8. June 2023

Muthesius in Dialogue with Kokoschka

“The water was much too deep – 1000 Odysseys”

Impressive exhibition about flight and expulsion

1April 15, 2023 – September 03, 2023, Museum of Christian Art Wittenberg, Germany.

The exhibition title resonates with the range of all emotions, joys and sufferings that people go through who flee, who have to make their way to new shores. As a counterpart to Oskar Kokoschka’s “Rast auf der Flucht nach Ägypten” from 1916, i.e. in the middle of the First World War, Muthesius’ series “…das Wasser war viel zu tief. 1000 Odysseen” will be shown, the photographic staging of contemporary testimonies of escape.

The focus of the picture by the expressionist painter and graphic artist Kokoschka is the Holy Family. They must bring their newborn son, the Christ, to safety, threatened by King Herod’s order to kill him. Together they make their way through the desert. The way is perilous. And yet the picture seems peaceful. Almost idyllic, the scene. 1916 in Europe: brutal war, hunger and hardship. A time in which being able to breathe in between contributed to survival. Like this picture Kokoschka.

Rast auf der Flucht nach Ägypten, Oskar Kokoschka,
Rast auf der Flucht nach Ägypten, Oskar Kokoschka, Lithographie, Stiftung CKW

Unlike Kokoschka, Muthesius does not put people in the picture. Muthesius looks for what symbolizes the path of the people: what they wore on their feet. He thinks of the steps they had to overcome. Often in worn flip-flops that hardly protected, nor supported.

To do this, he goes to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, to the African island nation of Cabo Verde. A group of islands with a lively history and a migration of peoples. The sea there tells its own stories. Stories of people who set out into the unknown, who were displaced, had to flee, were homeless.

M-107, Serie “Das Wasser war viel zu tief – 1000 Odysseen”, Winfried Muthesius, Fine Art Print

In close-ups, he directs our gaze to the structures of a sole, to the cut-out of a sneaker with a hole, sometimes clearly recognizable, sometimes alienated because coated with grains of sand or algae. Straps. On details and what remained.

M-164, Serie: Das Wasser war viel zu tief – 1000 Odysseen, Winfried Muthesius, Fine Art Print


M-22, Serie “Das Wasser war viel zu tief -1000 Odysseen”, Winfried Muthesius, Fine Art Print

Winfried Muthesius on his series:

„I am very interested in the fact that the themes of the Bible have a breathtaking topicality. At the lost shoes or flip-flops that I found on the beaches of the Cape Verde Islands are the most simple footwear of poor people. The loss of a shoe usually means that the rest of the way has to be managed barefoot. For me, the washed up flip-flops are a symbol of flight and displacement. Does the work of Oskar Kokoschka express calm and serenity and also a certain confidence, my photographic work is dominated by loss and uncertainty in the foreground.”

M-42, Serie: “Das Wasser war viel zu tief -1000 Odysseen” Winfried Muthesius, Fine Art Print