In Focus: Judith Hopf's Playful Objects

Posted on 18 August 2014 by Liverpool Biennial

Judith Hopf, Untitled, 2013. Photograph by Lois Ruddock.

Judith Hopf, Untitled, 2013. Photograph by Lois Ruddock.

Judith Hopf, a visual artist based in Berlin, is one of 18 artists exhibiting at The Old Blind School for Liverpool Biennial 2014. Hopf's concrete sheep on the ground floor of the building have already attracted a lot of attention from visitors to the exhibition, so we invited Biennial Mediator Lois Ruddock to delve deeper into the themes and ideas behind the artist's work.

Judith Hopf is an artist whose diverse practice combines film, drawing, sculpture and installation. She currently teaches Fine Art at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main as well as presenting her work in galleries, museums, theatres, cinemas and bookshops. There are five pieces of her work in A Needle Walks into a Haystack at The Old Blind School, and in each the artist uses subtle, natural materials to communicate social and political issues.

Judith Hopf, Flock of Sheep, 2014. Photograph by Lois Ruddock.

Flock of Sheep (2014) is positioned in room four on the ground floor of The Old Blind School, where Chris Evans' ring is also on display. The installation consists of a flock of ‘sheep’ sculptures made out of concrete and steel, each having its own unique expression and character. It is interesting to see reactions to this work from the perspective of an invigilator, as visitors pick their favorite sheep and ascribe a personality to them. The faces of the sheep have been drawn loosely in pencil, reminding the viewer of Picasso’s abstract drawings, and encourage consideration about the psyche. Psychologists have identified counting sheep with the process of falling asleep, but Judith Hopf’s Flock of Sheep is grounded and still, with the concrete acting as a metaphor for their lack of ability to jump around inside the imagination of the sleeper.

In the same room, as well as elsewhere throughout the building, Hopf has installed preserved branches cast in bronze protruding from various walls. The Old Blind School is the perfect location for these branches, as they interact with a building previously abandoned for some time, raising questions about age and preservation. The fragile branches are subtly displayed and almost hidden within the space, reminding us to think before replacing this iconic structure with a new one. This may be a direct reference to the plan for The Old Blind School to be regenerated into apartments after the Biennial exhibition. 

Judith Hopf, Untitled (baskets). Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2014. Photograph by Lois Ruddock.

Upstairs, Judith Hopf’s woven baskets and curled ropes climbing up through the floor create a sense of strength and movement in the space. The base of each basket is decorated with a swirling, hypnotic pattern inside, producing the illusion of the objects sinking into the floor or being caught in mid-rise. It is interesting how the rope and wire structures are installed as these are the ‘ends’ of the ropes you see hanging from the ceiling at the Welcome Desk, looking as if they have grown up through the building to the top floor, like a plant from the ground. These objects are playful and interact with the space in a similar way to the bronze-cast branches.

Judith Hopf and Henrik OlesenTüren, 2007. Photograph by Lois Ruddock.

Türen/Doors, a collaboration with Henrik Olesen, is a film with a loose narrative based on clips of doors opening and closing inside a maze-like building. The work is a reconstruction of Luis Buñuel’s surrealistic film Le Fantôme de la liberté (The Phantom of Liberty), 1974. It is interesting that the camera never shows the viewer what or who is behind each door, suggesting that the home is a deeply personal space. This also creates a sense of mystery, echoed in the way the video is installed inside a ‘floating’ cinema which you must climb under a curtain to enter. The tent-like curtain imitates the effect created by Hopf’s Flock of Sheep, as the floating structure creates the illusion of the body of an animal, whilst human legs can be seen peeking out from below.

Judith Hopf’s work is be on display at The Old Blind School until 26 October 2014.