Fat to Ashes, Preis der Nationalgalerie
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for Contemporary Art, Berlin
13 April – 19 September 2021

Pauline Curnier Jardin, winner of the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2019, presented the extensive video installation Fat to Ashes, which she produced for her first institutional solo exhibition in Germany, in the historic halls of Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin. A large-scale amphitheatre encompasses the film installation as the center of the spectacle, and thus transformations, processions, and practiced performance in ritualized excess are the content and formal attributes of Pauline Curnier Jardin’s Fat to Ashes.

Meat, skin, wax, confetti, blood, intestines, odors, senses, smoke, ritual, alcohol, excess, touch, singing, fat and ashes: these are some of the soft, rough, gentle, and coarse materials artist Pauline Curnier Jardin employs in her works. Her cinematic and installational language often adopts myth-like narratives, which shed and disrupt constructs.

Fat to Ashes combines three cinematic snapshots: a religious festival in honour of Saint Agatha; the slaughter of a pig; and the Cologne Carnival. Thereby the exhibition’s title denotes the week of excess that runs from so-called “Fat Thursday” or “Giovedi grasso” and known as “Weiberfastnacht” or “Fettdonnerstag” in German, until Ash Wednesday, which marks the day reality sets back in and Lent begins according to the Christian calendar. Jardin shows these three spheres of activity as places of transgression and transformation which bring societal functions originating in cult rituals into the present: those of congregating together, performative display, and the exuberant abandonment of prevailing mores.

An Italian dessert, for example, in the shape of a breast, is eaten on the feast day commemorating the martyrdom of Saint Agatha. The slaughter of the pig takes place far from industrial factory-farming on a traditional rural farm. The images of the Cologne Carnival, on the other hand, are full of life. Looking back at the carnival events, the festivities read like one last great episode of collective debauchery just before COVID-19 would lead to a country-wide lockdown, as people viewing the film today now know.

Pauline Curnier Jardin, Fat to Ashes, 2021; Exhibition view, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, 2021 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie; HD video (transferred from 16mm – and super 8-film), color, 5.1 surround sound, 20:55 min, Arena-Installation, various media including steel scaffolding, wood panels, foam, fabric, straw; Courtesy of the artist


Photos by Mathias Völzke © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021.