top of page
Anka (1).jpg

Anka Helfertová

like fountains, like flames

13.11.2023 – 27.1.2024

The exhibition has been extended until 24.2.2024


At the core of Anka Helfertová's artistic endeavors lies a profound exploration of a question that resonates deeply into western consciousness: the inquiry into whether matter is inherently passive, drawing inspiration from the insightful perspectives of Jane Bennett[1]. This thought-provoking investigation serves as the guiding thread woven through the artists body of work.


The nuanced exploration of action and vitality in seemingly inert matter becomes the focus of like fountains, like flames, a rich web of different expressions of moving matter that challenges conventional perceptions and invites into a contemplative space where the boundaries between the organic and the inorganic become blurred.

Along the lines of the profound words of Donna Haraway that "animism is the only sensible version of materialism"[2] Anka Helfertová extends this discourse to her artistic practice. Haraway's emphasis on the reciprocal relationships between humans and the natural world, coupled with her questioning of human exceptionalism, is an integral part of the artistic exploration. Building on the foundational ideas of "The Companion Species Manifesto"[3], Helfertová invites viewers to consider a multi-species relationship in which co-operation with non-human beings is not only encouraged but considered essential. This invitation to a collective consciousness becomes a guiding principle in her work, much like compost, in which different elements mix and transform into something greater.


The compositions featured in like fountains, like flames predominantly employ ceramics with various glazes, supplemented by diverse materials thoughtfully selected by the artist, contingent upon the inherent nature of the medium. This body of work undertakes an exploration of various manifestations of dynamic matter. Predominantly inspired by the formidable and timeless image of the geyser—waters emerging with unparalleled power from the Earth's depths—the artist engenders fountains in myriad forms. These fountains encapsulate a spectrum of emotional states, ranging from overwhelming potency to a modest, delicate trickle, thereby crystallizing tangible expressions of nature's vital forces.


The dynamic flow and kinetic movements inherent in Helfertová's sculptural works serve as catalysts, prompting a reevaluation of our comprehension of life and the latent potency residing within supposedly inert matter. Integral to this exploration is the well-established understanding that social bonds are essential for human development, well-being, and survival. Furthermore, the connection humans create with animals and all other living species on Earth is deemed essential to our well-being, echoing Ellen Miles' claim that Nature is a Human Right[4].


like fountains, like flames serves as invitation to an alchemical transformation, offering viewers an opportunity to engage with the intricacies of existence and the multifaceted relationships that define our current understanding of the world.



Curated by Manuela Hillmann


[1] “Why advocate the vitality of matter? Because my hunch is the image of dead or thoroughly instrumentalized matter feeds human hubris and our earth-destroying fantasies of conquest and consumption. It does so by preventing us from detecting (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling) a fuller range of the non-human powers circulating around and within human bodies.”

Jane Bennett: Vibrant matter. p. 9

[2] Donna Harraway: Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. p. 88, p. 165

[3] “(…) what happens when human exceptionalism and the utilitarian individualism of classical political economics become unthinkable in the best sciences across the disciplines and interdisciplines? Seriously unthinkable: not available to think with”. Donna Haraway: The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness. p. 57

[4] Ellen Miles: Nature is a Human Right: Why we’re fighting for green in a grey world.

neringa final.jpg

“To say that nothing is sacred is to say that nothing is supernatural.”[1]


As Laboria Cuboniks and Helen Hester argue in "The Xenofeminist Manifesto: A Politics for Alienation", we have established our position with technologised science, to which nothing is so sacred that it cannot be recreated or transformed. Nothing is so sacred that it is protected from the urge to know, the urge to explore. Consequently, nothing supernatural exists that cannot be transformed in the sense of science. The term 'nature' is representative of the vast playground of science, where everything is present, and everything is possible. 

Neringa Vasiliauskaitė's work explores this aspect of transformation from various aggregate states, time strands and associated emotions and significance. Similar to science, anything is possible within art as a medium of translation of thought into materiality.


The room installation comprises two large-scale works on the wall, changing states (1) and (2), and a textile work on the floor. The two hanging pieces, made of textile printed with a marble and stone pattern on a padded background, doused with silicone and a frame made of carved wood, blur the demarcation and meaning between image and frame, between inside and outside. The frame serves as the narration, the interior surface as its background. The matt surfaces are reminiscent of stone, of skin, or resemble a mirror that does not reflect. All elements of the two works are connected by a chain of different transformative states. A shift in conventions occurs, an inversion of texture that encourages reflection on surface, haptics and the impact of remembered images.

As psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu writes in his theoretical essay “The Skin Ego”, the function of the skin is a living boundary between the inner body and the outer world. He emphasises the importance of haptics, which can evoke memories through touch and sensations via the skin. This is the basis for the concept of the merging of childhood and adulthood through the skin, which functions as a space where early experiences and emotional connections are kept. In Neringa Vasiliauskaitė's spatial installation, the boundary between childhood and adulthood blurs, the boundary between different times through their sensory and emotional stimuli.


The two works on the wall, placed almost opposite each other, open up a field of tension. In between the textile work covers the floor - a carpet bearing a snake chain, a symbolised snake placed on bright yellow sulphur stones. Through its repeated moulting processes, it embodies the state of transformation and is simultaneously fascinating and unsettling. The snake's symbolism runs through all three works featured in the installation. It recurs in the two murals as twining branches of rose bushes and adorns the title of the exhibition as the support of one of the two works: I swear, I was there makes reference to the negotiation of the division between past and present, between the physical, the haptic and the digital. Digital communication has contributed to an altered sense of self, changing the demarcation between the body and the external world. I swear, I was there is a call to explore the fine line between inside and outside and to reflect on the understanding of identity and the relationship to the digital world and to develop a new sensitivity for the meaning of corporeality and memories in an increasingly networked society.


Curated by Manuela Hillmann



[1] The Xenofeminist Manifesto: A Politics for Alienation by Laboria Cuboniks, p. 64

“Instead of this speculative philosophy taught in the school, we may thus discover a practical philosophy whereby we could know the force and action of (…) all the bodies in our environment (…) so as to make ourselves as it were the masters and professors of nature.” 

René Descartes, Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Seeking Truth in the Sciences, 1637 


The philosopher René Descartes pointed out as early as 1637 that instead of the speculative philosophy taught in schools, a practical approach to the study of nature and the interaction of its living beings would be useful. Contradictory to this, humankind has shaped the world in the sense of anthropocentrism under the spread of technological advantages. Trees, cattle, land - everything has been brought under control for the sake of capitalist surplus value, with no regard for the natural system and balance. As a result, the earth is at an ecological tipping point and 500 years after Descartes, humanity is confronted with having to cooperate and coexist with nature in a practical sense.

This way of acting has not only led to an imbalance in ecological systems, but also to a general loneliness of species, which affects humans as well as flora and fauna. Philosophers call this state of isolation and separateness Species Loneliness - a deep, unnamed sadness that comes from alienation from the rest of the world and the loss of relationships.

Philosopher and author of "Braiding Sweetgrass - Indeginous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants", Robin Wall Kimmerer describes the way we humans build relationships not only with each other but also with the living world by giving them names. Similarly, we create a home for ourselves by beginning to build connections with our environment in order to co-exist.


With the title species loneliness, the exhibition focuses on the aspect of the loneliness of living beings through a contemporary form of living and cultivation. In an earlier work from 2017, the artist Claudia Starkloff already worked with a greenhouse to create a space of retreat and isolation from the outside world for herself. Being alone is a form of being that has neither a clearly negative nor a positive connotation. It is a state of being that, through its isolation, can mean meditative calm, but also melancholic loneliness. 

In her current work, the greenhouse becomes a hothouse in which the sunflower becomes a straight-growing, artificial object in a closed system. The plant's solitary presence, outside an intact natural ecosystem that regulates itself, makes it dependent on the artist's care.


Treibhaus III addresses the aspects of solitude in a closed system, in a symbiosis of a living artistic work and a repetitive performance of care.

The greenhouse consists of a basic framework of metal rods, a surrounding sheet of plastic, earth and cobblestones from the surroundings, and an electrical system of light panels and a timer. Sunflowers of different varieties grow in the greenhouse. Due to the artificial light, which goes on and off in a regular rhythm, the plants do not grow as usual according to the movement of the sun, after which they align their flower heads and leaves. Instead, they grow stubbornly, vertically upwards, towards the light from the ceiling. This process alienates them. It turns the otherwise friendly plant into an artificial object that presses its flower head dismissively against the ceiling of the conservatory, which withdraws from the viewer as soon as the plant has reached a certain size.

The closed system of the greenhouse isolates the plant from its natural environment. There is no possibility of entering into a symbiosis with other living beings and integrating into a naturally regulated ecosystem that preserves itself.

This circumstance requires regular care by humans. The artist returns to the exhibition every week for a full day to water and pollinate the plants, weed the soil, repot the deep-rooted sunflowers into deeper pots, sow additional plants, observe possible pest growth and check the cycle of light. The performance picks up on the rhythm of the conservatory by providing the necessary care for the self-contained system in a recurring, constant temporal sequence. Through the cyclical repetition of caring, it becomes a ritual that, in the sense of ecofeminist theories, takes up the female aspect of care and its transfer to nature and the environment.


The immersive artistic work Treibhaus III by Claudia Starkloff reflects on the relationship and interaction of humans with nature. It creates an awareness of the emotional distance to our natural habitat and the consequences that this condition triggers on both sides. In the spirit of Descartes, she invites us to practically explore the artistic work in order to establish new connections and restore an ecology of shared identity.

Curated by Manuela Hillmann

bottom of page