Last woman standing
Young and beautiful at first glance, but cool or even authoritarian at second: in the series "Final Girls" and "Faye Dunaway" Katharina Arndt portrays the last (without exception female) survivors of famous horror films such as Halloween, Scream, Alien and Texas Chainsaw on the basis of film stills. The artist takes up a pop-cultural motive that appeared in the 1970s as counter-model to the "Virgin in Need". It was first described by the American film scholar Carol J. Clover in 1992. The women appear as personification of fear, but nevertheless they triumph at the end of the respective film through their rough to brutal intelligence and willingness to act. Arndt reflects a momentum of the changing understanding of roles and the image of women in the last third of the 20th century.
In many works of male artists cruel women, femmes fatales, often appear as their nightmare and/or dream. One example is the topos of the brutal and highly sexually charged Amazon. A woman quickly becomes the image of male fantasy or a reflection of patriarchal cultures thus projection screen for the two poles of human existence, as Freud described them: longing for death and libido.
In contrast, there are works of (female) artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi, in which the biblically iconographic protagonists are characterized as autonomous, self-sufficient, self-reflective women. These works impart a complex image of women that resists simple classification (virgin or whore).
Arndt depicts women who become hybrids, a synthesis of classically male and female connotated traits and thus uncontrollable super-humans. Through the artist's technique, her sketch-like reduction, and the cool materials used, the motifs remain connected to their original pop-cultural background despite their portraiture. Ambivalent relationships emerge between the individual and mass production. In this way, the artist contributes to a gender debate, which confronts complexity and multi layerdness with outdated gender stereotyping.
In the glory of digital decadence
Luminous slogans, sparkling rhinestones and shiny car body paint: in Katharina Arndt’s work, the alluring surface is a striking symbol of life in the digital age. In the hyperreal and intangible online world, only visual appearance matters—that of ourselves and the products we should buy. In her works, the artist exaggerates and ironizes the contemporary mass consumerist aesthetic of a decadent, abundant society. She brings things to the shining surface which are to be suppressed by binge buying, i.e. our worries and fears, especially those of our own mortality. Katharina Arndt creates glittering slogans like SHOP THE PAIN AWAY, staged neon colored sausage and meat upon black glossy fabric or GOOGLE immortalized in marble foil.
Katharina Arndt presents cool sayings and current bits of wisdom in glittering or luminous lettering. Using the sparkling rhinestones or colored LEDs, the words have a strong visual presence. However, light and reflecting surfaces have a light physical materiality, which seemingly lightens the content.
Katharina Arndt’s bright sentence fragments capture the current slogans far from the original context. Work such as My therapist said… or You should be focus on the loss and the search for identity, especially against the background of online social media platforms and their constant demand of new forms of self-presentation. The same applies to the two-meter-high neon letters of the work FOLLOW ME. It leads either into nothingness or in a circle. Further works such as Who cares or That’s not my problem epitomize contemporary self-obsession and the accompanying loss of empathy. In A poem for Gero, the words TV, cheeseburger, latest movie and sale refer to basic elements of today’s mass consumerist culture. The work, consisting of different light sources as well as translucent Plexiglas, has an ephemeral quality also reflected in the ephemerality of the word’s content. Katharina Arndt’s works becomes a symbol for the transience of the digital age, whose information is intangible and whose longevity is by no means assured.
Glittering rhinestone texts criticize the essential social significance of consumer culture. In Produce / Consume / Die, the life cycle degenerates into that of consumer goods. In SHOP THE PAIN AWAY, the artist refers to the misbelief of shopping one’s way to happiness and thus to a contemporary positive society. Here, negative feelings and fears are suppressed because they are not valued by the market. This trend has been amplified by the virtual world of the Internet, since only a product’s attractive visual appearance counts there. Katharina Arndt’s works Shop online, Click here and BUY NOW have the same aims, as their only contents are the words on digital buttons supposed stimulate purchases. These banal Internet slogans the artist monumentally transforms into the materiality and ironically immortalizes the virtual world of consumerism into the physical one. Thus, the work also sarcastically alludes to the art market whose values are based on big names and hype rather than focusing on the work’s content.
MARBLE RELIEF MURALS
Katharina Arndt applies plastic foil to aluminum Dibond plates which imitates an expensive marble surface. She then immortalizes trivial sentence fragments such as SAVE THE WORLD in relief, with the addition of “I’m not in the mood to” grafittied in a layer of commercial spray paint. In additional works such as SMILING…when required or BORED TO DEATH…in paradise, Katharina Arndt brings together further contrasts. She illustrates the ego-driven, as well as the personally mood dependent, decadent nature of commerce, in that it is both a satiating and boring emotional state. In the series GOOGLE yourself with works such as Who am I…GOOGLE…yourself or SELFIE + ugly = SUGLIE, Katharina Arndt ironizes the problem of self-discovery and identity formation dependent on the googleable online identity. In LIVE on YouTube and TV? Turn on my Netflix from the series Virtual Reality, the artist plays with the significance of current trends and their media transience. The television has become obsolete in times of online film portals like Netflix. The fragile materiality of the works reflects this state of affairs, since they merely pretend to be solid stone. Formally the works remind us of memorial tablets, which are supposed to maintain the significance of the past. Here, they prove to be as fragile as the content and values presented on them.
STILL LIFE WITH MEAT
In the series Still Life With Meat, Katharina Arndt draws sausages and meat products with bright markers and acrylic on black paint. Lines in pink, yellow, orange, red and white tones form smooth, idealized motifs. They shine through and are composed like old-fashioned still lives. Yet they are based on models of contemporary consumer images and are reminiscent of tightly filled sausage counters. The conceptual template for the series is based on the Grill Bible by Weber, the luxury grill manufacturer. The volume, filled with numerous pictures of finely draped, gleaming meats, symbolizes the decadence of the insatiable hunger of (western) consumer society. It forms the equally extreme cult of veganism at the opposite pole. Both symbolize the ego trips driven at the pinnacle of an overly abundant society alienated from nature. Thus, the skinned head of the dead lamb Still Life With Meat # 19 can be understood as an ambiguous allusion to the Christian symbol of the Lamb of God, which here is not sacrificed here to take away the sins of the world, but to indulge the cult of consumerism.
FAYE DUNAWAY ON MONDAYS
Smoking and drinking women, violent with curved axes or drawn knives, stand out in pure, white lines against the black-shining image surface. In the series Faye Dunaway on Mondays, Katharina Arndt processes various cinematic models. She focuses primarily on Barfly, in which Faye Dunaway plays an alcoholic. The artist questions the emancipatory significance of pop culture representations of self-assured and strong women, whose active role is connected to negatively connoted qualities, brutality, or eroticism.
The works of Katharina Arndt appear as fetish of consumer culture simultaneously criticized by the artist. Mainstream materials create shiny color surfaces that bring visual appearance and thereby the visual world of the digital age to the foreground. The individual focus on the here and now puts the artist to the test in her works. She uses forms of body worship, fitness, the lust for meat and consumerist desire as symbols for a self-centered vitality in a positive society which resist the notion of one’s transience. This opposing polarity is expressed in many of the artist’s works. For example, she imitates a stone surface using plastic foil, adorns lovely embroideries with strong curse words, removes tattoos as expressions of individual identity or puts Zeitgeist phrases into a religious light. It is also reflected in the dichotomous female image of some works. They show emancipated, active and self-confident personalities which are nevertheless tied to negative characteristics such as smoking, drinking, brutality or eroticism. Katharina Arndt’s works reflect numerous levels of pop culture. With their slick aesthetic and immaculate surfaces, they symbolize not only a positivist consumer culture, but above all the psychological hatefulness of society.
Through the use and inclusion of pop culture materials and content as fundamental elements of her work, Katharina Arndt creates a reference point for the viewer. Here, personal values can be questioned: do I agree with the female image presented to me? Should I really listen to my therapist? Does it make sense to go shopping to get rid of my worries? Should my life consist of Viagra and Valium? Should I be seduced by the shiny surfaces of digital decadence?
— Tina Sauerländer