Assaf Gruber

The Conspicuous Parts

Assaf Gruber’s films and sculptures often deal with the interplay between ideologies of individuals and their personal biographies, and with the way in which both of these shape and influence private and public spheres and relationships. This focus also provides the background for the film installation at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.

Daphne and Catherine work at the museum. The former joined the team recently as a taxidermist. The latter, a British writer, is doing research in the museum’s archive for her new novel. Her interest is directed at what strikes her as a shady museum expedition to Cuban coral reefs that was undertaken by East Germany in the late 1960s. During their chance encounter the two women start a rather unusual communication.

Gruber’s film challenges the ways in which institutions choose to represent and communicate scientific and historical facts – or presumptions. The life stories of the protagonists elucidate how the presentation of those facts is shaped by the desires of individuals: from possible colonial ambitions of explorers in the Caribbean to an unlikely obsession of a museum director at the time of the First World War and the resulting fantasy of a young taxidermist of today.

In the course of Gruber’s film we gradually lose the capacity to distinguish between scientific fact and artistic freedom. Our growing insecurity as to which of the film’s narrative elements belong in one field or the other confronts our unrelenting will to separate facts from assumptions and knowledge from memories in order to then deal with them in different ways – or rather not to deal with them at all.

 

This uncertainty is typical of the films and sculptures of Assaf Gruber (born 1980 in Jerusalem). They focus on the narrative power of objects and spaces. But as much as the works radiate this narrative potency, just as little do they reveal an unambiguous story.

 

Artist: Assaf Gruber
Curator: Dorothée Brill
Main roles: Caroline Clifford and Tina Pfurr
Production: Barbara Simon, Talking Projects
Camera: Jutta Pohlmann
Camera assistant: Judith Lentze

The film was produced in coproduction with the Center for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, and with the support of the Ostrovsky Family Fund.

 

Assaf Gruber