The letters Laura Jatkowski (1990) stacked in a crate once told the story of someone's life and death. They came from a large batch of discarded headstones Jatkowski found while strolling through a cemetery in Berlin. She saved the stones from demolition and used a core drill to remove all the letters, leaving holes where the deceased's name once stood. Together, the hollowed-out tombstones and the letters make up the installation Untitled (unvergessen #2), or unforgotten.
In most European cemeteries, graves are not privately owned. They are leased for fifteen to twenty-five years. If the lease is not renewed, the headstones are then removed. This contrasts with Jewish tradition, for example, where no headstone is ever removed. With Untitled (unvergessen), Jatkowski raises questions about how we remember, how we want to be remembered, and how objects can be carriers of those memories.
Jatkowski often uses existing objects in her sculptures, performances and videos because of the emotional and expressive value attached to them. For Untrammeled, away she goes (2017), for example, she welded together the frames of second-hand racing bikes. She placed these rods criss-crossing the space, like a bunch of newly planted trees. "Because they are part of our everyday life, everyday objects offer a direct connection for the viewer - he or she already has a prior history with them," Jatkowski says. With her interventions, she questions that past history and places objects in a new light.
Text: Sarah van Binsbergen