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The always same setting shapes the series Lights by the artist Sandra Hilleckes.

At first glance, you capture an absurd stage situation with headlight illumination. The viewer would be dazzled if the numerous stage lights aligned in strict rows in the backdrop of the stage were adjusted to full wattage.

In the presented dimmed state, however, they provide a view of an apparent ice surface, which occupies mostly half of the image.

This staging of pictorial space taken on its own is already strange. What kind of place is that supposed to be? Holiday on Ice is canceled because all the protagonists in each of the series' individual works seem to have been liberated from their original contexts and beamed into this strange extraterrestrial space, completely without skates.

The works of Sandra Hilleckes seem confusingly surreal. Surreal not in the sense of Dalí's strange creatures or strange material textures - such as his spider-legged elephants or dissipating clocks - but surreal in a more subtle sense, similar to René Magritte's. Simply achieved by subtle shifts as in Magritte's image Empire of Lights. In the lower half of the picture one looks at a seemingly real nocturnal scene, at first glance nothing unusual. A slight discomfort only creeps in when one becomes aware of the daytime sky, which spans the contemplative nocturnal scene.

Hillecke's human and also animal protagonists obtain the effect of the quiet shift by continuing unimpressed their actions, which they were about to do in their assumed worlds of origin.

For example, the elderly gentleman with cigar who is setting up his folding chair. In which more suitable scenario would you like to accommodate him? In his garden, enjoying a cozy hour at the end of the day, or does he have another chair ready for an unexpected guest at a family celebration?

Even the gentleman with his luggage, his eyes fixed on his mobile phone, seems to find it quite normal to wait for his flight on a theatrically lit ice rink, along with an absurdly guided personal guidance system.

Both mallard and red deer behave according to their nature. For the former, a frozen ice surface is even part of the natural habitat. The fact that this is now turning into stage, seems no cause for excitement for them. Undeterred, she waddles into the foreground, while deer and accompanying deer and fawn are in another picture in search of a suitable place to graze.

One is easily tempted to look for Hillecke's approach to parallels with the Brechtian alienation effect. In her pictures, however, the viewer's illusion is not destroyed by comments or songs, but is stimulated and made visible by the artifice of shifting the context.

Just like Brecht, however, the actual intellectual process begins here.

Hilleckes makes familiar things appear in a new light to the observer and thus makes contradictions visible in reality in order to enable a more critical and conscious perception of what is shown.

Bettina Todorow
Master of Arts - Berlin