The human body plays a central role in the artworks by the Czech-Canadian artist Jana Sterbak. It is not surprising, therefore, that the body was the focus of the exhibition “Life Size – Lebensgröße”. In Sterbak’s controversial piece “Vanitas. Flesh Dress for an Anorexic Albino” from 1987, which was also the centrepiece of this exhibition, the artist sewed together scraps of raw meat to form a dress which she then had herself photographed wearing. Stylistically, the work refers to art-historical traditions of Vanitas still-life paintings, while at the same time critically addresses the problems of psychosomatic disorders and desires for a different body. The artist also uses perishable food in her installation “Bread Bed” from 1996 which has been reconstructed for the exhibition. In this piece, she establishes a connection between bread as a staple food and the bed as place of sleep, love, birth and death. The piece “Mask” from 2015 doubles as both a decorative body veil and – at the centre of recent public debate – a chador-like uniform. The exhibition offered an overview of the artist’s sculptural, performative, photographic and cinematic work. Sterbak’s pieces explore the increasingly blurred boundaries dividing intimacy and publicity in our society. The project hoped to encourage discussion on the subject in the context of a feminist avant-garde which has devised new ways to highlight female stereotypes and projections. In cooperation with the artist, the curators have developed an exhibition consisting of some 40 artworks. The exhibitions at the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg and the Taxispalais in Innsbruck represented the first retrospective of Sterbak’s diverse range of works in the German-speaking region since 2002. An extensive bilingual catalogue documents the exhibition.
Artistic director: Michael Krajewski
Artist: Jana Sterbak (CA)