Julie Batteux at Kunstverein Kohlenhof

Artist: Julie Batteux

Exhibition title: Leibeigen

Venue: Kunstverein Kohlenhof, Nuremberg, Germany

Date: December 3 – 30, 2023

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Overgaden, Copenhagen

On attempts to see oneself through one’s own eyes

Being exposed to stigmatization leads to seeing one’s own body more and more through the eyes of others. In the solo exhibition “Leibeigen” (Serf) at Kunstverein Kohlenhof, Julie Batteux presents painterly testimonies of her process of approaching the body again, of making it her own.

We lie in the bathtub – or stand in the shower, look down at ourselves and see our distorted reflection in the drain plug. Julie Batteux’s work complex “Spiegelschatten” (Mirrorshadows), which she has been working on since 2021, puts us in a situation that most of us will be very familiar with. We compare ourselves and are confronted with an image that is projected onto our bodies from the outside. Ideas of norms and self-doubt flit like ghosts through our flow of thoughts in the wet room.

The fact that the artist studied photography as well as painting is evident in her particular working method, which resembles a multi-step (self-) investigation experiment. In all eight of the paintings created for the exhibition, a smartphone is inserted between Batteux’s and our bodies, giving the public access to an intimate situation, as it were: the artist looks at herself through the screen of her smartphone. However, she does not use the selfie function as usual, but instead makes use of a double feedback loop in which the smartphone camera captures the view of the body via a reflection in the room.

Julie Batteux thus demands spatial feedback from her immediate surroundings in order to physically inscribe herself into the polished surfaces of social media: The metallic, reflective knob of the bathtub still has to be operated by hand, analogous to the smartphone’s fingerprint sensor. In a process of translation from photographic selfie to painterly self-portrait, Batteux appropriates the digital space. Floating freely between the folders of her desktop background, or embedded in the limited frame of the smartphone lock screen, she succeeds in distancing herself from the projections on her body in a game of perspectives, proportions and superimpositions. “You cannot see me from where I look at myself”, as photographer Francesca Woodman describes a similar process in her work.

Julie Batteux’s pictures not only allow us to participate in her personal attempts to see herself with her own eyes, but also put up for discussion the mechanisms that shape our viewing habits. The painted bodies that are reflected in the bathroom fittings or appear on the desktop background thus become, beyond Batteux’s self-portraits, our own. (Julia Hainz, 2023)

1 Francesca Woodman, quoted from Marie Röbl, 1999/ www.textezurfotografie.net