Serpentine South Gallery 13 Feb — 7 Apr 2013 Free

Central to Rosemarie Trockel’s A Cosmos were a number of core works by the artist, including new works never seen before in the UK, and arranged around these in a constellation according to type and theme were artefacts, both natural and human.

Trockel has long been admired for her highly independent and influential practice. A Cosmos reflected her interest in creating a space for ideas to exist between different disciplines, past and present. Many of the objects and artworks, selected by Trockel in dialogue with curator Lynne Cooke, produced a context for the artist’s work within other fields of inquiry, such as the natural sciences and natural history.

Watercolours painted by the pioneering botanist Maria Sibylla Merian sat alongside intricate models of marine invertebrates crafted by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, initially used as research tools by naturalists who had no access to living specimens. Works by self-taught artists, such as Judith Scott and James Castle, were presented in parallel with films, such as Władysław Starewicz’s early, pioneering stop-motion animation of 1912, The Cameraman’s Revenge.

Trockel’s appreciation of such variously under-recognised objects and artists stems from her empathy both with the questions their work addresses, and with the directness and inventiveness with which they are realised. These artists provide models of dedication to their chosen field that, for Trockel, are exemplary and inspiring.

A Cosmos traced a historical lineage from early curiosity cabinets (the wunderkammer), to natural history and modern art museums, through to the white cube of contemporary galleries. Within this framework, there was a focus on the relationship between skill and craft, and the practices of self-taught and under-recognised artists, reflecting Trockel’s ongoing tendency to overturn traditional disciplinary categories. The objects that made up this cosmos offered a wealth of resonant relationships between different fields of knowledge and experience, proposing that we remain open to new discoveries.

An introduction to the exhibition was produced by Berlin-based writer and musician Dominic Eichler. Recorded in the style of a radio play for four female voices, this audio work reflects upon the exhibition in the context of Trockel’s wider oeuvre, while also discussing several of the objects and artworks on display. This audio introduction was designed to be enjoyed on visitors’ own mobile devices whilst in the Gallery or at home.

This exhibition was curated by Lynne Cooke and organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in collaboration with the Serpentine Gallery.

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