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Mathilda, 2006

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Oil on canvas, billboard structure, 365 x 1800 cm


Rosefeldt’s film Mathilda is pure fiction and in more ways than one. The fictitious movie directed by Roman Tic exists solely within the spectator’s imagination through the artists’ creation of its epic billboard.

Like many of Rosefeldt’s works, Mathilda is site-specific. Originally conceived for the Mathilda is calling exhibition at Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, the imaginary film’s characters and landscapes are compiled from the museum’s German Romanticism painting collection. The assembled masterpieces-cum-protagonists are brought to life by the hand-painted labour of a Bollywood film-poster studio in Mumbai: Studio Balkrishn. The resulting collaboration daringly challenges our perception of art history and contemporary culture; it has become the product of a global fusion past and present, East and West, high and low come full circle. More colourful and brighter than before, the metamorphosed characters return home to allure the visitors from their monumental 4 x 18-metre billboard adorning the façade of the Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt. Enigmatic in its placement on the museum’s balcony and paradoxically familiar yet unfamiliar, the giant poster converts the site into a cinematic venue.

The Bollywood Productions’ leading lady is a radiant Mathilde. With flushed cheeks enhancing her already accentuated white dress, Mathilde’s transformation is compellingly more vibrant, surreal and kitsch than the original masterpiece (August Noack, Großherzogin Mathilde, 1857). Mathilda plays with our fantasies, presumptions and the forces of our romantic visions, provoking an amusing discourse on Europe’s cultural history and Hollywood’s dominance. Written in valiant yellow across the top of the poster, the 19th century artists have become billboard-worthy film stars, by virtue of the hand-painted skill they practised themselves. Whilst addressing the meticulous labour of such workforces, Rosefeldt’s outsourcing to India confronts a global transaction ever-present in today’s society. Through an unfamiliar lens, Mathilda offers a perspective on globalisation in which the converging worlds are perhaps not as dissimilar as we first thought.


E. Lapper



Exhibition / Catalogue

Mathilda is calling, Institut Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt, July–October 2006 (curated by Ralf Beil; catalogue)

Other Works / Mathilda, 2006