, collages and three-dimensional models as a starting point for the drawings. These still contain a reference to the real world. At some point she releases this reference to reality, and the structures form their own way. The drawing now becomes part of Bodenhausen’s own world. The artist explains she does not consciously shapes this. However, she admits that when all works are put together a pattern could be discovered. Certain elements repeat themselves, and these motifs could form a world together. A world through which people can wander at NN Contemporary.
Let us look at Gam Bodenhausen’s landscapes in light of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s concept of the rhizome. Deleuze and Guattari compare the so-called arborescent – or, tree-like – structure with the rhizomatic structure. The first starts from its roots, is hierarchical, static and linear. It often consists of the cause-and-effect principle. On the other hand, the rhizome has no beginning, end or centre. The rhizome rests on the “principles of connection and heterogeneity” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 7). It has no fixed points, everything is symbiotically interconnected, and it is characterised by inner endlessness. These connections are not necessarily visible, but always present. It is not about causality, but relationality.
Gam Bodenhausen’s individual works are a rhizome alike. She draws structures that, in her words, “could go on forever” – even beyond the paper. She addresses that once she figured out the pattern of a network, she can expand it in any direction. The depicted structures have their own inner endlessness and find their own way. Rhizomes have no fixed points or basic roots, as arborescent structures do. There are no dominant, leading strokes in Gam Bodenhausen’s drawings. Instead, as Deleuze and Guattari state, “there are only lines” (p. 8).
Deleuze and Guattari explain how a rhizome can never be broken or separated, since it will always restore itself and grow on. It is always in a state of ‘becoming’. Gam Bodenhausen takes on an explorative method of working, which the drawings nicely mirror. Her approach of drawing in hourly shifts on each piece is intrinsically rhizomatic; all receive the same treatment, there is no dominant one.
Each drawing is a hypnotising landscape in itself, but combined they form a captivating totality. The rhizomatic effect of the individual works is even stronger when they are seen together as a whole. There is no beginning or end to the exhibition, nor a central piece. Instead of a consecutive story, it represents an active state of ‘becoming’. In Bodenhausen’s words, she is continually “molding the image.” The visitor can continue this process in his or her own experience.
The exhibition grasps the world in relational terms. The drawings are not static entities, but ongoing processes. In Deleuze and Guattari’s terminology, they form an ‘assemblage’: an “increase in the dimensions of a multiplicity that necessarily changes in nature as it expands its connections” (p. 8). This can be clarified in the sense that Gam Bodenhausen releases the reference to reality and integrates the scene in her own world instead. There is a rupture with representation, which inevitably causes the becoming of a new world – her own.
Unfolding the Vaporous Mind
The title of the exhibition at NN Contemporary, ‘Unfolding the Vaporous Mind’, refers to blurry thoughts that eventually always find their way. This metaphor is visualised in the depicted landscapes formed by natural and human erosion, materialised through pencil on paper. Deleuze and Guattari put Gam Bodenhausen’s work in the context of rhizomatic structures. They clarify how she directs the attention towards the multiplicity of lines, and how these lines together form an assemblage open to interpretation. Ultimately, she shows inner and endless relationality at its finest.
‘Unfolding the Vaporous Mind’ is on from 11 April to 1 June 2019 at NN Contemporary in Northampton.
Source: Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987 ) A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Massumi, B. (trans.) Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
This blog was published on the website of SEA Foundation