In Greek mythology, sirens were dangerously beautiful femme fatales with an alluring song that would bring unsuspecting sailors to shipwreck along the rocky coasts of their island in the Mediterranean. Torstraße in Berlin might not be as difficult to navigate as the Mediterranean and Janine Bean may not be much of an island, but walking in front of the gallery one cannot help to be allured by the sirens currently seen through the window. They are five “Girls,” the highlight of the latest solo exhibition from sculptor Peter Simon Mühlhäußer, with a song composed of smooth, detailed and overall attractive aesthetics but whose face reveals a troubling realization. It is a display that seduces as much as it repels and, in the sway of this difficult paradox, might cause an unsuspecting gallery visitor to drown among the rocky questions it poses.
Peeking through the window of Janine Bean Gallery has become a voyeuristic act for the next month. Even from a distance, the interior resembles a nudist archipelago with each island guarded by its ruling muse. Their physically attractive bodies (by most Western standards) have cleverly been positioned turning their backs to the window. The temptation is too great not to give these sexy girls a closer inspection. (Disregard my perverted tone momentarily––though mischievously deliberate, my reasons will become clearer in a bit).
It is not difficult to see why these “Girls” are so alluring. It is a mixture of dexterous craft and perfect flesh tones; combined, these two elements give the girls undeniable presence. They appear real. Not satisfied with peeking through the window, I want to navigate the passageway of the gallery slowly, go from island to island and strike a one-sided contemplative conversation with each one of them. I want to know their stories, the myths of their creation and ultimately satisfy my own imagination. And so, without hesitating any further, I walk in.
"Theresa" masochistically hanging from the ceiling at Janine Bean Gallery. Photo: Chris Phillips
The sight suddenly becomes disturbing. The show has been mislabeled; these are “little girls!” Their faces show an age of about fourteen. Nevermind it being the legal consent age in Germany, the implications these sculptures pose are troubling ones.
The eroticization of a young girl’s body––under what circumstances is this appropriate? Sure, art rarely concerns itself with being appropriate or polite, but amidst the current rape crisis in India and rampant child abuse worldwide, isn’t a show like this only feeding and fueling the inappropriate sexual fantasies of men?