Child and Death
Remarks on Petra Sterry’s Art
The body is booming at the moment. It is continually celebrated. It is tattooed and pierced around with; it is subjected to diets and corrected through cosmetic surgery; it is enwrapped most refinedly and bared unambiguously. The body is the experimental field of the mentality that might well characterize postmodernism most fundamentally: the body is charged with theatricality. Appearance is everything, and the unconventional, transgressive and constructivistic is its medium. Celibacy is seen as the ultimate perversion, the sex change as a self-assured gesture of the free will. The body is theatricalized, and thus it is culturized. It is a sign and a carrier of signs, marked by signification down to the smallest pore.
The body is also booming in Petra Sterry’s work. But in contrast to fashion, which pads the body in fitness activities and transgender roles, beauty cults and diverse fads of permanent exchangeability, Petra Sterry’s oeuvre has an eye for inevitability. Fashion wants to make the body itself into a fun house for trends, to demonstrate that the body is mutable and multiple, from the length of the nose to the primary sexual organs: it is not necessarily so, although it used to seem that way. Everything is contingent. And yet in this great pool of assurances that “you can do it because you want it” there are matters against which contingency bounces off. They are dominated by strict necessity. One consists of the absolutely cogent and guaranteed certainty of death. The other becomes reciprocally effective and is grasped in the experience that one embodies necessity oneself. This experience comes to light when one has children.
Petra Sterry’s work is dedicated to the scandal of the unchangeable. That makes her treatment of differentness, and contingency’s assertion of the ever-present possibility that things could just as well be different then they are, so different. The body is at the center of her artistic explorations, and in this respect her work is fashionable. And yet for Petra Sterry the body is not a vehicle for dispositions, but an entity travelling down a fixed track; in this respect her work is old-fashioned. There is, to cite one of her acrobatic uses of >>