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2021

28.04.-20.06.2021

I Think I Look More like the Chrysler Building
Vleeshal
Middelburg

27.03.2021-28.03.2021

Friend of a Friend
Warsaw
Poland

2020

09.12.2020-30.01.2021

Babysteps into Masochism
Emanuel Layr
Vienna, Austria

10.09.2020-07.11.2020

Fate of a cell / Η Τύχη ενός Κυττάρου
Martinos
Athens

19.09.2020-31.10.2020

Ice to Gas
Pedro Cera
Lisbon

11.09.2020-17.19.2020

Various Others
Sperling, München
Munich, Germany

09.11.2019-08.03.2020

R.M.M. Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center
New York, NY

09.11.2019-08.03.2020

L’homme qui marche
Kunsthalle Bielefeld
Bielefeld, Germany

2019

27.09.2019―26.01.2020

My Fetish Years
Museum für Gegenwartskunst
Frankfurt, Germany

11.01.―16.02.2019

Germanic Artifacts
Bortolami
New York, USA

2018

13.10.―22.12.2018

Positioner
Matthew Marks
Los Angeles, USA

15.05.―21.07.2018

THEMOVE
Emanuel Layr Gallery
Vienna, Austria

03.03.―13.05.2018

An Idea of Late German Sculpture; To The People Of New York, 2018
Kunsthalle Zürich
Zürich, Switzerland

09.03.―22.07.2018

Between The Waters
Whitney Museum of Art
New York, USA

17.03.―28.04.2018

Embrassade
Fons Welters
Amsterdam, Netherlands

2017

19.01.―08.04.2017

Year Of The Monkey
Galerie Emanuel Layr
Rome, Italy

28.04.―30.07.2017

SCHREI MICH NICHT AN, KRIEGER!
Schirn Kunsthalle
Frankfurt, Germany

09.04.―30.05.2017

Vertical Gardens
Antenna Space
Shanghai, China

03.06.―03.09.2017

Die Kommenden
Sprengel Museum
Hannover, Germany

14.09.―25.10.2017

in awe
Kunsthalle Exnergasse
Vienna, Austria

06.2017

Art Basel Parcours
Art Basel
Basel, Switzerland

2016

07.06.―11.09.2016

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions
Kaufmann Repetto
Milan, Italy

28.01.―27.02.2016

RUN, RUN, RUNWAY
Golsa
Oslo, Norway

27.02.―26.03.2016

Heartbreak Highway
Real Fine Arts
New York, USA

17.06.―27.08.2016

My History of Flow
S.A.L.T.S.
Basel, Switzerland

04.07.―16.09.2016

fat center trash land 1―7, 2016
Small scale Sculpture triennial Fellbach
Fellbach, Germany

09.09.―05.11.2016

Fieber
Emanuel Layr Gallery
Wien, Austria

04.07.―16.09.2016

In Bed with M/L Artspace
9th Berlin Biennale
Berlin, Germany

03.12.2016―12.02.2017

Available Light
Kunstverein Braunschweig
Braunschweig, Germany

2015

2015

Surrounding Audience
The New Museum Triennial
New York, USA

09.2015

Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition
Queens
New York, USA

26.02.―04.04.2015

Looking at you (revived) again
Off Vendom
New York, USA

28-05.―16.05.2015

One step away from further Hell
Vilma Gold
London, UK

23.11.2015―08.01.2016

National Gallery 2―Empire Map
Chewday’s
London, UK

22.02.―05.04.2015

The problem today is not the other but the self
MINI/Goethe-Institut Ludlow 38
New York, USA

2014

09.05.2014-19.07.2014

Warm Math
Balice Hertling, New York
New York

05.2014

Frieze New York
Frieze Art Fair at Randall’s Island
New York, USA

02.05.―07.06.2014

Bloomington: Mall Of America
Bortolami Gallery
New York, USA

27.04.―01.06.2014

YES, I’M PREGNANT
Skulpturen museum Glaskasten
Marl, Germany

22.03.―17.05.2014

Geburt und Familie
White Flag Projects
Saint Louis, USA

08.―09.2014

Piracanga Freedom?
Two Hotel, Piracanga Beach
Bahia, Brazil

06.06.―14.08.2014

Chat Jet (Part 2), Sculpture in Reflection
Künstlerhaus KM
Austria

06.06.―03.08.2015

Revelry
Kunsthalle Bern
Bern, Switzerland

13.09.―18.10.2014

DIE
Parisa Kind
Frankfurt, Germany

2013

14.12.2013-08.02.2014

Soft Wear
Sandy Brown
Berlin

24.02.―21.04.2013

From One Artist To Another
Kunstverein Wiesbaden
Germany

13.09.―18.10.2013

On Thomas Bayrle
The Artist’s Institute
New York, USA

05.2013

The Doors
Skulpturenpark Köln
Köln, Germany

27.06.―09.08.2013

Freak Out
Greene Naftali Gallery
New York, USA

27.09.―09.11.2013

Love of Technology
Museum of Contemporary Art
North Miami, USA

2012

05.02.2012-22.04.2012

Hang Harder
Neuer Aachener Kunstverein
Aachen, Germany

12.2012

Lena Henke: First Faces, book launch at Karma Books, New York
Karma
New York, NY

13.01.2012-19.02.2012

If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend six sharpening my axe
Kunstraum Riehen
Basel, Switzerland

01.06.―29.07.2012

Core, Cut, Care
Oldenburger Kunstverein
Germany

14.09.―21.10.2012

H․ H․ Bennett, Lena Henke and Cars
1857
Oslo, Norway

2011

15.06.―07.08.2011

Andrei Koschmieder puts
Real Fine Arts
New York, NY

23.04.―18.06.2011

Schlangen im Stall, “snakes in the barn”
Galerie Parisa Kind Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

2010

05.2010

WIR UEBER UNS
Neue Alte Bruecke Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

08.2010

you have four eyes, (First ladies)
V 8
Karlsruhe, Germany

10.2010

Scandinavian blonde
Mousonturm
Frankfurt, Germany

28.11.2009 - 23.02.2010

Stone Temple Playground Collection
Kornhauschen Aschaffenburg
Aschaffenburg, Germany

28.11.2009 - 23.02.2010

Tokyo Hotel und deine Mutter
Literaturhaus
Frankfurt, Germany

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09.12.2020-30.01.2021
Babysteps into Masochism
Emanuel Layr
Vienna, Austria
Press Release
Text by: Robert Müller





“Just some flesh caught in this big broken machine.” (Nine Inch Nails)

Getting closer via what is far away: King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who will always look like Visconti’s Helmut Berger in Ludwig (1973), walks through a huge open hole into a gargantu- an cabin in which half-naked soldiers are sprawled around a tree, sleeping and unscathed. The king, full of pent-up desire, is invisible to them. Outside it’s freezing cold; inside huge fires are blazing. Everything is dripping with sweat. Waiting beyond the frame, also invisib- le, and wearing a blindfold, is Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Otherwise he works in Vienna and takes a female nom de plume, calling himself Zoë (“animal soul”) von Rodenbach. He is waiting for the mysterious Anatol—also a pseudonym, said to be that of the king, who “devours” the books of the celebrated author.

He, too, must not see the king. Where absolute power enters the sphere of his subjects on tiptoes, leaving footprints that the snow swallows optically and acoustically, the invisibility of this power—which is otherwise based on visibility—expresses more than the transgression of the border between ruler and ruled. There is also a desire, an unfulfillable yearning—here, of course, entirely among men—to be a subject, an object, and submit to the will of another. A desire to give up absolute control, whether as monarch or within patriarchal society, for the sake of this submission.

The warm glow of the fire on the bare feet of the soldiers casts flickering shadows onto the relationships of those present. In this late Romantic, masculine pastiche that still operates in terms of inside and outside, private and public, upstairs and downstairs—and in doing so dreams above all of the simple reversal of the arrangement as itself homoerotic—the prota- gonists of this equestrian culture can hope for invisibility, stealth, and discretion; they can hope for a secret. Meanwhile, actual industrial capitalism in the cold beyond has long since decreed the death of horse and rider. A wet pond swallows up the Swan Knight.

The complex entanglements of lust and cruelty in the constellation of “Babysteps into Maso- chism” make it seem as if one were looking through the keyhole of a glass door. Productive misunderstandings. Lena Henke’s exhibition is not about coming to terms with nostalgic or ornamental splinters of repressed sexual urges in some secret side of life. What dominates at LAYR is maximum visibility.

The imagery in the works on view formulates a shift away from clandestine, masculine, heteronormative deviance to an overt, society-level engine in which fetishization not only brings about objectification but also creates opportunities for greater freedom and equality. The exhibition also, however, critically interrogates the (sexual) drives that are capable of inflaming the neoliberal capacity for individual suffering as a desire for self-inflicted pain that can, moreover, be monetized.

But masochism is here not only understood as the end point of exploitation; it is also propo- sed as a model that simply makes possible a controlled, libidinous surrender to a complex game of dependence and submission, in which, at least temporarily, an inner leash takes the place of an external one. It thus also offers the opportunity to forcefully restructure one’s own situation, the circumstances of one’s own position and the pain and suffering resulting from it, and thus to gain control of otherwise uncontrollable and often violent forces. An entire arsenal of different practices and desires is presented here, too.

Crushing, Foot Fetish, Incest
A series of fired and shimmeringly glazed water lilies are inscribed with terms such as Devotion, Discipline, Abduction, Bond, Zoo, and Terror—concepts related to violence and control, although they are also assigned colors, quantities, and numerical proportions. The model of subdividing wholes, the almost forensic allotment of shares, determines not only the form, slices signifying proportions just as in a pie chart, but invites one to fantasize a world with a finite number of immaterial social and sexual concepts that add up to a ze- ro-sum illusion. In their recourse to statistical and also typically economic frameworks, they also seem an almost ironic paraphrase of Freud’s “The Economic Problem of Masochism” (1924).

Giantess, Horse-Play, Zoophilia
Henke’s “totem animal”, the horse, serves as a starting point in this exhibition, too, even if it is not the main character in the story, one in which various sexual practices, games, and preferences are thematically and reciprocally interlinked. Two arches, like enlarged stirrups, end up as abstracted riders’ legs (I’m Safe, 2020; You’re Safe, 2020), whose “feet” have become horse-play accessories (literally horse-shoes). The two ends over which each arch rises are isolated and defined only by their fetishized part. The figures are headless. (The only head in the exhibition is also isolated, severed: a plastic cast of a bull’s skull, set on a chair like an O’Keefe prop. It seems, without eyes, to “watch“.)

These works not only mark out the threshold that awakens the rider’s desire or giddy fear to be ridden, to be the horse itself, in this arrangement. Their covering of horse(!) leather makes clear, moreover, that the transition from subject to object also harbors latent aspects of death and cruelty, especially given how the horse’s hide, in the form of a tanned pelt, reso- nates in a macabre and ironic way in the titles alluding to safe-words. The works also bring to mind two oversized croquet hoops that inevitably miniaturize the viewer, free to imagine being a ball of flesh knocked through the hoops by an imaginary, and equally huge, mallet.

But despite all the abstraction and fragmentation, the exhibition’s frame of reference re- mains biographical. The representation of the artist’s self, however, has shifted away from the inordinately large rendering of herself as a prosthetic toddler (as in her last exhibition Ice to Gas at the gallery Pedro Cera in Lisbon this past September). Here, she occupies the position of the voyeur, going further in the reversal of subject and object. Horse-hoof and architecture, which were then still entangled with self-representation, are now externalized. Henke’s most recent work, the photographic series “Organic Architecture”, reconceptualizes representation via the fetishistic objectification of huge men’s feet that have been pushed into condoms, their movement constrained. The feet are enormous: Henke has scaled them up to the size of her own body, and thus reverses the poles of the fetish of exaggeratedly oversize women’s bodies (mostly with well-established dimensions and pro- portions) in male fantasies that ultimately oscillate somewhere between vore and unbirt- hing. This is accomplished through an inversion of the gaze, imagining her own supersized body, ideally paired, beneath these feet, ready to be crushed. In spite of the strong sense of being able to feel all the folds, the sweat, and the smell of this oversized “architecture”, the feet are stuck in the latex, suffocating slowly under a wet, strangely clinical gloss.

The interconnections between the body, sexuality, and architecture that allow Henke’s works to become prosthesis fetishes are, alongside the millennia-old practice of analogy, also what pulls the space of signification and representation into a brutal reality. Physical pain, normativity, and the proverbial desire for humiliation, diminution, while present in other works, too, here develop their effects in a way that is deeply unsettling. “Organic Architecture” is set against the fragile architecture of the body: from Vitruvius to Leviathan to King Kong.

The gallery—itself the shape of an even bigger footprint, once pushed into the mortar of the building by some greater power—tilts on its longitudinal axis through the action of an as yet unknown force. It seems as if the images of feet bound in latex are stepping on the visitors, crushing them, in an act of pleasure, between themselves and the water lilies on the floor that was once a wall.

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