Family Constellation



Four sculptures, beech wood on pedestals on rollers, Papa 222 x 89 x 79 cm, Mama 216 x 87 x 65 cm, Christian 197 x 72 x 59 cm, Jochen 194 x 64 x 58 cm

Family Constellation took place in Bucharest during the Covid-19 pandemic – for many, a time of increased focus on family bonds. In this self-reflexive work, Christian Jankowski explores the gravitational pull of his family of origin, within which he was formed and which he has in turn affected. He draws on the ‘family constellation’ method of group therapy, where participants (or sometimes even wooden figures), stand in as representatives for the subject’s family, to help them visualise and gain insight into the structure of relationships. Jankowski tasked his younger brother, Jochen, with creating life-size representations of their family from the trunk of a beech tree: the mother, the father, the two sons. For the occasion, Jochen undertook training in the German folk art of tree carving, prior to working on the sculptures with a chainsaw in the gallery. At the same time, alongside the sculptures’ production, the brothers participated in a series of online therapy sessions, mediated with the remote psychotherapist via a monitor. They reflected on how they have branched out in life in relation to one another and to their parents. Prior to the opening, the exhibition space therefore served as studio-cum-therapy room, a holding environment within which to bring material and personal tensions to the surface. The process demanded trust, as Jochen crossed into Christian’s professional orbit, and their parallel performances were viewable to the public through the gallery window. As part of the exhibition ‘Healing Games’ at Suprainfinit, Bucharest, the four wooden figures were mounted on flat pedestals on rollers. This dynamic installation staged the possibilities of collective reinterpretation. The sculptures were available to the audience to move around and project their own ideas, and to the psychotherapist, who brought clients into the gallery to test these representations as emblematic of the way that memories shape individuals. Made from scratch and free-standing, they embody the shared achievement of the brothers’ collaboration, even while the rough-hewn wood, inflicted with incisions, bears out the trauma that accumulates over a lifetime. They relate to a lineage of woodcarving, to the immediacy and liberation of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Expressionist forms, as much as to Georg Baselitz’s totemic ‘anti-sculptures’ from the early 1980s when the brothers were coming of age. For the film Family Constellation, an abundance of footage shot throughout the project was cut down to a core scene: when Jochen spontaneously starts reconfiguring the family group, triggering him to open up and release a sense of levity. The sculptures are set in motion, activated as a therapeutic tool. This moment of breakthrough is accompanied by the brothers’ dialogue with the remote psychotherapist, their voices echoing off the gallery walls. Additionally, a series of photo boxes show the sculptures under construction by Jochen; these images are paired with physical detritus – the shavings and wood chips – that Christian gathered from the floor.


Video, 22:14 min, 16:9, color, sound, German and English with English subtitles