Annegret Soltau

Selbst 17, 1975-1976
Fotografia cucita / Photo overstitching
60 x 50 cm
Courtesy l’artista / the artist

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The distinctive characteristic of Annegret Soltau’s work is the use of her own person in photo-collages and performances for a reflection on identity and on the idea of the self. A recurring element in her works is black thread, used both in performances and in her photo overstitchings, recomposed mosaics of the body and of exterior physicalness that become a metaphor for the interiorness and existential condition of the human being.

Performative actions and happenings, like Körper – Zeichnung 9.1.1976 (Body – Drawing, Jan. 9th, 1976) and Permanente Demonstration am 19.1.1976 (Permanent Demonstration on Jan. 19th, 1976), find the artist tying herself or other people with thin black threads, creating new connections, but also impeding all freedom of movement, literally “drawing” on their skin. In the series Selbst (Self, 1975-76), Soltau wraps her own face in black thread, which cuts into the flesh, deforming it, and obscuring her features; the result is then documented photographically. Secondly, she works on the photographic image with a real black silk thread, sewing various connections between the threads represented in the pictures. In a dimension that moves on the thin line between self-determination and apparent selfmutilation, the artist puts into effect a reflection on the idea of self-representation, with a strongly analytical approach in the firm aesthetic control of the image.

A reflection on a sense of inhibition and constriction of movement is also present in the photographic series da-gegen-gehen (going against, 1977-84), in which the artist portrays herself in the act of forcefully pressing her body against a wall. The twelve photographs of the series start with a monochromatic white, the detail of the wall, to then show us the artist’s body from close-up to full length, finally ending with a monochromatic black. Soltau uses a needle to scratch the photographic film, removing the chemical emulsion of the negative and creating a material void, an allegory of the human condition in which the act of “going against” is destined to failure.

In the more recent series N.Y. FACES – chirurgische Operationen (N.Y. FACES – surgical operations, 2001-02) the artist combines a collective experience, the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001, and a personal one, a complex dental operation that Soltau documented with photographs. The artist merged these two states of anguish and produced a series of collages made up of fragments of images from her operation sewn together, only showing the injured parts in a simultaneous presentation of various points of view.


Annegret Soltau (1946, Lüneburg, Germany; lives and works in Darmstadt) is an artist whose work has been fundamental for the development of experimental research in the sphere of photographic and performative art, being often indicated as an important influence in a reflection on feminist art of the 1970s and 1980s. After the loss of her father, who died in World War II, Soltau’s childhood was characterized by a conflictual relationship with her mother, who attempted in vain to discourage her passion for art. Personally sustaining the fees for her studies, Soltau received her artistic education at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg, where she came into contact with artists of the calibre of David Hockney and Hans Thiemann, both fundamental for the development of her various artistic experiments. Soltau has featured in many monographic exhibitions, including Etchings, dated 1974, at the Galerie Garuda in Darmstadt, in which she presented her first graphic work, and, again in Darmstadt, Zeichnungen–Radierungen–Plastiken, held at the Galerie Karin Friebe, in 1976. In 1978 she put on an exhibition at the Nada Gallery in Sapporo, Japan, while her personal exhibition at the Werkstatt–Galerie in Frankfurt took place in 1980. In 1983 a solo show was held at the Galerie Alain Oudin, in Paris. In 1985 she exhibited her work at the Galerie Quaresso in Munich, while in 1989 Analogien 1973–1989 was presented at the Galerie Karin Friebe in Mannheim. In 1994 the exhibition Foto-installation 1986–1994 was staged at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg; in 1999 the exhibition Generativ was organized at the Goldstrom Gallery in New York. The most recent monographic exhibitions include Zeit-Erfahrung (Giedre Bartelt Galerie, Berlin, 2003), Ich Selbst–Werkschau (Institut Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt, 2006), Mal bin ich Frau, mal bin ich Mann (Galerie Caesar & Koba, Hamburg, 2008), Arbeiten 1975–2009 (Galerie Friebe, St. Gallen, 2008). The most recent exhibitions are Self Performing, staged in 2010 at the Galerie Merkle in Stuttgart, and Köpfe – Zeichnungen, Radierungen, Fotomontagen set up at the Galerie Rothe in Frankfurt, in 2011. Collective exhibitions include: (1975) Frankfurter Künstler, Musée des Beaux Arts, Lion; (1978) Das Bild des Künstlers. Selbstdarstellungen, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; (1980) Frauenbilder, Galerie Barbara Gross, Bergen/Munich; (1982) Videokunst in Deutschland 1963–82, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; (1984) Kunst und Medien, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Berlin; Nackt in der Kunst, Sprengel-Museum, Hannover; (1985) Les immaterieux, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; (1997) Women. Body and Soul, Musée de la Civilisation, Québec; (1998) Shoot Me, Monique Goldstrom Gallery, New York; (2002) Muster frau, Kunsthalle, Darmstadt; (2008) Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution, MOCA, Los Angeles; (2010) Donna: Avanguardia femminista negli anni Settanta, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome; (2011) Das Textile als Medium der zeitgenössischen Kunst, Kunstarchiv, Darmstadt.


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