In 1927, the German Silk Manufacturers’ Association commissions the Modernist architect Lilly Reich and her colleague Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design a stand which would represent the German textile industry at the fair Die Mode der Dame (Women’s Fashion), which was to take place that year in Berlin. The project is entitled Café Samt & Seide (Velvet and Silk Café) and, far from being satisfied with the standard grid of the archetypal fairground space, the German architect opts to erect sinuous walls, built from colorful draped fabrics of velvet and silk. Reich’s inspiration: to build an architectural space out of a piece of clothing. Her aim: to prove how architecture wraps a body in the same way a dress does. The black and white photographs of the Café Samt & Seide show the large hall of the Funkturm Halle divided by large curtains which, inserted in straight and rounded metal structures, float in the space at different heights. The only piece of furniture we manage to spot is the Brno chair, a classic from the 1930s, designed by both of them. In 2018 Erika Hock took Lilly Reich and Mies van de Rohe’s Café Samt & Seide as a starting point for her “Salon Tactile”. In this new body of work the artist threads two strands; one essentially spatial, and the other one tactile, a crossover she continues to develop in “Body Trouble”.
At this show, as in the Café, the employed elements – velvets and silks – become that which defines the space, generating a crossing of functions or overlapping of roles in the materials; no longer is it only the destination, but also the path. Following this idea of using the elements to be viewed as dividing figures or, in its more positive expression, space-builders, Hock arranges three large curtains which that snake around the centre of the room. The silks and velvets are replaced by rows of strings which, following a very subtle technique, have been individually coloured to achieve the design conceived by the artist. For Erika Hock, just as in the Bauhaus era, colour also builds. Inspired precisely by precedents belonging to this school, such as Bruno Taut or Le Corbusier, Erika chooses gradations of blues, whites, greens, pinks and maroons to generate large masses of colour that organise and arrange the space. It was Le Corbusier, in his Architectural Polychromy, who cited three basic points regarding the experience of colour: 1. Colours modify space; 2. colours classify objects; 3. colours provoke a physiological reaction in us when we perceive them with our sensibility. In Erika Hock’s curtains – or colour cascades – each of these principles is experienced.
To the ideas given by Reich, van der Rohe and Le Corbusier on the experimentation and arrangement of space, Hock adds one more component, one more possibility. Her curtains, made up of hundreds of multicoloured threads, allow for mobility not only around, but also “through”. The public is thus faced with a series of decisions (and possibilities) that are unusual when visiting an exhibition space: to contemplate the work, to traverse along it, or to pass through?
It is here, in the crossing, that we encounter the tactile qualities of the artist’s work. By activating this “work-through” path, Erika enables us the option of getting to know the piece through our body, creating a tension between this one and the artwork. In this new dimension, we acquire a physical awareness of the work’s properties, such as its weight or texture, its colour or movement, moving from a visual to a physical experience, and making visible concealed elements.
Returning to the idea of the crossover, we come to the essence of Erika Hock’s work: a complex intersection of perceptions; a sensory meeting point between architecture and object; design and artwork; movement and contemplation.
Carla Guardiola Bravo