Art & Photography

Jutta Koether: The Double Session

The artist continues her investigation of Derrida’s theory on dopplegängers in this mainly sculptural exhibition at London’s Campoli Presti

Jutta Koether, Viktoria, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Campoli Presti
Left: Jutta Koether, Viktoria, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Campoli Presti. (Right: Jutta Koether, Viktoria (detail), 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Campoli Presti.)

Humans have this weird obsession with likeness. If two things look even a little bit alike, you can be sure they’ll be appearing next to each other in a photograph on someone’s Tumblr page with various expostulations of amazement for a caption within seconds of being identified. Is it really so amazing when two things look not-entirely-dissimilar? Maybe it’s just me, but when I see the inevitable pictures in which twinned people or objects appear, it just makes the differences that much more obvious, and the strain in making the comparison that much more visible. Fans of Wayne’s World will remember Wayne’s disquisition on the replacement of Dick York by Dick Sargent as Darrin Stevens on the original Bewitchedtelevision series, “As if we wouldn’t notice!” And that’s my feeling, as if we aren’t going to notice the guy who looks nothing like Michael J. Fox wearing a fly-fishing vest and looking at his watch in hopes of being taken for Marty McFly. But there’s a robust literary and visual lineage obsessed with doubles, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Shakespeare, and painting’s open LTR with representation isn’t going to end any time soon, so in seeing the title of Jutta Koether’s show at Campoli Presti and reading a lot of stuff about Derrida in the press materials, I was primed for a bit of difference spotting (or, given that we’re talkin’ Derrida, differance spotting).

If all that sounds like a long walk for a very familiar drink you’re in luck. Koether, for those who know her work, is serious business and though the show was never going to be one of those boring literal graftings of philosophy and object, what you get at Campoli Presti more than meets Koether’s formidable reputation. So, yes, there’s doubling, but its done by way of a mirrored wall, and, perhaps with a wobbly nod to Parmagianino, the images reflected are often sufficiently unstable in the vagaries of the gallery light as to render Dick York and Dick Sargent indistinguishable. The real game, of course, is the works themselves. Koether’s work was one of the subjects of David Joselit’s well-known essay on the painting as a form of network taking in surroundings, history, biography, space and audience. In works like Viktoria, an agglomeration of hardware, wires, resin, insect life, and more it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the net work; the piece is determinedly interstitial, not conforming to any protocol of form, but, somehow, not failing to have an almost elegiac connection to art-as-representation. Viktoria might be a pile of wires and screws, but she’s also a woman. You can feel it. There’s also a toughness and frustration in the plank paintings that dangle in the gallery’s stairwell, you can feel Koether almost battling the space and the materials for a new channel in to the expressive capacity of paint as a medium. It’s limiting but it’s only expressive because of its limitations. You might call it a double bind.

Jutta Koether: The Double Session runs until 26 July at Campoli Presti, 223 Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 0EL