Thomas RENTMEISTER (*1964 in Reken, GER)
Lives and works in Berlin and Braunschweig (Germany)
Five gutted fridges form a remarkable sculptural ensemble. The white shells of the discarded appliances were arranged to seem as though they are penetrating one another. At first glance, this dynamic placement could remind the viewer of a post-modern architectural ensemble by the likes of Frank Gehry, or perhaps a crystalline formation that has grown out of the ground. But something else, something very remarkable, draws the eye. Where the white cuboids meet, indeed seem to merge, plenty of Penaten-brand baby cream was applied. Thomas Rentmeister really did fill every crevice, gap and space with the white cream you normally find used in skincare. This is something that your olfactory senses will pick up on straight away in the direct vicinity. This vaguely lemony characteristic fragrance is something that most Germans know from their childhood and is bound to trigger a wide range of memories and associations among museum visitors.
Let's look again more closely. The white mass was applied by the artist using various spatulas, much like plastering a wall, and is astonishingly good at keeping its shape in the new role it has been pressed into. The skincare cream, which was expressly named after the Roman household gods, goes very well with the surface and colour of the fridges, but at the same time provides a tactile contrast that could even be called picturesque. Rentmeister manages to balance this combination of household appliance and skincare cream – hard and soft, angular shape and amorphous mass – stably, at the aesthetic level, and to keep it there. Liberated from their original function, the fridges and the Penaten cream can now be perceived in a new (museum) context and at a different (symbolic) level. We can even argue about their aesthetic value while they still remain recognisable for what they are. Their tangible contrariness makes them into a self-propelling energy source – as the Comte de Lautréamont put it – that favours a virtually subversive stream of associations and trains of thought. Concepts such as heat and cold, interior and exterior, nature and technology – but also protection, care, comfort and healing – can be associated with ease and, if thoughts are allowed to run their course, can be developed into metaphors about the state of the world, even if the materials used were never intended to have that purpose. Hannes Böhringer even concludes that the work can be seen as “an image of the entropic final state of art”, yet one that does not really allow for a foreseeable end, instead pointing to a “once again” as it were.
Text: Peter Friese