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125. PART 1 / HELEN MIRRA

WALKING, WEAVING

The Kunst Merano Arte hosts, until September 24, 2017, two interesting exhibitions on the theme of nature, as a place which is dense of energies and symbiotic connections with man.
Platform Green dedicates two different news to the respective exhibition paths: the first, on the artistic practice ot the American artist Helen Mirra, the second about Gianni Pettena's work, italian artist born in Bolzano in 1940.

the text of the news is by Christiane Rekade, curator of the two exhibitions

Helen Mirra artist exhibition kunst meran arte merano platform greennature walking

Helen Mirra, 12 July Lana – Vigiljoch, 2017. Courtesy the artist


Helen Mirra’s art practice is based in walking, primarily in the mountains. Her works are generated from making these walks – her perceptive experiences in the landscape, and the activity of her body. They develop in parallel. Not only is moving, walking, fundamental to Mirra’s work,
but the places where the walks happen are essential elements. Kunst Meran invited Helen Mirra to spend a month in Merano
– to walk and weave here. This exhibition brings together works that narrate this period and earlier excursions nearby in Cortina and Emilia Romagna, and also from northern California,
where she now resides.
Even a part of Mirra’s journey to Merano nds its way into the exhibition: on June 16, she opened a solo show at the gallery Andriesse Eyck in Amsterdam. The next day she travelled – sometimes by foot, sometimes by train – towards Merano.
Whether she walked or took the train was decided every day anew with the toss of a coin. With this activity Helen Mirra refers explicitly to the project Variable Works (1970) by the American conceptual artist Douglas Huebler (1924-1997). Between December 25 and 31, beginning near Strasbourg (F) Huebler hitchhiked, either in the direction of Turin or in the direction of Düsseldorf, depending on the toss of a coin. The documentation was then shown at Galerie Sperone (Turin) and Galerie Konrad Fischer (Dusseldorf).

To adopt a system or a structure, within which she carries out her activity, is typical of Mirra’s work. They are however structures that not only embrace chance but leave space for accident and detours. In her typical understatedness, the transitional journey has been documented only in a description of intentions, as a kind of manual, with a single visual reference from the middle of the route: a postcard from the Abbey of Hildegard von Bingen in the Rhine Valley –whose mirroring pair of distinctly geometric towers point up, together, to the sky. Yet the complete, unspeci ed route takes shape freely in our imagination – images of paths develop, unexpected pauses and aberrations. Helen Mirra creates a ne connection between the two exhibition sites, which eludes the customary measurements of times and distances and shows a new way of mapping the way. 

The work Walking Commas, 3 October, Cortina (2013) has a related premise, lightly documenting a day in the Dolomites. The work is comprised of seven black and white photographs, combined with brief, notational texts. Each photograph shows a hand holding a stone, and the ground below – each time Mirra’s hand with a different stone, on a changing path. The notes obviously refer to something experienced near the place and time that the picture was taken (“pair of young goats, one rubbing its horn on my knees”). The Walking Commas describe the short interruptions to walking, moments of pause and of precise perception. They divide up the distance travelled into small units, measuring the route – less in time or the linear dimension, more in situations, moments and corporeal experiences. 

Helen Mirra artist exhibition kunst meran arte merano platform greennature walking 3

Helen Mirra, Walking Commas, 3 October, Cortina, 2013. Installation view, Photo Ivo Corrá. Courtesy the artist.


Field Index, Emilia Romagna (2011) is only text – also written during pauses interrupting the walking. In this case it is record of six days in early May. Again, direct yet evocative, describing speci c moments experienced during the walks. Typed onto index cards installed on the wall in a row, the words in turn form a slight image, an abstraction of a way.

Close to San Francisco, in Northern California, where Helen Mirra moved last summer, a group of small tapestry weavings came into being. The titles describe a loop-walk repeated daily (1-21 May, Overlook - Green Gulch - Redwood Creek - Heather Cutoff – Overlook), the key impressions of a month (Muir Beach, December, vows & rains), or events and thoughts (Late May early June, Trisha Brown Stanley Brouwn), which Mirra commemorates (in this case two fellow pedestrian artists who died around this time). The color schemes, the rhythm of the patterns and the structure render the respective moods in both a sensitive and intensive way. They are equally in uenced by the weather and determined by chance. They are simultaneously like and unlike landscape paintings and severely minimalist folkloric sculptures, that are precise despite being reduced – intimate portraits of an environment and a moment.

To the group of Northern California weavings are added two new weavings made in Merano. Northern California and South Tyrol are connected in a dialogue as two places in which the artist has walked. With the concentrated experiences of the works, Helen Mirra shares the geographical locations and landscapes in which she moves.

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Helen Mirra artist exhibition kunst meran arte merano platform green nature walking1

Helen Mirra, Standard Incomparable. Installation view, Photo Ivo Corrá. Courtesy the artist.


Alongside Mirra’s own works, Kunst Meran is showing Standard Incomparable, a project that the artist recently organized and is now extended for Kunst Meran: in 2016 she sent out an international appeal, in which she asked people of any age or experience level to make a particular weaving. A few simple parameters were speci ed for the production: the weaving should be made of undyed yarn from the weaver’s locale.
Its length should be equal to the length of the weaver’s arm. Each piece should have seven stripes that in turn re ect the width of the hand of the weaver. Works from fteen different countries were sent in: although each piece had been crafted according to this criteria, the individual weavings differ in structure, colour, skill and scale. Each piece has its general and distinct characteristics, is both “standard” and “incomparable”. The collection was initially shown in 2016 at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena (California). The appeal of 2016 was translated into many different languages though not into Italian, and the collection had no pieces from Italy. Kunst Meran sent the appeal out once more in Italian. Contributions came from across Italy – from Meran and Ultental to Sardinia and Sicily. As in the first round every weaver produced two pieces each: one went in the collection, the other was given to another participant as an exchanged gift.

Standard Incomparable incisively shows how much personality, peculiarity and variability is possible in a given, constantly recurring system and how much an object is affected by its place of origin, as shown in the array of site- speci c vegetable and animal bers, from the world over. Above all, here as in all of Helen Mirra’s practice, there is a delicate re ection on the net of time and space.

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Helen Mirra, Muir Beach, December, vows & rains, 2016 (sx); Late May early June, Trisha Brown Stanley Brouwn (dx), 2017. Courtesy the artist.