Proposal for the Stadtgarten in Cologne
Made for lying
down and watching the sky, the leaves, the branches, the tree trunk, alone or
with company, passing time and contemplating.
Ute Reeh studied
in Nam June Paik’s master class at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. Her
work is focused on interventions and sculptures in the public and private space,
“interfering” with the daily routine and opening new perspectives
to the senses. She works predominantly in project processes that can cover years
of artistic evolution, such as the projects “Reise”
(Travel), “Vasen” (Vases), “Muster”
(Patterns) and now “Baumscheiben”.
People have always been fascinated by the tension between natural and artificial objects.
Ute Reeh’s Baumscheiben, conceived as a prototype, bears witness to this phenomenon in a both beautiful and useful way. As an organic form made of smooth orange-pink synthetic material, the sculpture embraces a tree like some huge parasol-shaped plant. It seems as if the amorphous furniture dreams of the 60ies had returned to their model in nature. Freed of its home and lifestyle context, this object clings to the tree and becomes a romantic landscape feature with allusions to science fiction shapes, moulded by Reeh into an authentic up-to-date form: a digitally designed calyx resembling the elegant calla or the provocative anthurium. The showy candy-coloured landmark invites the visitor to repose or watch the crown of branches and the sky.
Baumscheiben are adaptable and robust; they can be at home anywhere in the world. According to the artist’s plausible concept they should be installed in groups of several pieces (the plural in the title was given intentionally): after all, we rarely find mushrooms that are isolated.
Reeh joins romantic and futuristic images in an object that deals with basic questions about the relationship between culture and nature, between autonomous art and the surrounding world. The users find in the Baumscheiben a contemplative free space.
Kay von Keitz
Baumscheibe is a sort of tree house and observation platform, open to all directions, used by Ute Reeh to stage a place of intense perception. Designed for public space, a green area or a park, an elevated resting zone hovers around a massive tree trunk and can be climbed onto. Following the current organic style, the design of the Baumscheiben with colours fluctuating between loud pink and flesh attracts children and adults, strollers and art lovers alike: lying on their backs they look into the crown of branches that stands out against the sky, either like a dome or like a silhouette, depending on the light. And if this unusual perspective does not evolve into a quasi-static figure of ramifying lines and ornamental leaf structures, maybe when the wind blows, it will stir the impression of a maddening sway. This optical vertigo seems to destabilize our view on what we call nature, asking us if we can trust what we see.
Around the year 1900, man’s eye assisted by optical instruments revealed the realm of microscopic things. According to zoologist Ernst Haeckel and his etchings of nature’s art forms (1899-1904), they presented themselves in beautiful picturesque ornaments. Soon the art nouveau claimed similar stylised elements as its exemplary vocabulary of shapes. Likewise, Ute Reeh’s Baumscheiben carry the romanticist idea of the total artwork, i.e. the complex symbolical relationship between art and life. Around 1800, imagination was revered as the spirit that creates the world and generates the idealistic correlations between phenomena. The romanticists regarded trees and plants as icons of the subjective perception of nature, even though they generalized them in the shape of constructed arabesques, like Philip Otto Runge, and thus presented them in a quite decorative way.
This is where the Baumscheiben, sculptures designed for the socially defined out-of-doors space, link up with an earlier art object of practical use created by the same artist. In Muster/pattern, 1996, Ute Reeh covered everyday objects, fabric, wallpaper, screens etc. with small female nudes: an abstract crowd when seen from a distance, erotic stills at close range. While the traditional role of the female nude is the cultural assimilation of matter and nature, Reeh’s miniature nudes summed up every possible function, from decorative aesthetics to a frivolity reversed by the criticism of reception — all depending on the perspective.
The decisive part,
however, was the physical dimension that came into play by using the objects as
well as the nudes. The Baumscheibe with its yielding polyurethane surface
also takes up a bodily aspect, and its use is for the body as well: for resting
With the Baumscheiben, Ute Reeh the artist and biologist has designed an object based on the relationship between body, perception and aesthetics. Yet, opting for the radically contemporary principle of participation, she does not provide the users with a materialized visual product: her object opens a perceptive experience. This can start quite incidentally, in passing and becoming curious and trying it out. The point is the overlapping of the subjective, desirous views of the surroundings, especially of the respective tree with Baumscheibe, and the pictures of nature in their historic and ideological evolution. After all, even the ideals or ‘visions’ of nature are culturally encoded and by no means natural in any primordial sense — an insight communicated physically by Ute Reeh’s Baumscheibe.