Katalog anläßlich der Ausstellung
Stadtmuseum Rastatt, 19. 9. – 25. 10. 1998
Bilder 1992 - 1997
Pin-Pointing the Visible (Thomas Hirsch)
Wandering like a nomad from one hotel to the next (Andreas Bee)
On The Ship Pictures (1995-97) (Claudia Scholtz)
Pin-Pointing the Visible (Thomas Hirsch)Gabriele Langendorf studied at the Academy of Design in Basle and at the Städel Academy in
Frankfurt/Main, and developed her own artistic plans and concepts during her time as a student. She
produces her works, mainly paintings, as groups. Some of these are accompanied by smaller series of
pictures; only seldom did she produce individual works. This method itself, and it can hardly be termed
serial, reveals something essential: her persistent investigation; her approach to a motif from various
angles, the ever-renewed exploration of contents and intentions.
Gabriele Langendorf's paintings are figurative if we understand this to mean that the starting point is
visible, and that the subject can be immediately identified. As such, the visible already exists in a
reflected form: as a postcard, brochure, or her own photograph taken after the visual experience, i.e.
with the distance of time, senses and color, beyond factual space and as a cropped section. However,
Langendorf's pictures are far removed from reproduced „truthfulness“, for they insist on painting. They
maintain the certainty of their intermediate nature: the smoothness, the meticulous preciseness which
many of these works aspire to is rapidly neutralized. One way of clarifying and distinguishing this is the
sequence of analogous paintings.
The main work groups created by Gabriele Langendorf are first of all what I would term the „high-rise
façades“, created from 1990 to 1994. The groups culminate in the seemingly ornamental uniformity of
the Collection stands (1994) and closely bound up with all this, the Tourist Hotels (1992-4). Then
comes a group which is perhaps the most disparate of all, namely the Ship Pictures (1995-7),
including the four views of the unruffled sea from a porthole (1996), as well as within the same time
period the Hotel Bedrooms (1993-7). Moreover, the subjects are sometimes taken up again in a
modified form at a later date. One can, therefore, discern an interest in architectural features (in the
form of external façades or room interiors), as well as the change in locations seen in the subject of
travel. Generally, urban space is featured which refers explicitly to people. However, the latter are
nowhere to be seen.
Gabriele Langendorf's painting, as it has evolved as of the second half of the 1980s, stems from the
context of style of painting which implies moods and a seismographic description of surroundings.
However, it would be just as misleading to seek a connection to the pictures by her teacher at the
Städel, Raimer Jochims, who opts for a pure, what might be called fundamental style - as would the
reference to Jochim's colleague Thomas Bayrle, who presents rhythmic, graphic structures, pulsating
streams in metropolises as factual reality (in the above sense).
Even in the merging of topographically identifiable object and sequence Gabriele Langendorf achieves
something with a deeper meaning. The motif very quickly becomes the reason itself; it proves to be of
no significance: it is only via the rhetoric of syntax that its significance, its „typicality“ is upheld.
In a painting of 1991 entitled Landriano, Langendorf vehemently pin-pointed the gap between
photographic suggestion and the reality of the „created“. We see green bands of color close together,
yet striving apart, which impose themselves in front of a several-story orange-ochre colored sober
outer wall: rationality and controlled impulse confront one another. What strikes the eye is the
discomfort in what is stereometically standardized, in the urban structural lack of facets, as is
elaborated in other paintings. And Langendorf's green remains abstracted movement, no plant as
(almost cynically) in other works, but a poisonous dissolver which has the final word. Painting takes
the stage as a method and materialness.
That there are intentions underlying Landendorf's artistic methods becomes particularly apparent in
the paintings produced in the early 1990s. The same facts feature as a constant layering and
adjacency, exclusively presented, in the same size, the same proportions and the same color scheme,
and overall it retains a cropped quality (the vertical borders and the horizon do not fit on the picture). In
an unpublished text Gabriele Langendorf speaks of „a serial motif, i.e. one that can be extended or
replaced in an arbitrary manner“ (Frankfurt/Main, April 1994). She applies the paints using stencils and
a small sponge. Creating the painting proves to be a spiritual exercise, the repetition of what is
eternally the same on these enormous canvases, manifesting itself as conscious action. The size of
the canvasses, which tower over the observer and thus provide further evidence of the real, stands
diametrically opposed to the individual frames, whether they represent rows of windows or balconies
or residential units. Langendorf describes a stereotypy which is to be understood as a comment on the
pragmatism in architecture (e.g. tenement houses, administrative buildings). Within such a context she
raises questions about social authorship; her paintings are an exploration of contemporary life. The
Collection Stands, Living off the Peg (1994): the motives of these pictures - the monotonous lining up
of material patterns, further forces this feeling of discomfort between shimmering diversity and
The same seems true, at present, of the beach views with the extensive skyline of a hotel, a beach
club with a swimming pool in front of it, for the „Eden pictures“ (G. Langendorf, Frankfurt/Main 1993).
Here, the conformity of a styled un-personality is presented. Window-less shoe-boxes piled on top of
one another, a bright blue sky, an ordered tranquillity in the holiday paradise identify the hotel's
location. The glaring, even lighting of the painting and the static evenness of the blue tones are further
features. As a consequence of the „shift in perception“ (Eva Karcher, Art 10/93, p. 71), an atmosphere
of sterile exoticism and sudden coolness.
Gerd Dengler, or in his earlier works, Ben Willikens have transformed such a style into a method; the
motif of the empty exterior which features, for example, in the Pittura metaphysica, is an advanced
example of this, albeit in another context. Langendorf applies various styles here without intent; she
herself would not want to see her paintings as either surreal or critical of civilization; the degree of
constant objectivity should not be underestimated: „If this reality in my works appears absurd or crazy,
that is not my declared intention.“ (G.L. Frankfurt/Main, 1993, p. 8). This comment is based on precise
observation. However, it has been rightly pointed out in reviews that the beach in these paintings rises
up in the form of a female body (as in „Gulliver's Travels“) to tower above the buildings, like a stone
monument, without any kind of liveliness.
In the Ship Pictures, and more still in Hotel Bedrooms, reality is kept at a distance using other means.
The moment of repetition is now applied to the series of pictures. The extended view from the porthole
is repeated in the vanishing point of the hotel room. The observer looks at the scene from a close
position, yet simultaneously as if through a keyhole, like a voyeur whose expectations are not met,
however. The small size of the pictures by no means brings the events closer to us. It tells us
something about the possibility of intimacy of a distant situation. The characteristic style, the tonality
change from subject to subject. Moreover, within the overall procedure, the change of style is
experienced as the appropriate one in each case. Gabrielle Langendorf ideally shows the 54 Hotel
Bedrooms on a wall, like rooms that are (what an intriguing concept!) located behind the self same
house front. These are different views and insights of the self same subject, which in their entirety,
appear as a kaleidoscope, something global, a panopticum, but are more diachronic than synchronic.
The hotel rooms are deserted, no impressions of a body left on the bed. The latter is made according
to hotel rules, but not without style, the karate chop in the pillow speaks of experience. Preferably no
daylight, no open window. The furnishings reveal - if at all - little about the potential guests; one can,
though, surmise the room's dimensions.
On the other hand, Langendorf lends the scenery the sense of an aura thanks to the use of color and
this is further heightened by the furnishings (curtains, wallpaper, carpet, pattern of the bedspread, kind
of bed, the way they are all arranged and their position to the window, then single or double bed).
Gabriele Langendorf plays with various situations. She creates narrative chains of association which,
in the final instance, remain open-ended.
At the same time she recites the history of (contemporary) painting, alternating between
Impressionism, Pointillism and the modification of realism, though this should not be grasped as
demonstrative borrowing or as advancing things analytically. Her painting is self-reflective, but never
an end in itself. The apparent stylistic relativity (which is only to be seen in part in the group of Ship
Pictures) in effect refers only to the systematic encircling of views and a rigorous penetration of motifs.
At any rate, one could not speak here of a visible iconoclasm.
"Langendorf is heel dubbel over 'reizen': als klein meisje lange de rivier wilde ze graag weg en ook
vanuit Frankfurt lokt de reis.“ (Guus Vreeburg, lecture Rotterdam, Oct. 1997). The Ship Pictures which
Gabrielle Langendorf can be said to have created as a kind of diary on longer ship journeys oscillate
between autobiography, narrative laconism and descriptions of a mood at the time. The fact that
working on a ship did not allow the production of larger pictures is just one consideration. The small
format which captures memories in the form of a photo album serves to emphasize the tension
created by exceptional confined quarters and great expanse, as if one were looking over the painter's
shoulder. Is this an objective description or a subjective recording? The window motif - and the
perspective way our gaze is directed - as a topos of art history is also present in this work group, even
though the interior and the frame itself are not shown. Above all, the first of these pictures, dating from
1995, display a picturesque use of detail, the bright strips of color on the ships, the gables of manor
houses that Langendorf recorded in the Netherlands. A central feature is the look towards the water:
the way an object, a landscape even is shown on the water's surface, which subject to lively
movements may rise and fall; the way colors are transformed into gray or blue and proportions are
distorted to abstraction, or, on the contrary remain crystal clear. Sometimes the original and reflection
melt into one, when say a ship's stern cuts into the water. One should also mention the play of light
and the blue of the sky in relation to the blue of the water.
Yet there are also paintings in which a silence is articulated that is beyond our conception of time. The
gray-white stone monuments reminiscent of Magritte which are already hinted at in the sandy
elevations in Beach Hotels, and are hinted at later in the series of monochrome pictures Rooms with
mountain views (1994), may only be present in some of the Ship Pictures, but are all the more
effective because of this. Psychological states, the visualization of feelings are evoked by these
paintings. In the case of Hotel Bedrooms one might ask oneself which of the rooms one would most
like to stay in ... For all that, the masterly implementation which contains sensuous moments, and for
this reason alone extends beyond a concept or meta-style of painting, need not be further
Gabriele Langendorf prefers formats which explore the extraordinary, either enormous (thereby
exceeding man's size), or extremely small. The observer has a remarkable dual relation to her
paintings: On the one hand the subjects are familiar to him, on the other they are removed from their
normal context, and often only given as a section.
The eyes searching the lines and squares of the high-rise and hotel façades have no orientation. The
concept of enjoyment, of relaxation within standardized categories is taken to the absurd. Yet in
contrast to this existential pressure which can be created by such pictures, the colors or the
luminescent coloring have a lightening effect. The intensity of such considerations is articulated via the
creative order; this by no means excludes the autonomy and unique nature of individual pictures.
Amsterdam, January 1998
Thomas Hirsch is Curator of the Herbert-Weisenburger-Foundation, Rastatt.
Wandering like a nomad from one hotel to the next (Andreas Bee)54 hotel rooms, painted using all the means art offers. 54 places of solitude, anonymity, secret
enjoyment. 54 pictures from a form of no-man's-land given painterly life. 54 double beds that act as if
they were untouched, without a past. 54 rooms in which each day anew the traces of its use have to
be elided. Yet all these seemingly fresh, clean places were filled with life in many ways, with trivial and
notable occurrences, were full of boredom or tense expectations. In them, people have been loved,
have suffered, have laughed and cried. In them, some, unable to sleep, have wished for the morning
that took so long to come; others perhaps cursed the brevity of night. All these hotel rooms resemble
writing slates that have been used countless times. Each new day wipes away the episodes of the day
before and writes over them without completely erasing what has happened. Not even the
chambermaid who is responsible for ensuring the staged innocence of the room, is able to report
anything reliable. And yet a room's past is always part of its present.
What prompts a painter to spend over four years enjoyably painting this subject over and over again?
Why does she not paint portraits of people whom she has met?
Initially, Langendorf's views of hotel bedrooms seem to be a declaration of love for being on the road,
for inconstancy in life, for a state of being in which material ownership has no long-term prospects,
because everything threatens to place a drag on life. In order to be able to enjoy travel you have to
subject yourself to its laws and be as open and unprejudiced as possible toward the world. Only by
exposing yourself with amazement and wonder to what is strange, only by giving yourself over to it, do
you have a good chance of seeing things in a new light. The basic precondition of travel is to maintain
freedom and lightness. And these pictures tell of this, too.
A hotel room is to you permanent residence what a flirt is to a marriage. Even when entering a strange
room, as a rule you know that it is not for long, that you will soon move on, perhaps as early as
tomorrow. In a hotel room there is nothing to which you relate personally. There is also no point in
collecting books or mementos. Indeed, it would be completely meaningless and would obstruct
mobility were one to give in here to the wish to cast anchor.
Like all passionate travelers, Gabriele Langendorf enjoys the feeling of being foreign at an unknown
place. You know no one, you are an unknown among other unknown persons, you may even not
understand much of the language and yet, thanks to a hotel room, you do not feel lost. Foreignness
and safeness create a tension that stimulates the body and mind.
But, or so one could go on, why does Langendorf not let what she has seen and experienced be, why
does she try to instill the transient with permanence? The pictures show the answer: Because she is a
painter with all her body and soul, because she has to charge what she has seen and experienced
using painterly means, because she wishes to see it and show it as a picture. For this reason, she
combines the joy of seeing with the joy of creating. The hotel rooms truly cry out to be transformed
artistically, are the stimulus and the goal, the vehicle and the quotation.
Traveling includes the different notions of travel imparted to us by the media. Langendorf takes the
motifs for her pictures partly from brochures and travel catalogs, or photographs the inhabited rooms
themselves. In her paintings, she mixes all this up with experiences she remembers. But why does
she only make photos of a few rooms? Why does she only choose specific brochures only to later use
them as sketches or to support her memories? Why does she ignore certain other rooms? Because by
no means all rooms are highly exciting and have leave an enduring impression. Because only a few of
them possess that almost inexplicable aura which cries out to be banished, something which provokes
a reaction, a specific style of painting - one in which the atmospheric character of the place is
intensified. Just as there are people who inexplicably have a strong effect on others, so, too, there are
rooms which curiously attract our focused attention and reflect it. Only in such rooms can a creative
link arise between viewer and viewed.
I am thinking too animistically? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. There can be no doubting the special
position which hotel rooms have as regards domiciles. There would even be some justification for
claiming: „Hotel rooms are the whores of housing.“ For, as with love that you buy, here no one has the
illusion of permanence. Here, too, everything is a question of price and personal preferences.
Perhaps, for reasons of harmony, Venice should be experienced in a three-star hotel. Rooms in this
category perhaps best fit what that city today represents. If one stays in more expensive rooms, things
get comfortable and international norms tend to preclude there being any surprises; contact to the flow
of life here gets lost, because four-stars upwards ensure that the traveler is no longer surprised by
Anyone who is on the road a lot knows that the quality of life in a hotel room by no means depends on
the absurdly patterned wallpaper or the kitsch-like art prints on the walls. On the contrary, experience
shows that precisely aesthetic qualities that cannot be countenanced in the private domain and may
even be felt to be visual terrorization, can be stimulating in a rented room. The very moment when we,
glancing at the irritating interior, cannot conceive how the hotel owner sees his average guests, what a
picture of them he has, our imagination is set in motion. And, in an awfully decorated hotel bedroom
we find ourselves asking whether we are really so unlike the other guests, and this sets us thinking.
Seen thus, any viewing of a new temporary haven is exciting and not infrequently has an erotic quality.
Are you entering a place for the night or a place for love?
Much is possible in hotels that would not be possible at home. On entering a hotel room you not only
leave the familiar terrain of your home without really becoming homeless, but also jettison part of the
ballast of everyday life and a fixed abode. The reduction to the bare necessities is also the basis for
the lightness which liberates us and enables us to recover and relax. „No phone, no visitors, no bad
conscience, that some one will come asking for unfinished work you had promised. Actually, rarely are
you so sure that you cannot be disturbed. And this feeling is absolutely independent of the form and
style of the background scenario.“ In a curiously stable borderline zone between claimed image and
reality, the impersonal nature of the hotel room is both appealing and repulsive.
Gabriele Langendorf's pictures show the bed as the heart of the room. The few other items of furniture
are inevitably grouped around it. Much depends on the quality of the bed. Its size and position are
important. Narrow and short beds are awful. Just as are foot-boards that prevent you from stretching
out. Beds with one side to wall at best bring childhood memories flooding back or at worst remind you
Langendorf states that it is the rooms themselves which direct her, the painter, to create a particular
layer of color or choose a specific type of brushstroke. Just as the 54 rooms are very different, so, too,
the method of painting used varies enormously. It transports the uniqueness of each room just as
strongly as the depiction of the real. Each room, to the extent that it deserves attention, has something
special about it.
We encounter rooms that are purely functional in layout, that appear cold or even sterile, without any
decorative bits and pieces, without anything to ornament the walls, lit softly, in a restrained, highly
consensus-oriented blue-gray, utterly and completely composed with the lowest common denominator
in mind, approximated to the notions all potential guests have of design.
The glory of other rooms has fast faded, they have aged quickly - although a longer time ago they
were once courageously fashionable compared with the majority of interiors. Large bright orange-and-
brown patterns on the bedspread, for instance, attest to a long forgotten new mood. What was once
avant-garde is now completely irrelevant and at best exudes a sense of nostalgia.
Then there are rooms in which everything is more or less color coordinated, with flowery wallpaper in
tones that are counterpointed by the likewise ornamented carpet; indeed, here even the net curtains
and the main curtains in imitation velours take up the underlying floral theme and vary it. In other
rooms again, nothing seems to fit with anything else; here Laura Ashley and Philipp Starck could have
both been influential at once. Not infrequently, here the classically elegant imitation furniture in a
particular style goes hand in hand with a playful farmhouse style, and is garnished with post-modern
Some rooms look as if they were not in fact hotel bedrooms, but part of a flat that has been adapted to
become a pension and is only reserved for strangers for a moment, for a season. Or they seem to
have originated in West Coast motels because they seem to be part of a larger complex in which
careful attention is paid to making sure no guest might be embarrassed by having to enter into contact
with the other guests. In this way, living units arise, without any service - in which each guest is
completely left to his or her own devices to define the stay independent of the hustle or bustle
otherwise. In such rooms, you are not a guest, but a tenant. One can easily imagine Nabokov's
Humbert Humbert and his child-like nymph in one of these rooms, untrammeled by convention.
Moreover, there are rooms with colors and shapes that encourage the guest to be peaceful; there are
others, with their large beds, almost playgrounds, which attract the lovers and stimulate amorous
unification. And there are beds in which only a monastic and chaste sleeper would find peace; rooms
which tolerate no alcohol and at best allow a glass of water on the bedside table, in which any vestige
of ecstasy is nipped in the bud by the furnishings and which seem so soberly designed that you could
be forgiven imagining they were carefully shaped to only receive Protestant purists. Some rooms, by
contrast, tend towards Baroque ornamentation, others seem to endeavor to maintain the conventions
of a world that has long since disappeared by invoking traditional forms. Others seem to be tricky, to
have more than one side to them, seem to wait precisely for a sarcastically inclined cartoonist or
writer. Yet again there are others than appeal to joss-stick-loving advocates of esotericism and other-
There are also rooms with absurd furnishings, worthy of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, in which, for
example, the only illumination in the windowless room is a standard lamp at the end (!) of the double-
Among the painted rooms, there are also rooms which have been decorated with art prints from
museums. For example, Van Gogh's sunflowers are presented on wallpaper with a pattern of yellow
and blue blossoms. In light of such arrangements, there would seem to be cause for the suspicion that
somebody deliberately wanted to wreak revenge on the highlights of bourgeois art history when
designing this interior. In reality, however, it is more probable that personal initiative and convention
have jelled to a thick mass of form and color, with the best of intentions and little reflection whatsoever:
the resulting combination can all too easily send a shudder down your spine.
Langendorf shows us rooms which convey the impression that they have taken the stage cynically in
order to salvage for adults the notion of a room during our youth or even the smell of youth hostel
rooms. Others act as if they were of genteel descent, as if mainly French were spoken in them. They
fit best to room service which goes beyond the usual and includes physical contact. Then we see
rooms in which people at best speak a North German dialect, with those notorious pillows positioned
to have two ears, exuding Prussian virtues and a strict sense of order. There are, furthermore, rooms
in which you are encouraged to gaze with a Romantic moisture in your eyes into a dreamy aristocratic
fairytale world or in which you could at least be inclined to feel that there is a great distance between
yourself and the common people. Certain rooms seem to have a mirror running through them, as each
object exists twice. In others, everything has been geared to the middle of the room as if the goal was
to pinpoint a center of energy.
Rooms in fading evening light call to mind the origin of the word hotel, derived from hostel, from
hospital. Some suggest that we will be greeted by a strict „patron“ or a fierce lady at reception and
seem to smell of Fresh-Air spray or disinfectants.
In many rooms one can well imagine overnighting and dreaming sweetly. Others one would like to find
out more about. For example, Room 16. What can we conclude from this impulsive style of painting?
What prompted such a leisurely painterly approach? Even in reproduction the colors still seem moist
and bold, seem to convey their unique smell, intimate a haptic quality.
One of my favorites is Room 49. The bed evidently possesses „king-size“ qualities, which is to be
welcomed. Today, it is truly a luxury to have space to spread yourself out. And even more impressive
than the size is the brown zigzag pattern of the fabric used for the counterpane, the curtain and the
lamp shades. It brings to mind highly experimental fashions in the 1970s and folklore shapes from
exotic places. This pattern unites in a wonderful way in the painting with the structure of the palm
leaves to be seen outside the window. Together with the interior luminaires and the blue-green light of
dust, which comes in through the wall-high window, this creates an especially exciting, strangely
compelling ambience which the viewer would gladly enjoy.
Gabriele Langendorf's series of hotel rooms appeals to those restless souls who have no fixed abode
just as it does those who love the interplay of colors and shapes. The 54 pictures of bedrooms tell the
story of a feeling of being on the road, of a longing for the remote, of a lack of roots, of exposure, of
safety, of freedom and of lightness. Her virtuoso use of the brush enables her to create sensations that
are as silent as they are striking. What she shows is contradictory and productive in a way Joseph
Roth once put most poignantly. His description of bidding farewell to the seductive impersonal
atmosphere of a hotel room ends with the statement: „I am a stranger in this town. That is why I felt so
much at home.“ By showing some things clearly and only intimating others, by switching skillfully and
swiftly between narrative and painterly elements, between a conceptual and a free approach,
Langendorf kindles interaction between reality and the imagination in which both aesthetic and also
subtly through to subversive arguments are brought to bear. The constant friction between the
differently charged poles, attraction and repulsion, create an exciting setting which stimulates the eye
and is, moreover, highly enjoyable to behold.
Andreas Bee is Curator of the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt/M.
„The room was simple and poor, hidden away above the awful taverns. From the window you could
see the alleyway: dirty and narrow. The voices of a few workers drifted upwards: they were playing
cards and having fun. And there, in the plain and simple bed, the body of love became mine, the
lustful rosy lips of intoxication were mine, rosy and so intoxicated, that now, many years later, while
writing this down in my solitary house I become intoxicated anew.“
„What does it mean to inhabit a room? Does living in a particular place mean to appropriate it? What
does it mean to appropriate a place? As of when is a place really yours? Has it happened if you put
three pairs of socks to soak in a pink plastic bowl? Has it happened if you heat up the spaghetti over a
gas stove? Has it happened if you have used up all the individual clothes hangers in the wardrobe and
laundry cabinet? Has it happened if you have thumbtacked an old postcard of the dream of St. Ursula
of Carapaccio to the wall? Has it happened if there you have felt the fear of waiting or the effusion of
passion or the torture of pulsating toothache?“
„The counterpane was not new, the carpet was not new, the light was not new, the colors were not
new. But this room, which an American would not have found beautiful, radiated in a mysteriuous way.
I could not establish how. I lay down on the bed for a few moments and looked up at the candelabra. I
felt quite clearly that this room was not empty in the way most rooms in American hotels seem to be
new and empty, as if no one ever lives in them, flawlessly new and virginal. In American hotel rooms
you find no traces of other hotel guests. Here, by contrast, the soft, tender yellow wallpaper, the
slightly faded carpet, the heavy velvet portiere, the phone and the phone bell exuded life, the life of
many people. I felt as if I had taken some drug. The room was filled with erotic tension and past
guests. Names came to my lips: Nijinsky, Diaghilev, Madame Dubarry, Ninon de Lenclos, Marcel
Proust, Jean Giraudoux, Colette. Lovers, aristocrats, generals, men of the world, whoever they may
have been, they had lived. Words had been exchanged, impressive, clear, animated, emotions had
been shown, gestures made, people had loved with esprit and imagination, wine had been drunk,
dreams had cradled sleepers, and the warmth was one of bodies and delicious soupés. This room was
flooded by life in Paris like some refined state of intoxication; no steam heating, electrical appliances
or anything for that matter other than human beings who had lived so richly that the past could not
escape. They stayed clinging like the scent of perfume to the rooms in which they had lived and loved,
felt joy and left their physical, passionate traces.“
„A night of love in a hotel room - oh, what tones I wold need to describe your magnetic attraction.“
„I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/ you were talking so brave and so sweet./ Giving me head
on the unmade bed,/ while the limousines was waiting in the street.“
„New York City is the hottest city if you have a new boyfriend and a hotel room.“
„He entered. He entered and before looking round, he first of all bent covertly and turned the key
round twice in the lock. Then he saw the black stocking with its elastic band beneath the washstand.
Then he saw the opened suitcase in the first stages of disorder and a towel with a waffle-shaped
weave half-pulled out. Then he saw the dress and the underwear, the belt and the other stocking all
heaped up on the armchair. Only then did he turn to the isle of the bed.“
Vladimir Nabokov, Der Zauberer
„In hotel rooms, cold sits like an old man with one eye - and he has an eye on my skin.“
„Oh how good, how awfully well, how horribly profoundly we know these quiet rooms, these sites of
our most tormented suffering, our most painful defeats, our most secret shame! How falsely and
deceitfully, how demonically this friendly furniture, this well-meant carpets and happy wallpaper looks
at us! (...) How painfully and devotedly we stare at the whitewashed ceiling, which the moment we
view it grins in silent emptiness, only to drone in the evening and morning with the steps of those who
live upstairs. Oh, and not only the steps, they are the well-known and therefore not the worst enemies!
No, in the moment of disaster across this harmless white surface roll unexpected sounds and
vibrations just as they emanate behind the thin door and wall - boots tugged off feet, walking sticks
thrown to the ground, heavy rhythmic shudders (pointing to gymnastic exercises), chairs that have
fallen over, a book or glass that falls of the bedside table, suitcases and pieces of furniture being
shifted. Then human voices, the conversations and monologs, the coughs, the laughter, the snores!
And moreover, worse than all this, the unknown, inexplicable sounds, all those strange, ghostly noises
which we cannot put a finger to, the origin and probable duration of which we cannot anticipate, those
knocking and burrowing ghosts, all that popping, ticking, whispering, blowing, sucking, rustling,
sighing, squeaking, picking, boiling - God alone knows, what rich and invisible orchestra can be
concealed in the few square meters of a hotel room!“
„It was then that began our extensive travels all over the States. To any other type of tourist
accommodation I soon grew to prefer the Functional Motel - clean, neat, safe nooks, ideal places for
sleep, argument, reconciliation, insatiable illicit love.“
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
„Budapest: grand hotel, marble, brass, tasteless, Western luxury in Eastern poverty, TV with Japanese
buffet breakfast with caviar and champagne, - dreamt badly.
Dublin: small hotel, tiny room, lousy bath, pleasant owner, the lobby smells of whiskey, the breakfast
room of frying fat,
catastrophic bed - slept superbly.
Rome: Renault estate, no bath, no shower, the best mattress, small Piazza, view of the barber's shop,
breakfast in the bar,
just fallen in love, - slept again and again.“
„128. Avoid hotels of ill repute. You will ALWAYS be seen there.
130. It is unimportant what image of yourself you project in a hotel. Hotel staff have seen it all and
have been utterly mistaken. Large tips create more prestige than a crown stitched onto your
handkerchief. (take more than one small suitcase; no large ones.)
131. If, in a hotel where you are not known, you are given a small room overlooking the backyard, then
everything is the way it should be. If you are given a large elegant room facing the front, then you have
been mistaken for someone else or they are wanting to keep an eye on you.
144. If possible, reject hotel rooms with locked connecting doors. At best, the noises will stop you from
sleeping. At worst they are watching you or installing a microphone.“
„The clatter of the eleveator's gate - some twenty yards northeast of my head but as clearly perceived
as if it were inside my left temple - alternated with the banging and booming of the machine's various
evolutions and lasted well beyond midnight. Every now and then, immediately east of my left ear
(always assuming I lay on my back, not daring to direct my viler side toward the nebulous haunch of
my bed-mate), the corridor would brim with cheerful, resonant and inept exclamations ending in a
volley of good-nights. When that stopped, a toilet immediately north of my cerebellum took over. It was
a manly, energetic, deep-throated toilet, and it was used many times. Its gurgle and gush and long
afterflow shook the wall behind me. Then someone in a southern direction was extravagantly sick,
almost coughing out his life with his liquor, and his toilet descended like a veritable Niagara,
immediately beyond our bathroom. And when finally all the waterfalls had stopped, and the enchanted
hunters were sound asleep, the avenue under the window of my insomnia, to the west of my wake - a
staid, eminently residential, dignified alley of huge trees - degenerated into the despicable haunt of
gigantic trucks roaring through the wet and windy night.“
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
„That will be the longest day of all. Thankfully, in this room there is nothing, not one thing, which the
eye might alight on with pain! No old sugar bowl, no desk that belonged to your uncle, no portrait of
your mother's father, no wash basin with little flowers in vermilion and a crack between them, no
floorboards that creak as if they were home and which you suddenly start to love, only because you
are on the road, no smell of roast beef from the kitchen and no superb brass mortar on the wardrobe
in the hallway! - Nothing! When my suitcases are gone others will stand here. When my soap is
packed, another bar will lie by the washbasin. When I am no longer standing at this window, another
person will be standing here. This room has no illusions as regards you, me, or anyone else. When I
leave it and cast a glance over things, it is no longer my room. The day is long, for there is no
nostalgia to cram it full.“
Joseph Roth, Abschied vom Hotel (1930), from: „Werke,“ vol. 3. „Das journalistische Werk 1929-
1939,“ Cologne 1991, quoted from Eckhard Gruber (ed.), „Fünfuhr-Tee im Adlon“, (Berlin, 1994), pp.
„At long last, at long last the lights iin the hot black emptiness started to grow and to burst, immediately
a hotel was chosen and the tortuous trip there paid, and this part was over. (...)
'Here we are,' he said, after the old man had lugged in their suitcases and left, and all that remained in
the room was the beat of his heart and the distant pulse of the night. 'Well, then, time to go to bed.“
He reached the foot of the stairs at a run, and then realized that he had not taken note of the room
number, and he hesitantly stopped and spat out his dog-end ... The impatience of his feelings stopped
him from going down again and asking, and it was unnecessary any how - he remembered the way
the doors were positioned along the corridor. He found the right door, licked his lips, grabbed the door
knob and was just about to...
The door was bolted and he felt an awful pain in the pit of his stomach. If she had locked herself in
then this meant she wanted to lock him out, she had become suspicious... Perhaps he should not
have kissed her that way... Must have given her a scare, or perhaps she had noticed something... Or
there was some even more stupid and simple reason: she had naively concluded that he had gone to
bed in another room, she had not even remotely imagined sleeping in the same room as a stranger -
yes, a stranger, still. And he knocked, hardly aware yet of the intensity of his disquiet and his agitation.
He heard a sudden female laugh, the repulsive sigh of the bedsprings and then naked feet being
dragged across the floor. 'Who's there?' an annoyed male voice asked... 'Wrong room, huh? Next time
choose the right one. Someone here is hard at work, someone here is trying to teach a young person
a lesson and you are interrupting...' Renewed laughter welled up in the background. Nothing more
than a vulgar error. He went on down the corridor - and suddenly realized he was on the wrong floor.
Vladimir Nabokov, „Der Zauberer“
The quotes from Konstantin Kavafis and Uwe Fischer are taken from the exhibition catalog: Volker
Albus/Klaus Klemp (eds.), „Lieber Gast - Zum Stand der Heimat auf Zeit“, (Frankfurt/Main, Leipzig,
Zürich and Rotterdam, Edition Axel Menges, Stuttgart/London, 1996), pages 20, 28.
The quotes from Georges Perec (p. 137), Anaïs Nin (p. 93 ff), Klaus Mann (cover), Max Dauthendey
(p. 3), and Hermann Hesse (p. 20 ff) are to be found in Lis Künzli (ed.), „Hotels - Ein literarischer
Führer,“ (Frankfurt/Main, 1996).
Leonhard Cohen wrote „Chelsea Hotel“ in 1974 for Janis Joplin, Nina Hagen published „New York“
Vladimir Nabokov is quoted from „Der Zauberer,“ (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1990), p. 72 ff and „Lolita“,
(Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1996), pages 233 and 211.
On The Ship Pictures (1995-97) (Claudia Scholtz)Pictures from other places are a fixed item in Langendorf's oeuvre. There are hotel pictures - individual
paintings as well as series of paintings (with balconies and sun-shades, with geraniums and other
balcony plants, with and without a pool). I am aware of these hotel rooms. The most recent works are
panoramic photographs which show what she sees when she revolves around her own axis at various
locations. And we can place the „Ship pictures“ somewhere in-between.
Even a brief listing of her works indicates a lot of movement. One could be forgiven thinking that she is
constantly on the road, searching for motifs. Yet, in fact, she spends most of her time in her studio.
She takes her ideas for pictures from travel brochures, postcards, her own photographs, and
memories of experiences. Not a great deal of being on the road: She views her work as a necessity,
and the place to create it is her studio. One can say that Langendorf the person unites the opposing
moments of creating a picture of distant places and remaining in one place. Both together define
On a day in December almost three years ago, Gabriele Langendorf sat waiting for news. She had
applied for a travel grant. On this same day, I sit full of excitement in my office some 40 kilometers
away; the jury made its choice several days ago and I am excited at the prospect of informing the
lucky candidate. To tell the truth, being in the happy position of telling someone they have won a grant
for 12-months' travel is somehow a projection of my own wanderlust.
And so the long journey begins. Langendorf will not travel by plane, not by car or train nor on foot: her
chosen average speed will be 10 km/h; the means of transport, the gaff cutter owned by her partner.
The „Marie France“ is an experienced lady somewhat advanced in years who first saw the light of day
in the 1940s in Brittany. The conditions for the planned undertaking: 12 months on a Bretonese gaff
cutter at a speed which can transform travel time into the never-ending.
As a skilled mariner, Christian is in charge of things: jointly they will settle all plans, negotiating locks,
fuelling, harbor regulations, provisions, sleeping arrangements and all the other aspects of their life (on
board). The two of them for twelve months, during all times of the day, irrespective of season, in a
confined space, on European waters, rivers, lakes, sea, canals - interrupted by spells on land.
Some forty pictures of varying sizes arose on this journey, and Langendorf calls them Ship pictures
and not travel pictures. She paints what she has seen: upstream and downstream, on the shores, in
harbors, at mooring places, in locks, in a dock.
There are few pictures for which Langendorf put up her easel on the spot. On the bridge, or below
deck she makes sketches, plans, photographs which serve as models for her later paintings. (One
photograph shows her inside the cutter with a box of water colors, bent over a piece of paper.) They
serve as guidance for her later second journey in the studio, and as a means of orientation within this
Perspectives shift when seen from the water: Dry land with a protected and non-protected shoreline,
with built-up banks, quays, harbors, lock walls. Walking, flying, driving all appear different seen from
the water. And what is it like to arrive in Paris via the Seine (rather than by airport or highway?) How
do I experience a city when I arrive in it via its river? Travel means movement on an inner and outer
level, bodies moved through the co-ordinates of space and time, guided by desire. Departing, being on
the road, and arriving are the phases of a journey. Travel can resemble a pre-natal state, a kind of
being borne, as in the womb; this is all the more true of travelling by ship. The ship becomes home,
the point of reference; it is the only constant thing in terms of location, yet paradoxically it is constantly
on the move.
Within this naturally given movement there are specific moments during which you steer for harbors,
locks, moorings. There is the gentle rocking movement, letting oneself be propelled, which can
become dangerous, when a large cargo ship passes by or thunder and storms are imminent. At such
times, the temporary idyll is transformed into an encounter with nature's forces; a pleasant experience
shifts to something existentialist: What can I do in my flimsy boat to combat the evil weather spirits?
Locations and times
Peering out at the sea through a porthole: the light, the subdued tone of the horizon allow us to draw
conclusions about whether it is morning or evening. This and the question of rough or calm waters act
as log-book entries on the position and state of the weather. Consequently, these pictures are entitled:
„46° 48' N 04° 50 W“; „43° 04' N 08° 09' E“; „38° 26' N 10°
32' E“ and „41° 02' N 02° 35' E“ (all 1996).
Often it is impossible to give an approximate definition of either the time of day or the time of year.
Some pictures have a gray, indefinable quality; one cannot pinpoint hour, location or season: Axe de
chenal, 1996; Rhone km 241, 1996. What we see is time dripping slowly, routine boat life, travel
madness, ennui and yet everything remains in constant flux: all the views towards this or that bank
(Recreatiebebied Molenkanaal, 1995), which experiences little change in its structure, the bow or stern
of passing ships (Zuid Willemsvaart, 1995), wind rustling grass and trees. The sadness of a day
whose possibly most lively event was the passage of the large heron over the „Marie France“, when it
encountered a working ship (Bateaux travail au canal du silence, 1996). Zwarte Water 1995, and
Markante Boom, 1997 show the alternatives to movement: the caravan, mobile home for snail
dwellers, half hidden by undergrowth, is testimony to the happiness of those who can (or want) to only
take things foreign in moderate doses. Or the vapor trails in the sky (Grote Sluis am Vliegfeld, 1996),
barely visible traces of paths that have crossed: Traveling by plane involves a departure and an
arrival, but the space in-between is typically devoid of any quality of experience.
Backboard/Petrolport, 1996: The gaze are directed downstream and follow the course taken, into the
broad horizon with the setting sun, which bathes everything including the Peniche just passed in a
golden light - it towers above this enormous vehicle. Light as a color creates dramatic shadows on
Ketelsbüttel (1996), the mood is thundery, an unnerving calm before the storm. Even the sight from
the water is changed. A whole series of pictures deals with reflections. They alone lead us to conclude
that Langendorf and her companion had anchored somewhere, arrival pictures. She studied in depth
how the appearance of ships, bank structures and harbor buildings reflects in the water's surface, and
is refracted by the waves. When light means color, and water can only be made visible through light
(i.e. color), how do water surface and reflection react to one another? To what extent can a picture be
reflected intact on the water's surface? To what extent can we still identify the reflected subject? How
clear or cloudy is the water alongside all the colored puddles of the reflected pictures? How do I show
the water's surface again? What remains of the reflection are runny patches of color, whose direction
is defined by the wind and current. Port Gazoile - Bunkerstation, 1996: the intensity of some of the
colors evokes the smell of freshly painted boats. The bright white and blue of boat sterns and flanks
(Cord' en Bleu, 1997) is reminiscent of glamorous yachting harbors, cruise ships and passenger ships
with the promise of maritime or fluvial cheer.
Generally speaking, it is not possible to identify the picture's location from its content; only its title
gives a clue. Can the seaman use the metric signs which, like mementos from another world, are used
to measure water and sea distances to identify the country in question (where seafaring though a
cliché for freedom, is actually a precise science with its own codes)? Neither is it possible to draw
conclusions from the harbor architecture. Oudehuizen Yacht harbor, 1995 with its faceless, post-
modern functional buildings in bright, harsh colors marks a departure from the tranquil harbor idyll.
In some of the „Ship pictures“ we find a similar approach to that used for the hotel rooms: Langendorf
uses different styles of painting, according to the content of the picture. Even within a single picture,
sections are defined differently through the style used. Some pictures evoke the naive, which
document in laconic manner hat she saw. Their inherent comedy tends to be unintentional: „I didn't
encounter more than a crane and a barge today“. In the same ironic vein Langendorf borrows from the
Impressionists for the shore of a lake (Undefined draught, 1996) or creates a caricature of a flashy
yacht with dark panes at the quay, against a harbor promenade styled on a Renaissance castle
(Bassin de la Plaisance).
From memory and by re-experiencing things, she condenses everything engraved in her memory and
in sketches of the last 12 months of travel. The process of painting, which is itself a procedure
requiring much time, contributes the rest. The ship pictures created by Gabriele Langendorf are a
visual record and display of the feelings evoked by travelling. Twelve months at 10 km/h - can mean
fun or torture; sometimes both. What remains are pictures showing the even flow of time, even-
temperedness and cheerfulness, the stored energy of a long journey in giving up to fate - dictated by
the situation - active self-determination in attentive discovery of new areas of experience.
Claudia Scholtz is Director of the Hesse Cultural Foundation.
G.L.– durch halb Westeuropa gefahren – immer in Bewegung – ein Motiv jagt das andere – vom Wasser
aus das Land sehen – Kamera im Kopf – die Auswahl fällt schwer – jeden Tag woanders – Wind und
Wetter bestimmen den Lebensrhythmus – Reisen um des Reisens willen – das Schiff ist
schwimmende Heimat – die Nachreise im Atelier – wieder festen Boden unter den Füßen – ruhiges
statisches Arbeiten – Verblassen und gleichzeitiges Verdichten der Erinnerungen – sich in jedem Bild
auf eine Reise begeben: Ziel weitgehend unbekannt – sich auf der Leinwand treiben lassen – sich in
malerische Möglichkeiten und Details verlieren – die Farben hin- und herschieben – Malen um des
Malens willen – das Risiko des Scheiterns immer inbegriffen –
ImpressumHerausgeber: Herbert-Weisenburger-Stiftung, Rastatt
Redaktion: Gabriele Langendorf, Thomas Hirsch
übersetzungen: Jeremy Gaines, Frankfurt a. M.
Photos: Stefan Cop, Frankfurt a. M., Ingo Kilian, Frankfurt a. M.,
Wolfgang Günzel, Offenbach a. M., Ricarda Niks, Düsseldorf (Atelierphoto)
Layout: Steffen Harms, Karlsruhe
Produktionskoordination: Alexandra Fay
Gesamtherstellung: Engelhardt & Bauer, Karlsruhe
® 1998 Herbert-Weisenburger-Stiftung, Rastatt; Autoren und Photographen