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like fountains, like flames

13.11.2023 - 24.2.2024, Vent Gallery, München-Hohenbrunn, 2023


The exhibition brings together several aspects of Anka Helfertová's long fascination with fountains, as images of metabolism and squandering of energy, negotiating the conventional north-western distinction between what is alive and what not.
With figures of fountains and flames, it becomes clear how porous the distinction is. Fountains remind us of metabolism, their movement makes us emotional. They are geysers, emulated by humans. According to one line of research on the origin of life, geysers seem to be the actual environment where self-reproducing cells gradually came about.

Curated by Manuela Hillmann.



exhibition views:

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Keeping flames.

Partially glazed ceramics, silicone, steel; each 120 × 40 × 40 cm; 2023.

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Doorkeeper (hey, welcome). Ceramics; 25 × 20 × 20 cm; 2023.

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Tearlicker (to traverse the territory of despair, for Katrine).

Ceramics, shower tub, tubes, stones and concrete blocs, rainwater; dimensions variable; 2023.

The green object above is a water-collector, on the ground floor, one level above the exhibition space. Ceramics, stones and concrete blocs, 2023.

The installation Tearlicker connects the exhibition with weather – when it rains, one of the blue cat-like characters begins to cry.

Extreme intimacy in a very dark moment.

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Dancing fountain. Ceramics, wooden plinth; 160 × 60 × 60 cm; 2023.

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Elysia viridis, double portrait.

Glazed ceramic, water, glass; each 50 × 12 × 12 cm; 2023.

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Double-sided flame, detail.

Glazed ceramics, silicone, ship rope; 25 × 25 × 400 cm; 2023.

Elysia viridis, double portrait. Glazed ceramic, water, glass; each 50 × 12 × 12 cm; 2023.


Photographs by Leonard Mandl

Press release

like fountains, like flames

At the core of Anka Helfertová's artistic endeavors lies a profound exploration of a question that resonates deeply into western consciousness: the inquiry into whether matter is inherently passive, drawing inspiration from the insightful perspectives of Jane Bennett ¹. This thought-provoking investigation serves as the guiding thread woven through the artists body of work.


The nuanced exploration of action and vitality in seemingly inert matter becomes the focus of "like fountains, like flames", a rich web of different expressions of moving matter that challenges conventional perceptions and invites into a contemplative space where the boundaries between the organic and the inorganic become blurred.

Along the lines of the profound words of Donna Haraway that "animism is the only sensible version of materialism"² Anka Helfertová extends this discourse to her artistic practice. Haraway's emphasis on the reciprocal relationships between humans and the natural world, coupled with her questioning of human exceptionalism, is an integral part of the artistic exploration. Building on the foundational ideas of "The Companion Species Manifesto"³, Helfertová invites viewers to consider a multi-species relationship in which co-operation with non-human beings is not only encouraged but considered essential. This invitation to a collective consciousness becomes a guiding principle in her work, much like compost, in which different elements mix and transform into something greater.


The compositions featured in "like Fountains, like Flames" predominantly employ ceramics with various glazes, supplemented by diverse materials thoughtfully selected by the artist, contingent upon the inherent nature of the medium. This body of work undertakes an exploration of various manifestations of dynamic matter. Predominantly inspired by the formidable and timeless image of the geyser—waters emerging with unparalleled power from the Earth's depths—the artist engenders fountains in myriad forms. These fountains encapsulate a spectrum of emotional states, ranging from overwhelming potency to a modest, delicate trickle, thereby crystallizing tangible expressions of nature's vital forces.


The dynamic flow and kinetic movements inherent in Helfertová's sculptural works serve as catalysts, prompting a reevaluation of our comprehension of life and the latent potency residing within supposedly inert matter. Integral to this exploration is the well-established understanding that social bonds are essential for human development, well-being, and survival. Furthermore, the connection humans create with animals and all other living species on Earth is deemed essential to our well-being, echoing Ellen Miles' claim that Nature is a Human Right⁴.


"like Fountains, like Flames" serves as invitation to an alchemical transformation, offering viewers an opportunity to engage with the intricacies of existence and the multifaceted relationships that define our current understanding of the world.

¹ “Why advocate the vitality of matter? Because my hunch is the image of dead or thoroughly instrumentalized matter feeds human hubris and our earth-destroying fantasies of conquest and consumption. It does so by preventing us from detecting (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling) a fuller range of the non-human powers circulating around and within human bodies.”
Jane Bennett: Vibrant matter. p. 9
² Donna Harraway: Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. p. 88, p. 165
³ “(…) what happens when human exceptionalism and the utilitarian individualism of classical political economics become unthinkable in the best sciences across the disciplines and interdisciplines? Seriously unthinkable: not available to think with”. Donna Haraway: The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness. p. 57
⁴ Ellen Miles: Nature is a Human Right: Why we’re fighting for green in a grey world.

Manuela Hillmann

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