Down to Earth

American artist Michele Oka Doner has created a cycle of works for Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg made from porcelain and terracotta which now form part of a fantastic exhibition in the former kiln hall of the workshops. The installation called “Down to Earth” transforms the historic kilns with their alchemical past clearly visible in the residues on the bricks into magical places – five simple chambers enclosed in thick walls become familiar spaces which are homes to goddesses and “Soul Catchers”: dream worlds which transcend eras and cultures. The viewer can immerse himself and take his time to become a part of this.

The five chambers on three levels are bathed in light and darkness and have stories to tell. In the first chamber on the ground floor, there are hundreds of little porcelain sculptures, with anthropomorphic, face-like forms: these are the “Soul Catchers”. In the chamber next door is what looks like a cosmic circle of terracotta and porcelain: two tall, upright figures (“Distraught Goddess” and “Priestess”) and smaller ones, sunken into the ground up to the knees (“Ancient Man”) – climbing up from the underworld or climbing down, another one half-hidden in the niche (“Early Man”): these are Michele Oka Doner’s gods. On the mezzanine floor, you find yourself in two more cube-shaped spaces (“Ancestors”) next to a bush with burning candles (“Burning Bushes”). Further up resembles a small temple, with water and golden containers, like those used for ritual purposes.

There is a secret surrounding all these works. Hartmut Böhme called them “Seismogram of mnemic waves” in reference to Aby Warburg’s studies on the power of images and magic. In fact, they stir memories of our knowledge of mythical times. They conjure up ideas of immortality and transmigration of souls and Jewish-Christian imagery of communication between mankind and heaven. They bring together past existences when there was just one entity, the Sacred and The Profane (Mircea Eliade).

In Nymphenburg, handmade works of art are created as single objects or as strictly limited editions according to the designs of contemporary artists who count among some of the most widely-renowned creators of art worldwide. Well-known visual artists such as Carsten Höller, Olaf Nicolai and Wim Delvoye focus intensely on the historical and cultural context of Nymphenburg and express their outstanding artistic visions in the highest quality porcelain.

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