Every Word has its Day
Every Word has its Day
»TALK.Show—The Art of Communication«, Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal 1999
The title of the exhibition is a popular term used in the world of television. Twenty-four contemporary artists deal with the subject of communication—literally »talk« and »show«—and the success and failure of communication between people today. The spectrum of work, executed in the 90's, includes paintings, sculptures, photography, video art, installations and performances. Emphasis has been placed on art works which implement the acoustic dimension of language. A third of the work was created specifically for the exhibition.
The pictorial representation of language played an important role in 20th century art. Words and texts appeared in collages and montages by the Cubists (George Braque, Pablo Picasso), Dadaists (Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters) and Surrealists (Rene Magritte, Max Ernst) as metaphors for the protest against political circumstances. After World War II, Pop Art (Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol) and Conceptual Art (Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman) dealt directly with the process of verbal communication and the exchange of thoughts and information in a society influenced by mass communication.
Whereas previous art directions generally took logical communication for granted, all means of communication are treated with skepticism today. Today we are primarily interested in language as a medium of communication, but no longer as iconographic material. The selected artists in the exhibition Talk.Show re-examine the facets of verbal expression in the various media.
What if pictures were to suddenly talk to viewers in museums? The paintings by Remy Zaugg are not silent witnesses; they demand direct contact.. Texts and color contrasts reinforce or contradict each other. The spoken word is unpredictable. Thomas Locher's wall piece also breaks away from the conventions of painting. It mercilessly tests the viewer's understanding of the German Constitution and requires him to take an individual standpoint. Adib Fricke designed a display system for TALK.Show consisting of gallery signs and captions of the exhibited art work. Fricke uses advertising methods and thereby draws critical attention to communication design in an exhibition. The viewer is encouraged to ask: What is an art work without a label?
The dramatic world of famous film telephone scenes is the source of Christian Marclay's video work. Instead of focusing on the subject matter of the respective film fragments, it directs attention to the conditions and implications of the medium, its mechanisms, rituals and how it becomes a fetish. Christian Jankowski deals with the authority of television priests. Clairvoyance and lack of understanding mesh in his fictional TV program and question the credibility of the media world. Heimo Zobernig's work deals with the sites of public communication. Taken out of context and broken down, the artist dissects the dictatorial ambition of media announcement strategies and their failure.
Yana Milev deals with related fields of communication processes in a completely different manner. Her cryptic messages, alternately lit and dimmed, exemplify the lack of distinction between clear statements and ones left open to interpretation.
In Tony Oursler's video sculpture, a projection on two cloth dolls defines a kind of skin on which communication breaks. The skin receives information and makes it visible. The individuality of both beings disappears behind a language which is no longer theirs.
Applying the methods of visual sociology, Clegg & Guttmann study stereotype communication forms. Their installation Verite is to be used as an archive and functions as a portrait of the media society.
Pietro Sanguineti deals with entertainment society's »symbol values«. For the exhibition in the film and television city he designed a stage sculpture which in itself represents a communication structure: colors, forms, material and furniture represent registers of moods and levels of feelings. The promise of authenticity and actual tactile presence remains a shining illusion. Various shows will take place on this stage during the exhibition; a printed program of events will be available at the end of September. Christine Hill, for example, is going to introduce her new project Tour Guide? in which she guides tourists individualistically through multilingual metropolitan New York. The discussions organized by Hinrich Sachs may be understood as social sculptures. They differ from normal talk shows in that they consciously deal with role-playing and stereotype speech.
Daniel Pflumm uses newscasts and trailers from product advertisements in his video art. Rigid dogmas dissolve and are reanimated with a new rhythm.
The artist duo M+M has brought an exclusive round of experts together. Twelve Marias, historical and cultural personages who share the name Maria, answer the question, »How can we avoid the Deluge?« The historically authenticated answers are available through the public telephone network.
The grotesque Dialogue by Mike Kelley awakens memories from one's earliest childhood. He unites the pitiful and despicable aspects of our communication.
The questionable picture of normalcy transported by jokes, which are elementary elements of our everyday communication, is reflected in Joke Paintings by Richard Prince.
Thirty years of television experience are the framework for the shrill, colorful solo performances by Pipilotti Rist. Her video's protagonist screams and begs for help and tries to escape her prison of emotions and fantasies to no avail.
Rirkrit Tiravanija endeavors to provoke communication in the exhibition. He has installed telephones in the exhibition which enable unknown visitors to enter into conversation with each other. The extent of verbal exchange depends on the willingness of the individuals to participate.
Eran Schaerf is interested in the common structure of texts and textiles. He investigates the communicative signals of dress, the so-called Dress-Codes, as the definitive parameter of communication.The installation by Janet Cardiff consists of a wooden table with invisible sensors. Voices whisper secrets to visitors who touch its surface.
Hirsch Perlman deals with oral variations of verbal expressions and questions the agreement between the shown and the denoted.
In conclusion, Sam Taylor-Wood studies the success and failure of direct personal communication. Although new difficulties have to be overcome when both conversation partners are physically present, verbal and non-verbal communication prove to be of equal importance.
—Dr. Bernhart Schwenk and Dr. Susanne Meyer-Büser, curators of the exhibition
Press release for “Talk.Show”, Haus der Kunst, Munich 1999