Sieglinde Karl-Spence and Hazel Smith: Heimlich Unheimlich
31 Oct 2020 - 17 Nov 2020
An installation created by artist Sieglinde Karl-Spence and writer Hazel Smith consisting of polyester chiffon banners digitally printed with collages and poetry.
It also contains hand-stitched objects reminiscent of body parts: these are made of hessian and muslin and are partly wrapped in digitally printed cloth. The exhibition incorporates a multimedia video work, ‘Heimlich Unheimlich’, created by Sieglinde Karl-Spence, Hazel Smith, and the sound and intermedia group austraLYSIS.
Heim in German means home, so Heimlich Unheimlich can translate loosely as Homely Unhomely. However, heimlich more usually means secretive or hidden, while unheimlich means uncanny, so the connotations of the two words can overlap. This relationship between heimlich and unheimlich (discussed in Sigmund Freud’s essay ‘The Uncanny’) underlies the piece.
The installation uses the contrasting childhoods of Sieglinde Karl-Spence and Hazel Smith as a starting point. It focuses on two characters who have names related to different kinds of cloth. One is Hessian, a German girl born towards the end of the Second World War, whose father fought in the German army. She migrates with her family to Australia when she is still a child and eventually becomes an artist. The other is Muslin, who is born into a Jewish family in England after the war. She is a violinist who subsequently becomes a poet and migrates to Australia as an adult. Her parents live in the shadow of the holocaust and are unforgiving of Nazi Germany. Both Hessian and Muslin are shaped by, but also rebel against, the cultural environments in which they grow up.
Heimlich Unheimlich suggests strong crossovers between Muslin and Hessian, intertwining and reconciling their different childhoods. Through the enigma of family photographs, the installation explores the post-war period, the blending of personal and historical trauma, the bonds of ethnicity, belonging and migration.
The exhibition employs photographs from the family albums of Sieglinde Karl-Spence and Hazel Smith. Claire Grocott and Claire Letitia Reynolds were technical assistants and collaborators in the making of the visual images. The graphic design was by Claire Grocott. The artists are grateful to Myra Woolfson and Inge Stocker for their assistance with the translation in ‘Walk to the End of Whistling’ from English into Yiddish and German.
Image: Sieglinde Karl-Spence, a remix of two digital photographic collages ‘The Vengeful, Directive Angel’ and ‘From Rubble to Reliving’ (detail), 2020.