7 July – 9 September, 2023


An heirloom is an old habit objectified, a haunted hand-me-down, part projection, part trace. It is not the gift itself but the strings attached to it. It can be, as in Tadashi Toyama’s paintings of the imaginary mountain village of their grandparents, a place far from reality that the artist describes as ‘the world in a free state of dreaming’, or, as in Thorben Gröbel’s brutal room divider – the repurposed hood of a Porsche – a memory stripped of romance, an uncanny return of the repressed.

In CABIN’s second exhibition, nine artists and designers reflect on the often ambivalent, ghostly, and, in every case, highly charged objects, images, and behaviours we inherit by way of family, place, or culture. An heirloom is not always given, sometimes it is triggered. Sometimes you don’t know it is yours until you see it.

In Søren Arildsen’s paintings personal, intimate moments – say, a dinner party between friends, or someone alone in their bedroom – likewise take on an unreal, dreamlike ambience, as if memory and imagination had sedimented on top of his motifs. At CABIN, the ancient Greek myth of the abduction of Europa is evoked as something much closer, like a scene from childhood, remembered not as experience but anecdote.

Heirlooms inevitably inspire repetition; their ideological function is conservative. The dowry, for instance, whether in the form of money, cattle or goods, is a striking emblem of the transference of patriarchal power that takes the woman as its vessel in the service of investing the future with the ethos of the past. Rooms Studio’s silver quilt, Dowry, embroidered with symbols of female fertility, speaks to the forceful way in which heritage yields its own reproduction. But such ritual gifting can also serve as sites of experimentation, like presenting a new object in drag as heirloom. Is it possible to change the future by tinkering with the past? Rooms Studio works in this fertile ground of ritual and tradition, recasting symbols and subverting connotations.

The idea of inheritance was never not a space of imagination: the 19th century abounds with forged pasts, cultural inventions made to substantiate the identities of nation states. Nicolas Zanoni’s wall piece of woven aluminium seems to recall one such not quite recognisable past. A piece of armour? An ornament? A religious prop? This medieval meets sci-fi object

nsettles any fixed idea of history into a productive sense of doubt, reminding us that the appeal of the past is less to do with what we know about it than what we don’t. In the sharp polished metal we can see our own reflection. If history is a fiction written in artefacts, who gets to be its authors?

That said, much of history writing is not about invention, but rearrangement. Leonie Plattner shows us how the weight of the medium of painting itself can seem to smother an art work in the way that heirlooms might clutter someone’s home, cupboards filled to the brink with piles of porcelain. All an artist can do in such a situation is to move the old objects around. In I Hate Venice every picture of the Canale Grande from Canaletto to Monet is stacked upon the next to the great fatigue of its protagonist, smiling slyly like every portrait from Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Christian Schad’s Sonja. This clutter is an accumulation of memory, an inherited cache, through which the work emerges as itself only in the moment when it is, as the artist has said, ‘on the brink of dying’.

It is in a similar spirit resuscitation that Marc Henry also twists his paintings out of found materials. Through what he calls ‘reciprocal rhythm’, he goes back and forth between the original image reference and its translation into oil-on-canvas, simultaneously exploring memory and its creation. A kind of psychedelic parable, All Pleasure Leads To Inner Decay shows a herd of deer facing the cul de sac of a thick tree, as if interrupted on their familiar path through pastoral genre painting. In this way, while clearly heirs to past image worlds, the new compositions make stages for strange absurdities, like different pasts colliding in a screw-ball present.

Here we might recall that repetition not only produces continuation, but also difference. Like the sound of a clock tower, the meaning changes with each ring of the bell. Lukas Gschwandtner recreates historical pictures, say from a medieval church mosaic, as tapestries. In a previous work, The Empress Theodora and Retinue from the 6th century Basilica di San Vitale presented as a soft chair; at CABIN, the tapestry makes an old-new skin for a different wall. A picture never means the same thing in a new iteration in the same way that what is passed down to us can never be what it was. An heirloom may ask us to comply with its protocol, but it cannot demand it. Perhaps art is one name for what happens when we don’t.


Opening 7 July, 2023
Closing 9 September, 2023
Mariannenstraße 26a,
Berlin 10999
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