"Beauty" by Rosemarie Trockel (1995)

The fifth work in the series of exhibitions "The Poster" (Das Plakat) from museum in progress in cooperation with Austrian Airlines and Gewista is by the German concept artist Rosemarie Trockel and is entitled "Beauty".

As in previous years the artist has developed this work especially for "The Poster". She has borne in mind the special structure and effect of the medium, the multi-sheet poster, which has a considerable influence on the visual appearance of our contemporary city landscape.

It is a visual system consisting of individual modules which takes up the format of the individual sheets from which all advertising posters are made up. In contrast to the practice of advertising, the structure of normal advertising images is planned to the last detail. Here, the artist has asked the Gewista employees who put up the posters to choose various combinations of the modules themselves within a defined framework. They then play an active part in the design of each individual poster.

"Beauty", by Rosemarie Trockel, consists of photographs of beauties (from model agencies and from the street) which have then been computer-processed. With the help of Paint Box (Vienna Paint – Albert Winkler) the artist has transformed the faces from the organic beauties of the real models into perfect beauties with both halves of the face appearing flawless. At first, the human eye hardly notices the intervention which, for instance, replaces eyes or changes the imperfect symmetry of each human face into perfect symmetry. However, after looking at more of these beautiful faces one begins to feel uncomfortable. Faces of such mathematically perfect beauty can obviously only be created synthetically and electronically. Rosemarie Trockel's "beauties" are cloned. "The twelve faces should be as beautiful as Nature and the computer allow."

In this way the artist, who since the eighties has been one of the leading concept artists in Germany with a wide reception and influence on the international scene, especially for her development of a post-feminist art for the nineties, has made a very poetic and at the same time very critical intervention in the city landscape of our time which is dominated by the advertising poster with its aggressive and cliché-ridden concept of beauty. Also in the design of advertising images today, the processing of pictures of models with computer and Paint Box has become a common practice which the familiar advertising poster, however, attempts to make unnoticeable. With her conscious exaggeration of this "clone technique" and the uncomfortable feeling which it creates even in the uninitiated observer, Rosemarie Trockel makes clear the problems surrounding the concept of beauty propagated by the mass media and advertising.

At the same time the poster work Beauty goes beyond these current questions. The artist describes beauty itself as a "curse" and as one of the most ambivalent human qualities. Seen in this way Rosemarie Trockel's modular poster design Beauty also constitutes a contemporary continuation of painters coming to terms with the concept of beauty of their epochs, which runs through the history of painting since its beginning as a long unbroken tradition. The fact that out of the twelve faces in this work eleven are from women and only one from a man is clearly meant by Rosemarie Trockel as a political and feminist statement. Beauty most particularly becomes a "curse" with the prescription of a norm of perfection, and in today's society it is the woman, notwithstanding any possible emancipation, who is by far the most affected victim of an ever more inhuman concept of beauty.