Return to home page
Venue information
Contact the exhibition
Sally Clark
Binh Danh
Ian Everard
James Fee
Shelby Graham
Hanna Hannah
Robin Kandel
Aaron Kerner
Elyse Koren-Camarra
Keith Muscutt
Katsushige Nakahashi
Rebecca Ramos
Hideki Shiozawa
Robynn Smith
Kenji Yanobe
 
Sally Clark

Hanna Hannah teaches in the Art Department at the University of California Santa Cruz. Hannah was born and raised in Central America, her parents left Germany with the rise of National Socialism.

Like Ian Everard who collects photographs, Hannah collects images as well. In fact, the process of collecting and contemplating images, by both artists, are quite similar. Typically drawing from images published in the New York Times, Hannah will repetitively paint a chosen image; no image, however, is exactly alike. The textures, the evidence of the paint’s application common to oils, the alteration in palette, size, and subtle shifts in perspective, individuate each image. This stands in stark contrast to the image’s source, mass media reproduction which replicates countless virtually identical images. The process of repeated hand-reproduction and situating the image on rice paper scrolls creates a contradiction. In this case the image is that of three Macedonian women mourning the death of a baby. By removing the image from the context of mass media reproduction, and placing it in this repeated motif, Hannah’s work demands that the spectator look at these images from a new perspective. Although seemingly decorative, the effect is almost the exact opposite. The media saturates us with images of horrific conflict – to the point of being anesthetized – Hannah’s intense focus (situated in a whole new context) demands that we look more closely and afresh. 

Hannah draws from media sources (e.g., Associated Press photographs). Because we are inundated with media images, we seem completely immune to the horror. Paradoxically Hannan attempts to return some of the horror to the images by placing them in what we might consider a decorative background.

In one of the images seen here (bottom image), this image is taken from Saddam Hussein's gas attack against the Kurdish people in Halabja, Northern Iraq. A mother carrying her baby has been overcome by the gas. The horror is doubled here, Hussein's attack was horrific, there is no question about that, but in the contemporary context, a different sort of horror is found in the image. The United States justifies its violence in Iraq with the images such as this - horror justifying horror.

See Associated Press photograph

***

Hannah’s work operates through decontextualization. In previous exhibitions of Collapsing Histories Hannah exhited a series of ten hanging scrolls. (Click here to see the scrolls). The scrolls - collectively titled “Der Abschied,” meaning the goodbye, the farewell, taking leave - situate an occidental event in an oriental form. There is also a mixing of traditional mediums from those respective spheres, oil paint on rice paper – which has been washed with casein, or graphite, and coated with wax. The ten scrolls, for the artist, are reminiscent of the minimum number of worshipers/witnesses at a Jewish memorial service, but the figures most likely are not Jewish. These disjunctions, the juxtapositions of content and form, alienate (in a Brechtian sense), and in the various degrees of separation, collapse in a common expression of the catastrophic experience.

Through the layering of decontextualization Hannah questions the dynamics of remembering and forgetting in relation to the society of the spectacle. Memory is a personal experience, and how might we remember something that is detached, and mediated? The flood of images that we receive has no direct relationship to us. And does this notion of detachment and mediation consign an image to what has and will be forgotten, that always already domain of forgetfulness: oblivion? As the questions regarding personal memory exponentially increase, we have to wonder if our collective memory – what we commonly know as history – has also been compromised?

The artist was drawn to the scroll-form upon seeing Hon’ Ami Koetsu’s 16th – 17th century works. Hannah was especially intrigued by the artist’s centrally placed often-melancholic poems, but nevertheless surrounded by decorative motifs. Hannah had previously explored the scroll format, however, the emotive affect of Hon’ Ami Koetsu’s work inspired Hannah to apply this technique of coupling decorative motifs with the catastrophic within the scroll-form. As I have already suggested, Hannah has in part employed this 16th – 17th century technique of incongruity to “Der Abschied.”


 
 
click to view full-size image