»MASTERING THE ELEMENTS«
Artist-photographer Jana Hartmann’s exhibition MASTERING THE ELEMENTS examines the intriguing history of alchemy.
Jana Hartmann’s photographs are captivating for their immense, aesthetic expressiveness. The beauty, colorful splendor, and enigmatic nature of her imagery arouse the curiosity, drawing us in like researchers striving to understand their very essence.
Central to alchemy was the study of natural substances and the associated search for prima materia. Based on the foundations of Greek natural philosophers, alchemists held that the transmutation of substances in nature was possible. It was their belief that nature strives to achieve perfection, similar to the quest of the human spirit, and thus that all earthly metals would someday turn into gold. Accordingly, they searched for a “philosopher’s stone” that would transform base metals into gold, as well as the development of a universal medicine for treating disease. For Goethe, the objectives of the alchemists were “gold, health, and long life.”
Especially fascinating for Hartmann is the alchemists’ symbolic language, something only understood by initiates. The alchemists were intent on keeping their knowledge from others and from being misused. For the artist, this guarded passing on of experimental knowledge also brings up contemporary issues of scientific ethics.
Hartmann’s photographs are not to be understood as documentations of scientific working methods, but as visual references of concepts of ancient natural philosophy, alchemy, and today’s natural sciences. She photographs, among other things, laboratory settings and natural science exhibits that allude to modern techniques of transmutation. Remarkably, after the discovery of radioactivity in 1925, gold was actually produced from base metals for the first time. Hinting at this are her photographs of a particle accelerator model, a plasma experiment, or a test arrangement for converting air into water. The artist photographs not only what she encounters but also models she constructs in the studio, such as the one depicting Plato’s thesis that the earth is formed of cubes.
For the artist, the message we can take from the alchemists is a holistic view of the world, where man and nature, spirit and matter are closely intertwined. This ties into Alfred Ehrhardt’s photographic work: as a “natural philosopher with a camera,” he conveyed the image of man not as a ruler but as part of timeless nature. Both Hartmann’s and Ehrhardt’s photographs of rock formations and other inorganic natural materials demonstrate this kinship.
MASTERING THE ELEMENTS provides an opportunity to reflect on the directions and responsibilities of modern natural sciences. Her imagery attests visually to the fact that science must be continually renegotiated, that experiments may fail, and that an ultimate truth does not exist. Today attempts are being made to solve the riddle of quantum physics. And what will be the focus of tomorrow?
A catalog published by The Eriskay Connection in Breda, NL will accompany the exhibition.
All events are by reservation, in accordance with official requirements. Please register in advance at ed.gn1632629316utfit1632629316sea@o1632629316fni1632629316
Friday, July 23, 2021, 6 – 9 pm
Sunday, July 25, 2021, 2 pm
Guided tour (held in German) of the exhibition with Jana Hartmann and Dr. Christiane Stahl, director, Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021, 7 pm
Online lecture and talk (held in English) with Prof. Lawrence Principe, Johns Hopkins University, USA:
»Secrets of Alchemy – Reframing Alchemy’s history and its broad influence on human culture«.
Moderation: Jana Hartmann. The lecture will be recorded and published on the homepage of the Alfred Ehrhardt Foundation.
Wednesday, September 8, 2021, 7 pm
Talk (held in German) with Prof. Dr. Helmut Gebelein and Jana Hartmann:
»The Undivided Pythagoras – On Alchemy’s Criticism of Modern Natural Sciences«.
Sunday, Sep 12, 2021, 2 pm
Guided Tour with Jana Hartmann. Held in German. Admission free.
July 24 — Sep 12, 2021
Opening Reception: Friday, July 23, 6 – 9 pm
+ Framework program: please see above
Auguststraße 75, 10117 Berlin
[District: Mitte | Borough: Mitte]
Opening hours: Tue – Sun 11 am – 6 pm
+++ Please pay attention to the current Corona regulations of the respective gallery/institution. +++ Bitte beachten Sie die aktuellen Corona-Bestimmungen der jeweiligen Galerie/Institution.
Preceding exhibition at the Alfred Ehrhardt Foundation