Last week I had the pleasure to visit artist Madeline Stillwell in her studio in Hohenschönhausen. An artist known for her powerful, unique performances, Ms. Stillwell had a show at SomoS gallery in 2014, where I first noticed her work. She exhibited the remnants of material used in a performance. A mixture of construction detritus, ceramic and unidentifiable media, the works were more than sculptures, more like shadows or imprints of an action. On a mission to talk to and understand more of her work (and performance art), I cycled out into former East Germany.
Located across the street from the former prison (a prison that was used by the Nazis, Soviets and the Stasi) the building her studio is in is surrounded by the ten story plus “Plattenbaus” (concrete slab construction buildings) that dominate this part of Lichtenberg. It’s a cold, gray and windy day, and the approach, with a prison tower on the right side of the street and the building on the left, is memorably eerie.
A particularly captivating work by Ms. Stillwell’s is entitled Prelude To Never Loving Again, a video collage that references Wagner, river nymphs, sexual frustration, gold cravings and construction material. What stays with you most is the imaginary world she creates during her performances: you’re watching her expose her inner life (through improvised/planned dialogue, songs, and stream of consciousness). The performances are complex and deeply personal, with an element of torture of the body, that are unique one-of happenings, not rehearsed nor repeated. Consider yourself lucky if you can see one in real life.
Stop by Madeline Stillwell’s artist talk this Saturday, May 14th at Rockwell &, in Berlin.
Here’s a clip where Ms. Stillwell describes her work, in her own words.