Rosemarie Trockel's works offer us a means to call ourselves back from a world of passive interpretations, settled questions, and false immortalities - disburdening us of our customary apparatuses of thought to ask essential questions about essential things and ourselves: "What is it? What is it, exactly?". We are brought to the place of questioning by the way her work asks that we enter into the act of reflection.
For Trockel, every mirror is magical because of the movement in vision it enables: a kind of gate, an opening offering passage to a different dimension of awareness and feeling. A mirror could be anything with this spell-like potentiality that draws the artist onward in the act of making, as well as the preserver of art into the act of appreciation and understanding.
An object that serves as a mirror is the vehicle of a reflective deferral, not of force. It invokes all the dread of recognition that follows the initial thrill of identification. This power of deferral as both protection and weapon is an old story. In Greek myths of Medusa, guardian of terrifying places, she turns anyone that look at her face to stone - unless they looked through a mirror. It was by using a mirrored shield that Perseus was able to defeat her; he then mounted her head on the shield, as it retained its quality of petrifying viewers even in death.
If you have looked into the face of an abyss of any kind - physical, emotional, spiritual - the myth of Medusa may remind you of something in particular. And if a sad song, a shared experience of trauma, or epitaph has soothed you at such times by reflecting back to you what otherwise you could never encounter, then you will be familiar with that magical state to which Trockel's work is expression and instrument.
She has made art in an incredible range of material, and what she makes expresses an inclusive, adventurous, and inexhaustible vision. Without interfering with the assured coherence of her works, she endows them with gestures toward the invention, arrangement and response to huge swaths of conceptual and aesthetic ground. The works invite us to corroborate - not in an effort to further an agenda, but to reflect and act on ourselves.
Experiencing Trockel's works gathered together, we experience an iterative and reciprocal invitation to a counter-world, a chiasm. We face new structures and positions, different kinds of timing and openness. And we are brought consistently back to the experience of existing bodies caught in the double act of being and performance. The result both draws together our abilities of observation and disperses our ready-at-hand versions of meaning.
Many of Trockel's works outdo our habitual terms of evaluation. We are given resilient but vulnerable resources for expression that in turn implore a transformation in the means through which they are reached. This silent address shakes the hold of the silence it counters, challenging misrepresentative prejudices about the nature of beings and things in the world.
And yet it is not instructive in any sense. Our responsibility when appreciating Trockel's art is double - to acknowledge the challenge of this call to find, without guidance, some way to respond it.
Heidegger describes this experience as the call of conscience, marked by the sense that it once derives from us and arrives from elsewhere. (...) The degree to which we are awake to this call depends, as when faced with a mirror any act of reflection beyond a familiar or critical glance hinges on one's openness to the phenomenon at play.
Because recognition is interpretive, a dimension of possibility opens in the degree to which Trockel's art is familiar or strange to us - and in turn what we do with that proximity or distance to who we believe ourselves to be. We lean ahead of ourselves toward a not-yet given understanding of what we are presented with. It is for this and no other reason we are invited to experience this art.
Excerpts of Invitation to a beheading: Magical Mirrors in the work of Rosemarie Trockel in Reflections: Rosemarie Trockel and works from Turin Collections (pp.50-56), ed. by Corraini Edizioni for Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli.