The work Versammlungen/Assemblies picks up on Hommelsheim’s earlier sequences Bewahrungen (Perpetuations) and Sie kehrt um und lacht (She turns round laughing). In a similar vein Assemblies draws from a wealth of family treasures. In the resulting work series objects and photographs are selected according to specific criteria, exposed and placed in other contexts, thereby inscribing them with new meaning. The artist focuses on systems of order and relational contextualisations.
In Assemblies Hommelsheim concentrates on group photographs of family relations from various time periods, all of which serve as a starting point for her research. Painting over the background in the photographs allows for “exposure” of the groups. The temporal and social context is thus pushed back but remains dormant, shimmering every now and then through the coloured surfaces. From the viewer perspective, levelling the surroundings permits the group as a unit and the relations of the individuals to take centre stage. Topically linked, the individual group images are arranged, each with a different content.
Ruth Hommelsheim practises a form of archeology with representational manifestations of family, evident in the exposure and realignment. The artist sees in this rejiggering of images the traces of collective memory, outlining the ties to historical group representations and their gesture, posture and composition.
Following Bruno Latour, the group or assembly is not an object but a medium of the uncertainty of performative social practice, in which situational knowledge is stored. This implies that meetings should not be understood as given substrates but as phenomena that only make sense when individual components are reconnected: “If we don’t celebrate now… we will simply lose the group arrangement, which is a movement to be continued and not a building to be restored.”1
1 Bruno Latour: Eine neue Soziologie für eine neue Gesellschaft (Reassembling the social), Frankfurt 2007, p. 67.