In an inconspicuous, empty shop within the former Wertheim department store in the city centre of Essen’s Steele district, the artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke (b. 1978 in Tunis) has tapped into the existing ceiling architecture of exposed cables and pipes to produce the installation Ad Astra (To the Stars). Through a constellation of mirrors mounted on the ceiling, the artist creates the illusion of a supply infrastructure of infinite dimensions. It is with a gaze upwards that this subtle, analogue installation unfolds a seemingly infinite space. Not only does it establish a relationship to fictitious ‘astro-mining’ (short for asteroid mining), but the piece also links, in an ironic way, the glorification of space as a potentially unlimited source of raw materials to the region’s mining past.
Nadia Kaabi-Linke grew up in Tunis and Kyiv and has also lived in Dubai, Sharjah, and Paris. According to the artist, such variegated cultural environments have had a direct influence on her artistic work. She is especially interested in the correlation between political, economic, and sociocultural contexts, as well as in the related constructions of identity, memory, and perspective. In particular, the charged relations inherent to constructions of identity are frequently addressed in her works. Kaabi-Linke alienates objects, functions, and environments from their original contexts, works with optical illusions, and operates at the threshold between enchanting beauty, magical tricks, and unsettling interventions.