The system only dreams in total darkness
Spray paint, oil stick and acrylic on printed flag fabric
200 x 150 cm (78 3/4 x 59 1/8 in)
Signed and dated verso
Cordula Ditz’s work scrutinizes the ways in which our ideas about gender roles and identity are constructed, reiterated, and solidified—the media play a salient role in this process—and how they inform our conscious as well as unconscious minds. To this purpose, she gathers materials she finds online and in books, magazines, and films and integrates them into paintings and videos in the form of collages or montages. The result is a rich imagery that is open about its genesis and performative nature in order to prompt reflection on media representation and the production of normative codifications.
As digitally printed “linings” on translucent flag cloth, the paintings are layered, in a static equivalent of video montage, with found images from books, magazines, and the internet. Pastose paint applied in gestural brushwork balances, consolidates, and accentuates the pictorial collages. These paintings tell stories from the battles of the women’s movement, instances of oppression, and normative ideals of beauty—though now with a marked historical emphasis. We encounter the suffragette movement of the early twentieth century; selections from the 1895/1898 Women’s Bible; the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint, an early pioneer of purely abstract painting in Western art, whom the art-historical discourse has long neglected in favor of her male colleagues; historic face packs with ice cubes said to rejuvenate the skin; nose correction equipment; and even muzzles that were used to silence women with brute force.
Crossing media boundaries, Ditz’s practice investigates the ways in which cultural history conditions perspectives on who is entitled to what and patterns perceptions as well as the strategies of self-empowerment the defeated resort to. At first glance, this strategy would seem to collide with the abstract-expressionist style of the four canvases. Combining fierce sweeping gestures with graphical elements and restrained expressiveness, they counteract the material’s subversive determinacy with an airy—though deceptive—lightness.