Inge Mahn

The sculptress Inge Mahn takes objects, both large and small, from our everyday lives – including towers, curtains, cupboards, chairs, tables, flags and stairs – and, without copying them exactly, creates sculptures that are mainly produced in plaster of Paris. She utilises the rawness and malleability of untreated plaster to strike a fine balance between material, structure and human interaction. She assembles her handcrafted and realistic objects to create spaces and large-scale installations that are intended to shed light on the ways people socialise and interact, encouraging a shift in how the spatial situation is perceived. This focus on social relationships can be traced back to her time as a student of Joseph Beuys and his social sculpture; at the time, she showed her graduation piece Schulklasse (1970) as part of the teacher’s exhibition of the master student class at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, before bringing it to a wider audience at documenta 5 in Kassel, curated by Harald Szeemann. The work speaks of exam pressures, the need to perform and the disciplinary measures applied in the post-war period, which were supposed to have undergone reforms. Mahn’s sculptures strive for a cognitive and physical effect, seeking to act upon the people present in the room with the artworks rather than making any attempt at representation. In this way, people become part of her artistic concept.

The white Stuhlkreis (2002), made up of seventeen chairs, is one of her kinetic works, as are Unruhe (2002) and Erbsenzählen (2009). The closed circle of chairs forms a unit that remains objectively closed to the outside. At its centre is a white pedestal with a motor-powered aluminium rod with small crystals attached to the ends, which continuously touch the seventeen crystal glasses on the chairs as they move. The result is a fine glass sound, created by chance touches, which fills the entire room like a heavenly overtone. The invisible, intractable, unspoken and indescribable quality that lies between these two elements – the unity of the circle and the exterior space surrounding it – is connected by the colour white as the sum of all colours and by the sound that fills the room.

Anke Hervol


In the exhibition:

Inge Mahn
Stuhlkreis, 2000
Plaster over wood, crystal glas, motor, aluminium tube
Courtesy of the artist + Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin/ Paris/London


Additional information about the artist