The European Court of Human Rights is currently hearing a case Mosley vs. the United Kingdom, in which the former president of the Motorsports world governing body FIA(1), Max Mosley, is challenging the mediaʼs ability to publish information without the storyʼs subject granting permission.(2) This case follows an existing win for Mosely in the British courts in 2008, where a judge ruled that the British tabloid newspaper, News of the World, had invaded his right to privacy by publishing negative allegations about his sex life. This case heightens the concern over the intrusiveness of the media and presents a possible enforced attack on the future of their attitudes towards public and private interests. But what would happen if this logic transferred to the context of the art world? Where and to whom would responsibilities associated with formats of publishing fall when explicitly exploited by an artist such as Bernd Krauss, whoʼs certain disdain for the social and moral responsibilities of the format results in the intentional exposure of the private to make it completely public?
Producing work in an array of artistic mediums and formats including sculpture, drawing, video, performance, painting and text, Krauss entertains a process based practice that draws heavily on avant-garde, Constructivist and Situationist strategies using found materials from the immediate cultural and physical landscape. Kraussʼ outlook is directed by two simple and repetitive impulses; looking and observing the everyday social systems of the global and local; and the compulsion to digest, reconfigure and re-circulate such information in and to a public. These impulses surface through consistent attention to the expanded notions of habitation and social systems of interaction, driven by a repeated utilization of the artists residency(3); and the uses and means of assembling, re- editing and re-circulating information, as seen particularly in his newspaper, Der Riecher.
Transitioning between locations in which to live and produce, Krauss consistently exploits the artist's residency as a means to provide sustenance and shelter, but also, to yield the materials from which work is made. Re-circulating himself and his cumulative knowledge is the overarching strategy directing his production orientated practice, that aims towards the cultural translation(4) of everyday life in the art institution or that current local town or city, to various audiences internationally.
Kraussʼ self-made, hand-written newspaper, Der Riecher(5), a collage of local and international stories and personal anecdotes is the means through which he digests and expels media and information, capturing any conceptual idea until it can be explored further. Having produced Der Riecher since 1999, and taking roots in Kraussʼ early work, preoccupied with cultural appropriation (his Graduating diploma project being the main example), it is Kraussʼ most consistent project that encapsulates, and simultaneously triggers his object works and exhibition design, all of which look to the cultural specifics of place or habitat, and the artists definitive exploration of varied modes of circulation.
Kraussʼ most recent artist commission and residency in Cologne, Germany for the group exhibition Columns, at Desaga Gallery playfully tested his utilization of the residency and the re-circulation or presentation of material.(6) Curator Marion Ritter invited Krauss to spend two months in Cologne prior to the exhibition to produce new issues of Der Riecher, proposing that Krauss take a role in the design of the exhibition layout should he wish to.
Columns presented works by Dexter Sinister, Seth Price, Continuous Project, Roman Ondák and Krauss, that employed varied strategies for exploiting and testing modes of circulation and re- distribution in their methods of production and display.(7) While the physical object of the artistʼs publication, book, or newspaper in their physical form were the central subject matter in this most recent iteration of the project, Ritterʼs interest was with the strategies of collage, re-circulation and dissemination of information and display employed by these artists and the way these played out in the exhibition space. The layering of these strategies begins by employing re-appropriated in-print or materials of communication, from the mass media and the arts, morphing them into a new publication format that is then entered again into distribution systems, often those from which they came, as well as alternative methods. That these works are tweaked iterations of the original works made prior to Columns adds a third layer to this labyrinth of information dissemination, resulting in “a complex correlation of the medium and the message”, as Astrid Wege has described.(8)
In Roman Ondákʼs Awaiting Enacted, 2003, a free local newspaper is appropriated by repeatedly replacing all its images with those of men and women queue (referencing the employment line and the politics of social behavior) and re-inserting the paper into distribution. In this instance it is displayed on the wall in a rectangular configuration comprising twelve pages(9), paired with a single framed photo similar to those re-inserted into the newspaper, laid flat on a wooden desk. The wall-mounted newspaper collage replaces the photoʼs expected position, confusing of display mechanisms and augmenting the audienceʼs reception the works. This muddling continues with Kraussʼ Der Riecher,
which appears as an individual poster issue framed in a light box hanging on the wall, and as a bundle of issues resembling a stack of fresh off the press newspapers, placed next to Ondákʼs photograph on the same desk.
The collective Continuous Project (Bettina Funcke, Wade Guyton, Seth Price and Joseph Logan), presented versions of out of circulation magazineʼs, Avalanche, 2003(10) and Eau de Cologne, 2003(11) that are reproduced to resemble the more common black and white photocopied stapled zine. Stripping these iconic journals - that were originally considered as forums for the presentation of art work and ideas dedicated to conversation and exchange – to this basic form, challenges the hierarchies of publications by restricting accessibility by displaying them in the exhibition format rather than disseminating them through print press distribution systems.
True Mirror Fiche, 2010, by New Yorkʼs Dexter Sinister (Stuart Bailey and David Reinfurt), a video reconfiguration of three baffling lecture performances with accompanying microfiche projection(12). Using all manner of methods to re-edit the art world staple means of communication - the lecture – the artists choreographed a “Cubist variety Show” (13), of artists and cultural thinkers to take on alternate art world personas and present a precise yet obscure lecture of interlinked references, excerpts from books, faxes, and press releases; all materials used to communicate news of art events, openings and historical cannons. The re-appropriated microfiche – a medium almost obsolete – mimics the format of the modern projector, to display images of images that accompany the texts read by the performers.
Seth Price casts a similarly expansive net into existing texts and historical stand points on the circulation of the art object and publication, in his book Dispersion, 2002. The challenge to formats of communication comes in the text but also through its the contradictory means of display; an open source publication and simultaneously a customized edition, of which two were produced for Columns.
In each instance, the format entertained by each artist insists on re-reading the materialʼs original meaning, distancing, exaggerating and warping its meaning. Kraussʼ presence in the exhibition is strong, bringing together existing issues of Der Riecher, presented in two formats (the light box and the bundle), thirty five new editions written while in Cologne (next to the bundle of newspapers and Ondákʼs photograph, and online at arschcologne.blogspot.com), and three object assemblages, and his exhibition design.(14)
Employing a Situationist approach, Krauss took in Cologne, making visits to art museums and galleries, and trips to nearby towns with Ritter. The folded A4 sheets of Der Richter covered in Kraussʼ blue and black biro pen tell of “news” from events in Cologne, reporting a convergence of observations and quotes strung together to create outlandish interpretations of events, conversations, local and national newspaper headlines, mass marketing fliers, or even supermarket special offers. In doing so, Krauss holds up a mirror to each new place he resides, the city and the art institution, presenting a vehicle for the inevitably obscure social and often banal systems and traditions to be observed in a different light by those who overlook them simply because the know them most well. Slightly absurd, humerous statements, “I was blinded by a bicycle driver”, as one issue reads, or another, in reference to the exhibition presentation, “We need a pickle glass but donʼt throw the pickles away”, are brought together with a newsworthy Germany factoid, “As few births as never before in NRW (1,36 kids per woman)”, while also poking-fun at friends and old and new acquaintances in the arts, “Bettina, I am busy now with the contemporary”.(15)
The intentionally misleading language of Der Riecher is simultaneously wide open for interpretation and further distortion, extending Kraussʼ cryptic in-person conversation style that often surfaces when in the performative mode that accompanies his residencies. This take on the Derive, or concrete poetry as Krauss has referred to it, is a communicative strategy of exclusion and inclusion(16), as he explains of Der Riecher, “I think its always a way to work for someone whoʼs outside, so it should always offer something for someone whoʼs not in an institution.”(17) The satisfied, embarrassed or infuriated reactions Der Riecher provokes, result from a position of understanding or unawares. The inside critique is on the art institution; the museum, gallery, art school or the art scene of the city he resides in. And so when Der Riecher holds the mirror up to the Cologne art world, commenting on Pavel Peppersteinʼs exhibition at Artothek, “I should not say it out loud but we liked Pavel Peppersprayʼs drawings on the first floor of the Artothek – the girls with the numbers as well as the atomic mushrooms. Only we can do the mushrooms better than he can!”, there are multiple layers of exclusion facing the audience, as to understand the amusing misrepresentation of Peppersteinʼs name or the mushrooms reference, requires knowledge of the Cologne arts scene and the work of this artist at the very least.(18)
Der Riecher therefore functions as the simplest means to extract and note conceptual ideas, to filter the information garnered from local and national mediaʼs, or even the local Church flier. But the function of the publication format is key in transforming Der Riecher into more than a diary of events by removing Krauss from the publication and allowing it to exist on its own. This process of distancing and
the active inclusion, or exclusion is an intentional form of cultural translation, communicating original and re-defined meanings that can, together or separately, initiate new sets of meanings. As Krauss explains, “I probably have an understanding or an expectation that things communicate, but the expectation is also limited and the non-communication is also part of the understanding.”(19) This is then also the translation of culture; Der Riecher as a mode of translating the inner workings of the cultural field of visual art to another public.(20)
Kraussʼ blog(21) is an extension of the publication platform that while used to document projects, is also an active space for concepts to live and grow through new encounters. This is true of arschcologne.blogspot.com, Kraussʼ online register of Columns created after its opening. Its title, meaning ʻass Cologneʼ in English, pokes fun at Ritterʼs own online presence, Art Blog Cologne(22) while its content – images of each of the works in the show taken by Krauss – distill the exhibition for an online audience.
Bringing Krauss on board as exhibition designer was a means to break down hierarchical structures(23) around exhibition making, and thus a key conceptual decision from Ritter in tying the show together. Continuing to play with tactics of exclusion and accessibility, Kraussʼ re-edited the works to open them to the audience. Second-hand furniture found by Krauss and Ritter in the local area was paired with each work, so that a desk or a table, and a chair on which visitors could sit, supported the work as a physical object, and facilitated browsing. Kraussʼ assemblage works, produced for the exhibition took on a similar function of “display architecture”. His piece Columns, five frame-less frames arranged vertically on top of each other on the wall and floor, hold turquoise and grey colored paper etched with blue biro pen indicating the markings of stone blocks of an architectural column, interpreting the exhibition title literally and extending the supportive structure of the furniture. Other works employed more general modes of support simply by having a physical presence, acting as, “elements that are on top of the furniture idea, where basically my own work comes out in an un-explainable way”, as Krauss explained.(24) These works include, Sozialraum (Social Room), 2010, a small kitchen table covered with a coffee stained red and white checked table cloth, and Katerinahissen, 2010, an assemblage of a flower pot painting, a model owl and a small shelving unit, that together doubles as interior decoration and extends the homely aesthetic of the furniture without taking on distinct conceptual responsibilities.
The exhibition design re-posited a set of materials, ideas, and art historical references to propose
discussion of the works; their physical form, sources and cumulative meanings, to challenge the audienceʼs “visual indifference”.(25) This is “the socialization of art”(26) rather than the production of “discursive” spaces, a term Krauss aligns with intentionally asserting ones work into the realm of critical and theoretical artistic discourse. Related to this is the possibility of changing an exhibitionʼs layout or contents during its lifespan, a method that exaggerates Kraussʼ anti-static re-distribution technique that re-socializes the works through new associations.
Columns, is an exhibition about the processes of communicating information within the arts, while using these exact processes to critique such hierarchical systems, traditions and media. Bernd Kraussʼ work is often many things; frustrating, amusing, at times down-right rude, and his work often intends to mean nothing more than the sum of its material references and systems of support, as with the furniture in the exhibition or his piece Columns. But in this exhibition, it is Kraussʼ diversity and the energy of his influence that balances the critique of the inner art world, allowing the exhibition to flit in and out of the insulated circle of the arts to bring in a collage of references from the local and global perspective, which in turn defines the integral role Der Riecher and the residency plays in his practice. And so working from within the systems he exists (to speak in Foucaultʼs terms) Krauss subtly critiqueʼs the very circles in which he lives, works and is reliant on to sustain himself - not to initiate change necessarily, but to translate what various cultures can mean to others and initiate discussion. Columns was a platform that perfectly utilized all that Krauss has to offer, to which he responded with a generous commitment, as always. The ability to continuously transition between new spaces while producing work is not a new concept for the contemporary artist. But there are few who use their mobile habitat so extensively in the production process, or who grasp new surroundings so exhaustively with Kraussʼ sensitive gusto. Columns therefore displays Kraussʼ work at its strongest, and at a heightened sphere of influence to initiate local and cross-cultural discussions of community, tradition, social behaviour and bureaucratic systems on the smallest and of course, the most outlandish scales.
Special thanks to Bernd Krauss and Marion Ritter.
Laura Barlow. January 2011.
1 Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile
3 Kraussʼ previous residencies have taken place at the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Sweden, the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, the Goethe Institute, New York.
4 Term specified by Krauss, skype interview, December 29 2010 5 Meaning ʻThe Noseʼ, or as Jan Verwoert affectionately termed it, ʻThe Snifflerʼ.
6 On view between November 20 2010 – January 26 2011.
7 Intentionally bringing these works to Cologne and the physical exhibition space, Ritter actively re-edited her own curatorial means of presenting, works by artists testing these fields, and expanded her Graduating Thesis project, similarly titled Column: at CCS Bard in spring 2009, which questioned the format of the newspaper as a means for distributing informationThis took place via the insertion of commissioned works, by Bernd Krauss, Dexter Sinister, Erick Beltrán, Jens Haaning, Interboro, and Sydney Schrader and Joseph Verrill into the Poughkeepsie Journal, a daily local newspaper in Dutchess County, New York.
8 Review of Columns, Desaga Gallery, Cologne, by Astrid Wege, Stadtrevue, Januaray 2011.
9 The top left and bottom right pages are framed to mark the beginning and end of the issue.
10 Edited and designed by Liza Béaror and Willoughby Sharp from 1970 to 1976.
11 Originally produced by Monika Sprüth.
12 These took place at the Kitchen and the Whitney Museum in New York and at the ICA in London in 2008.
13 Quote from Dexter Sinister, http://www.dextersinister.org/index.html?id=196.
14 Term specified by Curator Marion Ritter, Skype interview, January 3, 2011.
15 Quotes from the Cologne issues of Der Riecher, Bernd Krauss, October/November 2010.
16 Term specified by Krauss, Skype interview, December 29 2010
17 Skype interview with Bernd Krauss, December 29 2010.
18 Quote from the Cologne issues of Der Riecher, Bernd Krauss, October/November 2010.
20 This was also the case with Kraussʼ literal translation of the Björn Borg biography from Swedish to German, presented in the Cologne Contemporaries newspaper, a collection of works from artists in the Cologne galleries during Kraussʼ period working at Desaga.
21 http://berndkrauss.blogspot.com/ 22 www.artblogcologne.com
23 Skype interview with Marion Ritter, January 3, 2011.
24 Skype interview with Bernd Krauss, December 29 2010.
25 Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, Thames and Hudson, 2004, p. 129.