Film still of Aus-Höhlen. Looking out at a framed bit of landscape from within a monastery cave...

Veronika Spierenburg, Aus-Höhlen

June 15, 2022 – October 2, 2022

Veronika Spierenburg, Aus-Höhlen, presented across two galleries on the first floor of The Noguchi Museum, is an installation of two films by Veronika Spierenburg (b. 1981). Both films titled Aus-Höhlen, or “From Caves” (2015 and 2015/2019), place the viewer within a series of monastery caves in Georgia, looking out at framed landscapes from a still position.

In the second film, Spierenburg introduces voices over these views. Unseen women interviewed on the streets of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi are heard responding to questions from the artist: If your body were a house, where would the door be? If your body were a house, where would the window be? If your body were a cave, where would the entrance be?

This exhibition is presented as a companion to Noguchi Subscapes

Artist’s Statement

On Aus-Höhlen (From Caves)

The idea for the film Aus-Höhlen was born during a visit to the David Gareja Caves Monastery in Georgia. The view from the caves to the uninhabited land of Azerbaijan developed as a symbol of perceiving at the same time the inner as the outer world. A restorer of cave paintings later introduced me to a diverse range of monastery caves throughout Georgia (Vardzia, Vanis Kvabebi, Udabno, Qolagiri, Uplistsikhe, Dagheti).

The presentation of archaic living and meditation on a contemporary flat screen brings our domesticity and lifestyle into play. In 2019, I reset the work for a gallery exhibition by adding a voice-line asking women on the streets of Tbilisi three questions: If your body were a house, where would the door be? If your body were a house, where would the window be? If your body were a cave, where would the entrance be?

On Isamu Noguchi

Noguchi and I could have had a good time together. The architecture of the Museum’s garden is one of the best places in New York City. Noguchi’s questions about the relationship of man to the earth are increasingly relevant. It feels almost like making a collaborative work with Noguchi himself to exhibit in his Museum.

Curator’s Statement

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was highly attuned to the realities that lie beneath conventional notice but strongly impact our perspectives—in part, as he always said, because of his biracial heritage and feeling always like an outsider. This perpetual state of in-betweenness gave him a strong desire to make sculpture into a discipline for shaping—by which he meant broadening—the space of civic awareness into something more universal and actively empathetic.

The two films by Veronika Spierenburg that make up Veronika Spierenburg, Aus-Höhlen (2015 and 2015/2019) are radically different versions of the same material. In both films Spierenburg places the viewer looking out as if in seated meditation from within a series of caves well-known for their use for more than a millenium as monasteries by Georgian Orthodox Christian monks.

Our experience of the first film is of remoteness and silence: with slight environmental sounds (a breeze whispering past a cave mouth) heightening the overall atmosphere of serenity. We are allowed to sample the spiritual power of isolation that presumably goes with a monk’s seclusion. The title Aus-Höhlen is a pun on the German verb “to hollow out”—a hint that perhaps withdrawal from society is not the simple solution it seems. In the second film, reusing most of the same footage, Spierenburg introduces voice-overs in which the viewer, still seated as if in meditation, hears unseen women—interviewed on the streets of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi—imagining their bodies as dwellings.

In the original film our experience is a private one. Cave and mind are made synonymous, and we are not only untroubled by the fact of retreat but animated by it. When in the second film the outside world intrudes on this private experience, the space of the mind necessarily becomes an environment of social awareness. Inside and outside—the position we inhabit and the view we have from there—switch places. It’s a beautiful paradox that the degree of intimacy we experience as viewers increases exponentially as the bubble of our psychic and physical experience of meditation is pierced by the entry of other minds into our own—causing the space of the caves of our minds to shift from private to public. We are catapulted from isolation to communion as the women’s answers run through our minds: their thoughts becoming as our thoughts. This is, not coincidentally, the very issue the women interviewed reckon with as they seek to understand and explain themselves as spaces open to the world. This complex melding of physical environment, psychic space, and social awareness is what Noguchi meant by using the sculpture of space to “illumine the environment of our aspirations.”1

Dakin Hart
Senior Curator


1 Isamu Noguchi, “Towards a Reintegration of the Arts,” College Art Journal 9.1 (Autumn, 1949): 59.

Works in the Exhibition

Veronika Spierenburg
Aus-Höhlen (From Caves), 2015
HD Video, 21 min.
Courtesy of the artist

Veronika Spierenburg

Aus-Höhlen (From Caves), 2015 / 2019
HD Video, 12 min.
Director: Giorgi Bukhaidze
Camera: Tato Kotetishvili
Interviews: Elene Pasuri
Courtesy of the artist

Each gallery also contains a link to the inner landscapes conjured in the collaborations of Martha Graham and Isamu Noguchi. In two contact sheets of photographs by Phillippe Halsman, Graham rehearses her Cave of the Heart (1946), with sets by Noguchi—solo, and with members of her company.

Philippe Halsman
ontact sheets of photographs from a rehearsal for Martha Graham’s Cave of the Heart,
with set by Isamu Noguchi, c. 1946
Vintage prints. 10 x 8 in.
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 12824 and 12828
© Philippe Halsman Archive / Martha Graham Resources / INFGM / ARS

About Veronika Spierenburg

Veronika Spierenburg (b. 1981, Switzerland) is a multimedia artist. She studied in Basel, Amsterdam, and London in her early years. Her work is strongly influenced by her travels in Japan, China, Brazil, Mexico, and Georgia. In 2022, she will be artist-in-resident at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. She has published several artist books, including Ōya-ishi—Oya-stones. Her latest work, a fictional short film, is on view at the Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland, through July 17, 2022.


Veronika Spierenburg, Aus-Höhlen is supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. Exhibitions at The Noguchi Museum are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.