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“self destroying history” The book by Johannes Wohnseifer
303 col., 15 b/w + 220 in catalogue raisonné
Self destroying history, the book by Johannes Wohnseifer, is structured as a panorama of the artist’s work from 1992 to 2003. Nevertheless, as the title justly infers, faced with such an opus, it goes well beyond. From a condensed counterpoint – including images of his work, photos of his exhibitions and installations, cataloguing and texts by art critic Raimar Stange – emerges a very clear perspective of the widened political and aesthetic background that subtends to the work of this artist from Cologne. At the same time, it’s retraced the complex reflection of modus operandi, temporality and responsibility, which inspires it. Wohnseifer’s deconstructive view highlights symbols of mass culture (icons, traditions, behaviours, historic events, brands and mass media) brutalizing and recontextualizing them to unveil their fragility and political use: an uninterrupted desecration which in a way involves decontextualization – that is a break with a presumed historic and symbolic continuum, although it does begin from there – and on the other hand a staged sign towards the need for this breaking point. It is a double testimony of the impossibility of an absolute beginning, and of the political and ethical urgency of favouring a work of auto-deconstruction of the symbolic, of the historical and of the cultural, which is always, already taking place. Self-destroying History, and a story of self-destruction.
Therefore, piece-by-piece, project after project, the work of Johannes Wohnseifer is explained while it is explaining. It explains itself and the possibility and need for a change of perspective. There is more though. A further look, a responsibility referred to the reader, one further question: is there, behind this insisted and insistent relationship of dependency-violence with symbols and gestures, lying an irresistible fascination for the symbol itself? Is it, perhaps, been telling the tale of a Stockholm syndrome between imagery and an artist defined by his maltreating it? A diary of a Faustian pact with icons? A story of destruction of the Self?
|Wohnseifer’s work repeatedly and in particular focuses on three elements which seem to be typical for our popular and postmodern reality: 1. An ever-present visuality, given free rein and free speech in this world with its increasingly media-dominated focus; 2. A feeling of loop-like temporality, constantly influenced by one’s own processes of forgetting and remembering; 3. In connection with the two previous factors, an understanding that cultural history is freely available (to everyone, in its entirety) for artistic purposes. These three elements fuse in the young artist’s drawing “The Wohnseifer” 1999: Above a newly colour-coded Adidas athletic shoe, more about which later, the words written in bright letters: “History will be repeated in five seconds (non linear)”. Here a “sneaker”, along with other sporting footwear a lifestyle icon of the nineties and as such frequently integrated into both high and low art, became a model for a sense of culture which is attempting to brand itself truthfully onto the flow of time as the individual experiences it.Johannes Wohnseifer was born in 1967, in Cologne, Germany, where he lives and works. He frequently displays at the Johann König’s (Berlin), Casey Kaplan’s (New York), Gisela Capitain’s (Köln), Galleri K (Oslo) and Nicolas Krupp’s (Basel) galleries. Amongst his solo exhibitions we may mention “Bulletin Board Program” (2010, New York State University), “Kleenex Mathematics” (2007, Vancouver, Presentation House Gallery), “2004: Cityscape into Art” (2005, Tokyo, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art), “Connected Presence” (2004, London, Union Gallery), “Intervention” (2003, Hannover, Sprengel Museum), “Der Stadtstreicher” (2000, Geneva, Centre d’Art Contemporain), “Peter Mertes Stipendium” (1998, Bonn, Kunstverein); “Psylocibyn Experience” (1997, Nice, Musée des Beaux Arts).