The Inescapable Intertwining of All Lives

Installation view “The Inescapable Intertwining of All Lives”, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 2023. Photo: Katja Illner

Keltie Ferris / Ilse Henin / Hayv Kahraman / Gisela McDaniel / Soraya Sharghi / Emma Talbot

The late 1960s were a momentous time of political and social unrest, artistic solidarity, and experimentation in West Germany, often combined with anti-capitalist critique. For Ilse Henin, who was a university student in those years, it was a formative time. In the late 1970s, however, she took a break from art, finding it, like many of her female colleagues, too male-dominated. In the 1980s she returned to her artistic work, deliberately maintaining some distance from the art world. It always seemed necessary to her to create an artistic as well as social counterculture within society and, from the position of an outsider, to continuously develop a work that shows her image of society in a very personal way as well as a psychoanalytical view of different cultural phenomena.

Based on Ilse Henin’s works, a web of connections is traced to the five younger, contemporary artists in the exhibition. Works by Keltie Ferris (b. 1977 in Louisville, Kentucky, United States), Ilse Henin (b. 1944 in Cologne, Germany), Hayv Kahraman (b. 1981 in Baghdad, Iraq), Gisela McDaniel (b. 1995 in Bellevue, Nebraska, United States), Soraya Sharghi (*1988 in Tehran, Iran), and Emma Talbot (*1969 in London, United Kingdom) are united by the interweaving of supposedly traditionally feminine subjects, which they have developed in different directions.

The “feminine” as a subject is brought into a contemporary context. Women are no longer attractive accessories or projections of the male gaze, but the protagonists and bearers of identity in the works. Women, as individuals, in groups, or as part of a family or tribe, stand up for themselves and for everyone they represent. They are strong, self-determined, and aware of their position as heroines of a new narrative of femininity. At the same time, conventional notions of femininity and masculinity are questioned.
Materials and techniques that are often read as “female” or “feminine,” such as fabric, beads, yarn, sewing, embroidery, and collage, are also taken up and placed in a contemporary context. These aesthetics, long derided as handicrafts or decoration, are used loudly and exuberantly with expressive and impulsive colors in a way that is somewhat reminescent of Pop art.

The works by these six artists thus show a processuality that leads the viewer from the 1960s to the present, from painting to drawing to sculpture and installations, from femininity to masculinity to diversity. Above all, however, it is a process of empowerment. In the works themselves as well as in their combination, groups, associations, and processes are formed which, despite their differences, reveal numerous parallels. They show the struggle for justice and self-determination, most recently evident in the feminist revolution in Iran, which artists have long had to pursue and continue to pursue today in a world (and art world) that is still dominated by cis males.

The title of the exhibition_ The Inescapable Intertwining of All Lives_ refers to an interview by The Collective Eye with Judith Butler from KUNSTFORUM International (no. 285) in which Butler emphasizes the necessity of collective coexistence for justice in society. Based on this, society is to be understood as a complex network of diverse actors, not only humans, but also non-human life forms, such as animals, plants, fungi, and organisms. There is a desire for a new collectivity within this society, for the interconnection of an entire ecosystem that influences, conditions, but also protects one another.

The exhibition The Inescapable Intertwining of All Lives is part of a series of investigations into the physical and its significance for being human, which the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf has repeatedly focused on in recent years.

The Exhibition is accompanied by a publication in German and English. The book is available at the Kunsthalle and in our Online Shop.

The exhibition is curated by Gregor Jansen and Alicia Holthausen.


Emma TalbotGhost Calls, 2020Acrylic on silk, 295 × 1385 cm© Emma Talbot, Courtesy Galerie Onrust, AmsterdamPhoto: Katja Illnew

Emma Talbot
Ghost Calls, 2020
Acrylic on silk, 295 × 1385 cm
© Emma Talbot, Courtesy Galerie Onrust, Amsterdam
Photo: Katja Illnew

Emma TalbotWeeping Willow, 2020 Mixed media265 × 202 × 160 cmInstallation view Ghost Calls Exhibition, DCA DundeeCourtesy Galerie Petra Rinck

Emma Talbot
Weeping Willow, 2020
Mixed media
265 × 202 × 160 cm
Installation view Ghost Calls Exhibition, DCA Dundee
Courtesy Galerie Petra Rinck

Installation viewIlse HeninOhne Titel, 2018/2019Oil pastel chalk on paper, 100 × 70 cmCourtesy the artist and KM, BerlinPhoto: Katja Illner

Installation view
Ilse Henin
Ohne Titel, 2018/2019
Oil pastel chalk on paper, 100 × 70 cm
Courtesy the artist and KM, Berlin
Photo: Katja Illner

A drawing by the artist Ilse Henin, showing the profile of a human face

Ilse Henin
Without title (2), 2019
Oil pastel chalk, pen on paper
100 × 70 cm
© KM, Berlin, 2019
Photo: Sebastian Mayer

Installation viewKunsthalle DüsseldorfKeltie FerrisChorus, 2019–2022Oil, powdered pigment and vinyl paint on pape, each ca. 104 × 74 cmCourtesy: Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf & KLEMM’S, BerlinPhoto: Katja Illner

Installation view
Kunsthalle Düsseldorf
Keltie Ferris
Chorus, 2019–2022
Oil, powdered pigment and vinyl paint on pape, each ca. 104 × 74 cm
Courtesy: Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf & KLEMM’S, Berlin
Photo: Katja Illner

Rich coloured image mit dancing nymphs and a girl in the centre crowned with a unicorn

Soraya Sharghi
Rising with the song of nymphs, 2022
acrylic on canvas
60 × 93 in
©Soraya Sharghi Courtesy of the artist & SETAREH

v.l.n.r/from left to rightInstallation viewPhoto: Katja IllnerGisela McDanielPaola’an Míhinilat, 2021Oil on canvas, found object, jewelry from subject-collaborator, resin, sound, 165,1 × 152,4 × 40,6 cmGisela McDanielHaga Haga’, 2020Sound auf USB/Oil on canvas, found object, resin, sound on USB, 106,7 × 136,7 × 14 cm

v.l.n.r/from left to right

Installation view
Photo: Katja Illner

Gisela McDaniel
Paola’an Míhinilat, 2021
Oil on canvas, found object, jewelry from subject-collaborator, resin, sound, 165,1 × 152,4 × 40,6 cm

Gisela McDaniel
Haga Haga’, 2020
Sound auf USB/Oil on canvas, found object, resin, sound on USB, 106,7 × 136,7 × 14 cm

The pink shadowy figure of a human body

Kelti Ferris
I spy, 2022
Oil, powdered pigment and vinyl, paint on paper
41 × 29,5 in
Courtesy Kadel Willborn

Installation view Soraya SharghiPhoto: Katja Illnerleft:Roaring Trumpet, 2020Wood, 200 × 135 × 105 cm Courtesy the artist and SETAREHright:Stream of infinity, 2022Acrylic on canvas, 137,16 × 137,16 cmCourtesy the artist and SETAREH

Installation view
Soraya Sharghi
Photo: Katja Illner

Roaring Trumpet, 2020
Wood, 200 × 135 × 105 cm
Courtesy the artist and SETAREH

Stream of infinity, 2022
Acrylic on canvas, 137,16 × 137,16 cm
Courtesy the artist and SETAREH

Woman laying on a bed surrounded by plant and rich coured blankets

Gisela McDaniel
Tiningo’ si Sirena, 2021
Oil on canvas, found object, jewellery from subject-collaborator, sound
45 × 60 × 5 1/2 in
© Gisela McDaniel
Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London

Hayv KahramanFold, 2020Oil on panel, 190,5 × 114,3 cmPhoto: Katja Illner

Hayv Kahraman
Fold, 2020
Oil on panel, 190,5 × 114,3 cm
Photo: Katja Illner


Performance: Minna Wündrich – Denn dieses Leben ist Teil des Eigenen

How do we deal with connectedness? In our attempts to grasp the controversial world, we deal a lot with beginnings, endings and other supposed oppositions. But what if it's neither stop nor go, but rather: how do we deal with continuing?