“Place(s)”, the subject of this exhibition, presents me with the problem of revealing applied art to visitors in circumstances which, in my opinion, are quite impossible – devoid of their practical application and isolated in the impersonal no-man’s land of a museum exhibition. There’s nothing more desolate than an empty vase, jug or ring, placed on its own on a white stand. Just in the wrong place entirely.
So I decided to look for a piece which intrinsically incorporates its own place, creating from its own very being the space, the location around it. The porcelain work of Susanne Petzold came to mind: always in miniature format, always covered with a precious celadon glaze, more the result of a light, improvising hand than of careful planning and production. A minor contradiction in itself: the material and surface are noble, the sculptural execution rather slapdash. The pieces are tiny in dimension, monumental in appeal. Their practical application is not obvious, but the subject matter is clearly utilitarian: Petzold constructs machinery and complicated equipment. We can almost hear the pieces chugging, clicking, squeaking, grinding, groaning, rattling and working.
Viellärmumnichts is the miniature version of an enormous boiler into which something flows, only to flow out again after presumably having been transformed into something else. Wobbly pipelines circumvent a bulky, barrel-like container, leading into the boiler. Precisely what goes in and what comes out is something of a mystery. And it all seems to be fantastic rather than dangerous. The location is clearly circumscribed and, be in no doubt, everything has its own specific place to make this machine come to life, to feed it and keep it working. A self-contained system in a tiny space. Fascinated, we follow the pipelines, waiting for something to come dripping, steaming or hissing out of the system. Outside this small, defined space, the rest of the world is forgotten, sinking into silence. The observer becomes an alchemist; the ancient dream that ultimately gold or the essence of eternal life can be manufactured comes to life here again.
Susanne Petzold’s work is also a small reminder of a long-forgotten industrial culture. In the era of fully automated production sites devoid of all human presence, places where men once sweated at their work and were exposed to mortal dangers suddenly breathe the romantic air of the human dimension, of the manageable, in dependence of the people operating them. Just as nature weaves its romantic work and changes neglected industrial terrain, so the patina of time imposes itself on our memory of this past and merges with it to compose a strangely woven fabric.
Susanne Petzold (b.1972 Germany) is a ceramist and lives in Halle.
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