Politics of Communication

Politics of Communication by Thomas Locher

Words, numbers, texts: Thomas Locher's work revolves around language and communication. Born in 1956, in Mundekingen, Germany and now living in Berlin, Thomas Locher is an agent of Concept Art. He combines the critical-analytical software of the 60s and 70s of the twentieth century with topical questions. He unravels impregnated networks of relationship through the schematic, dry juxtaposition of and facts, commentary and image. With his text pictures Locher makes visible the structures which underlie systems. Artworks by Thomas Locher are always a staging of thought processes, offering hyperlinks to the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and his picture theory of language or to the linguistic examinations of the highly theoretical artist, Joseph Kosuth. Added to this is an extremely incisive sociological interest, because when Thomas Locher studies a system, he also examines its political implications and the effects in practice on social life and people's behaviour.

For the exhibition series Arbeitswelten (Worlds of Work) at the Arbeiterkammer, (Chamber of Labour) Vienna, the artist chose the series "Politics of Communication", created in 2000, for which he was awarded the famed IBM Kunstpreis für Neue Medien (New Media Art Prize) in 2003. The work, which Locher has now adapted for poster format, consists of 10 monochrome painted steel and aluminium sheets for the wall. Various-sized photographs and text fields on magnetic foil are attached to their surfaces in a strict stereometric grid layout. The pictures show anonymous offices and conference rooms and sometimes zoom in on details of mass-produced standardised furnishings. Locher took the pictures from design brochures and sales catalogues from various years. It is surprising how little interior aesthetics change and how much the paralysing uniformity says about hierarchies and power structures. Open-plan offices, for example, with their claim to openness and democracy, in reality simply mean supervision and control. Office size and refinements of furnishing reflect the rank and prestige of the employee.

Locher couples the pictures with text fields, combines picture and Unemotional, general, even banal texts comment on the hierarchical structures of office communication, their systems and components. "Es gibt keine Nachricht" (There is no message) can be read, or "das wichtigste an der Nachricht ist ihre Übermittlung" (the most important thing about a message is its sending) or "eine Nachricht kommt selten allein" (a message seldom comes alone). When Locher describes elements of communication and calls them by their names, he makes language his material. He does this with the scientific pertinacity of a botanist examining the systematics of a plant. He is more concerned with the grammar of things, the generally applicable or the underlying law than the individually designed, subjective object. Thomas Locher thereby throws overboard the concept of art as pure aesthetics. He follows a methodical procedure according to a logical system governed by laws. The result of his concentrated reflection on communication and the ways in which it works invites us, as viewers, to add a few arguments, to fill the empty stages of everyday working life with people and with spoken language and to put communication into practice in the fitness landscapes of the so-called information society.