liebenswert (2017, work in progress), participatory, performance based intervention, various media.
liebenswert is an intervention for public space, a participatory, performance based work using the windows of the urban trams to generate temporary portraits of the passengers and to enable an interaction between the passengers and the pedestrian-observers. Furthermore, liebenswert is – beside other aspects – a reflection about the relationships between observation and conceptual judgements. As an intervention, the work is infiltrating public space with a subtly subversive source of irritation to interrogate urban courses of motion and perception.
Beyond these basic aspects, the intervention can be also understood more specifically and in a quite complex, self-reflexive form (because the work seems to contend features of the criticised approaches, if viewed in a superficial way) as a critical and ironical comment on artistic strategies and distressing city marketing, both exploiting particularly the phenomenon of migration for own purposes through slogan based projects. The work also addresses problems regarding the relation between privacy, public space and – particularly – the obtrusive placement of advertisement next to passengers in public traffic as an exemplary case for the infiltration of private spaces with manipulative and profit-oriented structures of capitalism.
One core aspect of the work is the tension between the active and the passive meaning of the german word »liebenswert«. In an active form, it means that one is a kind person. In the passive form it means that a person is »loveable«.
Simplicitiy's subtle subversion
The work is dealing with our tendencies to judge people on the base of concepts, like e.g. »liebenswert«. To create the already mentioned »subtly subversive« character, there has been chosen very deliberately a seemingly harmless and on the first sight only positive adjective. The stress this point, one could imagine, there could have been chosen words like »refugee«, »terrorist« or comparable striking words. In this regard, the work is also a critical and ironical comment on tendencies in contemporary art to instrumentalise refugees and to exploit the motif of migration for slogan based works with a plain political positioning, a hypocritical, dodgy and sleazy approach to get attention, press and fundings – on the expense of people who suffered from their displacement. The tendency to confuse political or moral attitude with the responsibility of candid art work to express something relevant and substantial through the formal quality of the work (regarding the coherence of material, form, composition and conceptual levels) is observable in an increasing way in contemporary art, particularly regarding approaches of critics, curators and audiences, forcing artists partly to present such slogan based or pseudo sociological work to gain attention and funds. The work is also a commentary about the advertising practices on public trams. People are often »embedded« in slogans of the advertisements on the tram windows in the same way as done by the art work, the passengers are forced to be a visual part of the product placement, without an awareness of being abused through this imposed placement. In a subtle way, the work adresses also problems of the relations between privacy and a public space that is infiltrated by an advertisment, which cannot be excaped from when sitting at a window with advertisment on it. In public space, you are not as private as at home. The specific question arises, what's the different between being observed by strangers in the tram with and without the »liebenswert« label. The apparent resemblance of »liebenswert« with the obtrusive placement of advertisement on the trams is kind of a camouflage, comparable to mimicry phemomena in nature. In this sense, the work is like a Trojan Horse, infiltrating our advertisement-loaded environment with core questions of human self-conception and interaction. The harmless and pleasant character of the word »liebenswert« is only an attracting seduction to find oneself finally confronted with the critical approach of the work, while simultaneously interaction takes place in a positive sense.
»Ob Werbung Kunst ist, hängt davon ab, wofür man wirbt« Joseph Beuys (in: Stüttgen 1998)
Aside from the critical and conceptual aspects of the work, one core element of »liebenswert« is the consideration, that everyone is actually concerned with the questions: »Am I loveable?« and »Am I a kind person?« – from her or his perspective and from the view of other persons – regarding basic aspects of one's self-conception, one's personal past, presence and future. These questions are often unsettling in some way, in contrast to the already mentioned, seemingly unoffending character of the word »liebenswert«.
The work is characterized through the ambiguity between its critical aspects and its simultaneously committed approach to create an occasion for people to interact. The work enables people to become the core elements of the work through the formation of temporary portraits. Somehow, the passengers can change their approach of observation due to their adoption of the perspective of a portraying artist.
liebenswert belongs to the series two figures. The series deals on the one hand with the interaction of two persons, on the other hand with the entanglement of conceptual understanding and visual understanding – or more generally: non-verbal understanding – related to movement and the observation of movement.
Stüttgen, Johannes (1998): Werbung für das unsichtbare Produkt, in: ders. Zeitstau. Im Kraftfeld des erweiterten Kunstbegriffs von Joseph Beuys, Wangen, FIU-Verlag, S. 64-93
Words and work in progress (May 2017)
»liebenswert« as temporary portraits
Beside other aspects, many of my works address the problem of portraiture in a specific sense. The works do often embed beyond its other questions the realisation of temporary portraits. Exemplarily elaborated in Variations IX, also in the »separate assignments« series with braid and re-move make-up. In this sense, these works approach to investigate alternative ways of portrayal. The computer screen in the »separate assignments« series can be compared to the frames in the windows of the trams. The windows can also be compared to the computerscreen in stroke / sirens regarding the interaction between actor and observer and the tensions between distance and intimacy. For the first seminal appearance of the portraiture motif see Selbstbildnis, Paris 1992.
Above: Albrecht Dürer: Underweysung der Messung, 1525
[all works from nicolas constantin © nicolas constantin romanacci]