Being able to set things around us apart means, we need to define lines between them.
According to Spinoza, every definition is in itself a negation. No thing can be defined on
its own. Distinctions between things can only be made by separating them from
something other, by using dividing lines or boundaries. This applies to individuals as
well: realising that “I am” means realising that “I am not you.” An “I” is formed by
experiencing something other and by becoming aware of the existence of boundaries.
These boundaries are necessary, for only they make freedom possible. This freedom,
however, is also subject to constraints. Thinking, while free, depends on definitions and
categorizations, and words determine and confine what they describe. Physical
boundaries, rooms for example, too, create a space of possibilities while also confining
one’s freedom of movement. Like a cocoon that a caterpillar needs to grow and thrive in
and still must break free from when the time has come, boundaries in general should be
permeable and conquerable again and again.
Katharina Mörth uses boundaries in her work while also reflecting on the ambivalence
they present. It is most obvious for the viewer in her early work, the cocoons. Rigid and
strong hollow bodies made from steel plates separate an inside from an outside. The
created boundary, however, is permeable. While the steel plates define the organic form
of the sculptures, perforations in the steel open up their inner space. Instead of just
closing off the inside from the outside, the boundary connects both spaces. This lonely
inside can also be consolatory which becomes evident in an extended series of the
cocoons. For this, Mörth transforms the sculptures to light objects. She illuminates their
insides. Light pierces through the perforations, and the boundaries are projected in
variations of light and shade onto a nearby wall.
But it’s not only the viewer who experiences boundaries, the making of the cocoons
means pushing the limit and is in itself a borderline experience. In a strenuous physical
effort, Katharina Mörth forces with hammer and tongs the machine-made flat steel into
the organic forms of the sculptures. Only by embossing the three-millimetre-thick steel
is it possible, to weld under tension the individual plates.
Mörth’s wearable objects are a continuation of the cocoons. These anthropomorphic
shells and armour-like clothes not only show the difference between an inside and an
outside. They are indeed wearable and walkable. Also made of steel, these kinds of
cocoons are more open and fragile and become a form of protection, an adjunct
boundary of the human body that can also be taken off. Their making is different, too.
With them, it is no impermeable steel body that needs perforations to form a connection
between an inside and an outside. Here it is single parts, welded together to form a
In her early sculptures, the meaningful practical, material and topical decisions for
Katharina Mörth’s complete works have already been made. In her later works, a basic
idea survives that can be subsumed under the term “boundary”. Not only her steel
objects, but also her wood and stone ones, as well as other media works deal with the
limits of the material, the thin line between resilience and forgeability. Mörth does not
separate between material, form and theme. Whether carved from stone, cut from wood
with a chain saw or welded from steel, the physical realisation is always part of the form.
It’s the result of the limits of the material as well as Mörth’s physical strength. A log is
hollowed out and transformed into a perforated cocoon, barely stable. Solid stone is
turned into a delicate object, a thin border. These large-dimensioned sculptures are the
result of a very specific work situation. Most of them are created outdoors within the
context of symposiums.
Katharina Mörth acquired her wide range of techniques during her training to become a
wood sculptor in Munich as well as during her studies in painting and graphics at the
University of Applied Arts Vienna. While in the beginning, she focused on paintings, she
now uses, among other things, silkscreen and photographic techniques. In these series,
too, the material realisation is an intrinsic part of the idea. Experiments with materials
move along the border of concealment and display. In her series "Menschenhüllen" from 2017, Mörth
applies deep drawing to photography. With this technique, the pictorial surface, a clear
boundary that only allows for an illusionistic depiction of depth, is dissolved through
transparency on the one hand and deforming the surface through modelled small
sculptures and their negative forms on the other. This way, photographic reliefs are
created. Illuminated from the back, they show the viewer that surfaces, boundaries and
separations are only relative. They are something that can never be rigid, but need to be
re-set and re-negotiated, again and again.