In this year's exhibition series Thought in Practice, GiG Munich shows ROBOTA CeLLs by Susanne Kühn in the programme of Various Others 2023.
It begins with the amoeba, like the one we drew at school: flower-like, dotted with vacuoles, a circular nucleus in the middle. An amoeba, despite not having a brain, a nervous system or indeed any kind of sensory cells, can react. It moves around the murky pond water that makes up its environment, finding food, avoiding predators, anticipating, reacting. It has no need for organs. Organs developed later, in the course of evolution, as a means fulfilling functions to a higher degree. An organism with a brain, can think better than an organism without one.
French philosopher Raymond Ruyer considers all organs to be technical artefacts, technologies developed by the organism as it evolved. By having a brain and a nervous system, we have access to technologies an amoeba doesn’t have and this makes us feel sophisticated. We can make complex decisions, solve problems and form concepts, leaving murky pond water behind.
Like in Susanne Kühn’s paintings, there is no line between the artificial and the nature. If the organ is a technical artefact, it does not differ from the other artefacts, those tools and machines that we surround ourselves with. The organ belongs to an internal proto-technicity, while the machine is the externalised projection of the organ. Each also has its own evolutionary trajectory, one internal, the other external, an exo-darwinism.
In the painting “Robota I” we see the artist in three different guises: as St. Barbara reading, as a young woman in East Germany working, and as a mother tending the fireplace. Three technologies are depicted here, all extensions of the body. There is the book, the pool of knowledge, acting as an extension of the brain. Tools and machines such as found in a factory are extensions of the human hand. Fire, to keep us warm and to heat up food, is the most primitive of technologies, an extension of our thermoregulation and digestive system. Working with these technologies makes up the life of the artist.
Similarly, the biological has a technological aspect in “Her name is Amygdala Vertigo.” The reference is to the amygdalae, two bean-shaped clusters of deep within the cerebrum of the brain, which we learn are responsible for memory, decision making and emotional response. Diagrammatically, they look like the EarPods which seem to sprout out of the picture frame, softly-curved and convex. They are surrounded by the sharp, multicoloured concave curves of the hand ax, one of the first man-made tools. The portrait is of an extended body, spread over various technologies depicted on the canvas.Foremost, Susanne Kühn is interested in those moments in which the forward pushing trajectory of evolution and technological development foams up in bubbles of effervescence. Her painting is not of lines which separate, marked by horizontal and vertical coordinates - the sharp perspective she often uses, stutters quickly in her work. Hers are lines without connecting points.
“Frauenschuh - Lady’s slipper” is a self-portrait, the mess of detritus standing in for the technologically extended body: we see a smartphone, medication for the menopause, a sneaker, toothpaste. The flower itself is a cultivated hybrid, its natural evolution determined by man. In this work, the extended body of man, is also a body outside of the dictates of evolution, a “deterritorialised” body no longer adapted to any particular environment. A “deterritorialised” hand is nothing more than a useless pink cartoon blob. It ends with the amoeba in the pond, the water now an acid yellow, surrounded by toxic corals and water plants.
Curated by Magdalena Wisniowska