In the Realm of the Unreal
Darkness is the dominating impression in Jana Gunstheimer’s drawings and water-colours, exclusively executed in black and white. It even seems as if there will never be dawn in the ruinous spaces, the overgrown, desolated wastelands that are the artist’s main subject. They depict a land of shadows, in which the transitions between fact and fiction, dream and nightmare, are fluent. The sombre twilight that vaguely illuminates the scenes conveys a feeling of existential disorientation and loss.
This post-apocalyptic world that forms such a strong contrast to the bright consumer-reality of our shopping malls is the true field of activity for PORTA NOVA, the “Organisation of Risk-Management”. With its strange rituals, games and other pursuits of leisure, it offers a frame to anybody without job or perspective that combines a spirit of community and a strong hierarchy with structural pointlessness. In this respect, the project points at the romantic desire for a different world, freed from the demands of efficiency and utility, while the fruitless repetition of its activities ultimately demonstrates the absurdity of this quest. Jana Gunstheimer carefully explores the world of her company – which is of course completely fictitious – and avoids any direct or one-dimensional statements. This holds true for her new body of work as well. “Stammsitz” transforms the “Villa Hügel” in Essen, former seat of the Krupp-Dynasty, into the home of PORTA NOVA, where “people without a function” are taking advanced courses in the art of manners and personal perfection. The special aura of this place, saturated with representation and power, combined with the personnel’s empty rituals of courtesy create an atmosphere of futility, where nothing actually is what it seems to be. As a balancing-act between representation and invention that blends fiction and reality the work can be seen as a metaphor for artistic creation in general: A projection of worlds, whose explosiveness doesn’t lie in their facticity, but in their potentiality.
Though tinged with sociological fact, this artistic microcosm is no socio-political criticism, but an allegorical representation of a sensual hallucination, based on the creation of pictures that contain their own refutation. In this way we can call Jana Gunstheimer an “Artist of Possibilities” enriching our everyday life with adventures that through the very fact of their destabilization create a lasting impression.
Stephan Berg, 2005