What makes the dawn red ?
The installation "Was macht das Morgen rot?” consists of roughly 1000 sheets of paper which hang down on silver threads suspended from the ceiling of the exhibition area. Beneath them there is an old children's bathtub placed on a stool. This installation is a continuation of her work "Fermate” and as in "gefrorene Kindheit” (frozen childhood) Katharina Gun Oehlert has again used objets trouvés as the basic material for her new installation. There is an empty, much-used children's bathtub on a stool. While in "Fermate” a bed of feathers formed the base of the installation, the base of this new installation is defined by a layer of small white pebbles.
Oehlert uses the pebbles to symbolize the paths of the brain which from birth to youth register the impressions essential for life. The children's bath is associated with caring for a baby, which is bathed for the first time directly after birth. The process of bathing is not dissimilar to the situation in the mother's womb, which is why babies on the whole enjoy being bathed. For the artist the bath has a protective, atmospheric quality. After all, every child is bathed.
Above the empty bathtub like a protective imaginary roof hang the sheets of paper or letters. They are from children to whom Katharina Gun Oehlert put three questions: "What do you desire for yourself and mankind?”, "Is there anything you are afraid of?” and "With whom or where do you feel safe?” Using this questionnaire the artist first had access to schoolchildren in classes in Germany. Then personal contacts made it possible for her to interview school classes in Siberia, Poland, Israel, Norway, England, USA, Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, South Africa, Cambodia, India and Nepal. The answers provide an insight into children's psyches.
Often children desire peace for themselves and for humanity in general. By contrast, other answers seem frighteningly lonely "I want everything for myself, nothing for others!”. More differentiated answers deal with "otherness” which the children would like to see accepted. In reply to the second question many children say they are afraid of war, their own father or mother, God, teachers, the dark night, death and illness and "that nothing of me should remain”. Children either experience a sense of security when they are with their parents or not at all.
All were questioned anonymously but gave their age and country on the questionnaire. Most of the children also gave their first name; only very few omitted it. The originals, which were copied in order to provide a uniform size for the installation, are in the artist's archives. The answers reflect children's perspectives on their situation in a near or distant corner of the world. Katharina Gun Oehlert uses her questions to explore what makes people capable of love and emotion and to become a human being who respects creation and others in their otherness. The title of the work is oriented towards the future "Morgen” - dawn, morning or tomorrow - which should be red, alive, worth living and liveable both for us and for children.
Whereas in the past the artist invited people to her studio to allow a mould to be taken of their bodies, in this installation Katharina Gun Oehlert takes a new approach. Her questionnaires go out to people in their own country and allow them to reflect in the immediate context of their own lives. In principle, this method of working resembles a therapeutic approach, which helps to clarify self-image. At the same time Katharina Gun Oehlert asks in a sociological sense what makes the future (Morgen) possible, what man is doing to his environment. Instead of interviewing older people and asking them what was advantageous or disadvantageous in the past, in questioning children Katharina Gun Oehlert has introduced the future into her work. In a special way this makes her art a medium creating awareness. Awareness is the main purpose of her work. If her works reach the awareness of the viewer, she has achieved her aim to create art with both flesh and spirit parallel to human beings themselves.
Colmar Schulte-Goltz, 2008