The complex of works by Michael Müller shown in the exhibition at St. Matthew's Church, created between 2013 and 2022, is dedicated to the question of the possibilities and impossibilities of an artistic approach to the Holocaust and its representability by artistic means.
A theme that has been repeated in Müller's oeuvre for some time, but here finds a new, heightened intensity and focus. The individual works are united by the fact that they are a questioning from different analytical directions, from different perspectives and in a wide range of artistic media - painting, sculpture, photography, text and concept - , and refer only to the openness of the questioning, the progress of knowledge through constant, current examination.
A special role within the complex of works is played by the four photographs that were presumably taken secretly in Birkenau by Alberto Errera, a member of the so-called "Sonderkommando" of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and smuggled out of the extermination camp. These four photographs are the only direct and immediate visual testimonies of the Holocaust.
In the church hall of St. Matthew's Church, the exhibition "At the Abyss of Images" not only poses anew the question of the biblical ban on images, but also the question of a God who could allow the murder of millions. At the same time, they shed light on the too little noticed history of the Jewish bourgeoisie in the old Tiergarten quarter around St. Matthew's Church, which - like the quarter as a whole - fell victim to the National Socialists and was "painted over" by the Kulturforum. Its history is only just being rediscovered.
In a direct confrontation with Gerhard Richter's "Birkenau" cycle, which has been on display in the neighboring Neue Nationalgalerie since April 1, 2023, the German-British artist Michael Müller (b. 1970) addresses the question of the representability of the Holocaust and the artistic approach to evil in a special exhibition at St. Matthew's Church.
Can the horror of the Holocaust be shown? Gerhard Richter's 2014 "Birkenau" cycle - four abstract overpaintings of photorealistic paintings based on photographs from Auschwitz-Birkenau - is considered the most important artistic engagement with the subject.
In a 16-part work, artist Michael Müller interrogates Richter's oeuvre by uncovering its layers and showing mechanisms that, when closely examined and analyzed, leave room for discussion.
The other works in the exhibition show that this simultaneously raises fundamental questions about artistic forms and the limits of the representability of singular events and the relationship between photography and painting, reality and image, representationalism and abstraction. They present alternative forms of artistic engagement with the Holocaust, refraining from a definitive, final answer, but creating a space of openness that allows and facilitates a discussion that must be constantly conducted and continually updated. In dialogue with the works of Gerhard Richter, Müller's works call for an examination of the question of appropriate forms of remembrance.