Members’ Only – America
Social space – how we sculpt it, utilize it, and interrelate within it – is the subject of artist Beatrix Reinhardt’s work. While conducting a residency in Australia, Reinhardt took an interest in the world of private clubs, sites where social networking occurred. The East Germany-born artist was struck by how common it was for many Australians to embrace these institutions, often belonging to several clubs at once. Within the club environs are physical remnants of events past: trophies, carpet worn in a particular fashion marking the flow of human traffic, stacked metal chairs, team posters. The physicality of such spaces suggests the importance of “togetherness” – social landscapes where commonalities such as values, hobbies, ethnicities, and heritage unite individuals in celebration.
Reinhardt’s project on view takes a new focus: American clubs. Now a resident of the United States, Reinhardt creates medium-format images of club interiors around the country which are devoid of people yet replete with human engagement. Decorative expressions of personality and organization reveal information about the people who interact within these spaces. In some cases, the objects in her landscapes suggest a nostalgic yearning for moments of historical significance.
Private social clubs in the United States are disappearing. The waning of American communal activities where individuals gather together for fun, camaraderie and recreation may best be summarized by “bowling alone”, a phrase popularized in 2000 by Robert Putnam in his namesake book. The decline of this kind of civic engagement likely reflects our increasingly chaotic social structure in which competition for individuals’ leisure time is at an all-time high. While Reinhardt’s work may point to a waning phenomenon, it coincides with the increased popularity of online communities. A relatively new permutation of the social club, online social networks bring forth new norms for civic engagement and are defined by very a different kind of physical space: one that is in large part, virtual.
12 March – 25 April, 2010
Houston Center for Photography for FotoFest 2010
Artist / Photographer