profil without words

"profil without words" by Hans-Peter Feldmann

Bild, 3 Bilder or 12 Bilder (Picture, 3 Pictures or 12 Pictures) was the name of Hans-Peter Feldmann's small cardboard booklets with which he became the secret cult figure of conceptual art in Germany between 1968 and 1976. Inside were black and white reproductions of pictures from magazines and newspapers, postcards and posters. A reprint of printed matter, no commentary, no title or caption, one motif after another, average everyday life neatly and tidily slid into the centre of the page. 'Found footage' was the name given to film for what Feldmann found in the print medium. By no means to sample a new original in a pushy and vulgar way or vainly to give an aura to the individual motifs. Feldmann, the encyclopaedist, shows reproductions. Trivial objects, trivial situations, the complete trivial world. With no information or explanation, ten sailing boats, a volcano, seven tools, unsentimental finds from reality, faithful to the truth, authentic. Like Ed Ruscha in Los Angeles, in Düsseldorf Feldmann worked on the idea of art as a consumer article and dissolved the weight of the unique valuable original in the ease of technical reproduction, always looking for alternative forms and spaces for the production and distribution of an art called everyday culture. 

In the late 70's and the early 80's, as the next generation of artists began to question where the essence of photographic reproduction lay, Douglas Crimp wrote in the catalogue of 'Pictures', an exhibition of young appropriation artists who borrowed existing pictures to produce facsimiles and, like Feldmann, dissolved the categories of master, masterpiece and art history: "Our experience is controlled by pictures to an ever greater extent, pictures in newspapers and magazines, on television and at the cinema. They push themselves to the front of our direct experience, which appears ever more trivial. Whereas we previously believed that the function of pictures was the interpretation of reality, it now appears they have usurped reality."(1) In TV-dominated times of media overkill there are any number of photographs in the world, one single gigantic supermarket of pictures, an endless supply from which Hans-Peter Feldmann extracts with modesty and dignity. Because, "There is hardly any reason to take new photographs. If you need one, you will certainly find it in the archives. And by archives it is not only official preservation institutions which are meant – today everybody has an archive in the form of old newspapers, handbooks, brochures and the ever-growing stockpile of personal photos."(2) The man who loves pictures gives a trite subject its point of reference. 

profil without words goes back to a representational model of Feldmann's from the early 70's, a concept which can finally be realised at the beginning of the new century because until now no print medium ever agreed to the artist's suggestion to print pictures without captions or text. The Austrian news magazine profil has laid itself at Feldmann's feet as basic material. profil has experience with art in the magazine. In 1995/96 museum in progress opened an art space at this interface of the information society on a double-page spread of the magazine which the curators, Stella Rollig and Hans Ulrich Obrist filled with the Travelling Eye exhibition with Nobuyoshi Araki, John Baldessari, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Bernhard Fuchs, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Richard Hoeck, Roni Horn, Jean-Luc Moulène, Gabriel Orozco, Jack Pierson and Gerhard Richter.

Whereas at that time it was a question of enriching a mass medium with works of art "without portfolio", the artist "with portfolio" is now transforming the mass media into art work by means of extraction. Feldmann the bridegroom is undressing profil the bride and eliminating one of the two communication levels of the magazine – the word. Digital processing has enabled the text to be deleted from the issue which, in view of the current political situation in Austria, could become an historical document.

'profil without words' is a visual extract from current affairs as political, economic and cultural news, a newsreel which, because of the loss of any commentary, allows the pictures to speak for themselves. The title logo, the photographs and the illustrations remain unchanged. Feldmann retains the original size, layout and relation of pictures to each other and therefore holds to the thread of the visual information and the dramaturgy of the magazine. It then appears to be less of a tabula rasa of the printed word, but more of a casual laconic removal of words and information in the certainty that the meaning carried by the pictures in any case makes words superfluous. 'profil without words' can be seen as a ready made from Feldmann's legendary picture collection, the naked undemanding appearance of the unpretentious in the next episode of an aesthetically unplanned series. 'profil without words' reinforces Feldmann's identification with an anti-hierarchical and universally valid objectivity. 'profil without words' also shows how much media pictures influence our perception, but also how relative this perception is. If the relationship between text and picture is deconstructed, with time and with distance from the scene the ability to identify also disappears. What is spectacular and particular about the news is dissolved in the spare parts warehouse of collective pictures.

'profil without words', the twin of the news magazine will appear under the Hans-Peter Feldmann imprint in an unlimited edition. It is planned to include the original edition with Feldmann's work. It would be particularly interesting if the original was lost or disappeared and only the reproduction of the reproduction existed. "Feldmann frees his art from any point of reference. It alone determines itself and the degree to which it can be experienced. What is there (and what is trivial) is dissolved in an art work, the art work is dissolved in its own being and becomes reality, like everything else."(3) Godard said, "Everything is in between." Everything is in between. 

(1) Douglas Crimp, Pictures. Ausstellungskatalog Artists Space, New York 1977
(2) Floris Neusuess: Ein Bermudadreieck für die Fotografie. In: Katalog Photorecycling Photo, Universität Kassel 1982, p.150
(3) aus: Werner Lippert, Hans Peter Feldmann-Das Museum im Kopf, Köln 1989

(February 2000)