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Michal Heiman

18.10. - 09.12.19

Curated by
Ben Livne Weitzman, Vicky Kouvaraki, Sarah Heuberger and Alice Chardenet

What does it mean to return? Can one really return, or is the river always different? What todo, once there? How do we get past the guard? Return is a transition, encounter andconfrontation of memories, shadows, abandonedworlds or ones never seen before. On the way toreturn, geographical borders need to be crossedand different times collide.The wish to return is at the core of Michal Heiman’s recent project and the starting point ofthis exhibition. A portrait, a look, a pair of hands,a woman sitting in a checkered dress, directing hereyes to the camera, across countries and centuries, set Heiman on a quest to return to a patient in a London Asylum c. 1855, Plate 34. The woman in the book,”The face of Madness. Hugh W. Diamond and the Origin of Psychiatric Photography“, is Heiman’s younger self. Countless hidden and invisible stories and gestures are covered by the visual appearance of photographs which, like the Plate 34, have fallen into oblivion. It is these hidden narratives Heiman seeks to draw attention to. But to return is a complex notion, both journey and target are unknown. In The Dress (1855–2019), a photography and video series started in 2012 and continued until today, she gathers a community of people who join her to go back to the asylum in the era of the 19th century. With each of them, she deployed a different strategy in order to return and to get past the guard. For her the guard is not only the keeper of the asylum but also the one who maylead her hand. In fffriedrich, the portraits are gathered and displayed as in a family album. This is the foundation of the bridge to the 19th century, a bridge between times, places and people. The photographs, accompanied by two video works and archival material, are all looking for potential strategies of a return. At a table placed in the middle of the space, visitors are invited to take part in an experiment, an enactment that is meant to map – through drawings of family trees and conversations – individual histories as well as strengthen our community with both the momentary surrounding and the past. It is a process of collaboration, in which intimacy and self investigation could serve as a potential strategy of return, to revisit our past and what has been suppressed. Reactivating and witnessing each other’s connections proposes an opening, a glance of the forgotten. At the same time it brings forth a potential to intensify relations in the present. 

Photography © Eike Walkenhorst