Julius von Bismarck
Das Reh

Wood, fur, winches, controllers, wooden plinth
165 x 108 x 60 cm

Das Reh by Julius von Bismarck is a life-size fawn-modelled sculpture with the skin of a roe deer drawn over its form. A development on the monumental collapsing sculptures of The Elephant in the Room series, first presented in the artist’s solo exhibition at the Berlinische Galerie in 2023, the new work emulates the mechanism of miniature push-puppet animal toys.

Iconicised in mythology and religion as much as it is heralded in Royal emblems and capitalistic brands, the diverse cultural symbolism of the deer across the planet is historically rooted in uniquely positive connotations: rosperous, noble, kind and sturdy, roe deer have especially been depicted in European folklore as symbols of gentleness and adaptability, and often considered as being connected to the sacred.

The deer is a messenger, an animal of power, and a totem representing sensitivity and intuition for the Native peoples of North America. To the Wixáritarie people of central Mexico, the deer is an animal that translates the language of the gods for men. The Celts considered them to be the prime animal in the magical herds of the gods—the king of the forest, the protector of all other creatures. Among the northern Slavs, noble and strong deer were harnessed to the chariot of Perun, the supreme god of thunder, whilst the ancient Greeks firmly inscribed the animal into their mythology as a constant companion of the divine and innocent hunter Artemis. The Christian imagination, consecrated in the legend of Saint Eustace, holds the deer as a symbol of piety, devotion and of god taking care of his children.

From otherworldly beings calling from the kingdom of the fairies to free men from the trappings of the earthly orld to a sacred manifestation through which the voice of god speaks, the fate of the roe deer has always been nextricably linked to that of the forest—critical zones of earth’s carbon cycle. In the realm of contemporary reality, the grand legends of ancient forests have fallen, their diminishment now canonised in the plagues of onocultures, once rich soil eroding into green deserts.

And so, the illusion breaks—the doe-eyed exchange between deer and viewer is disrupted as the figure rhythmically collapses, only to reconfigure itself again, and again, in a continuous choreography that prompts questions surrounding power-/lessness in the context of human domination in the natural world. Das Reh speaks to the core question of Bismarck‘s artistic practice: how the Western European notion of Nature, particularly the conceptual separation of man from his surroundings, through naming, classifying, and creating systems, has gone hand in hand with the control and domination of the environment, with increasingly disastrous consequences.

About Julius von Bismarck

In his works Julius von Bismarck explores people’s ability to perceive, and he uses the laws of physics to challenge the way we are used to seeing things.

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