Urs Fischer: Sirens
German / English
The Sirens in this book look at us from the large silkscreen paintings of Swiss artist Urs Fischer, who intercuts and collages publicity shots of classic Hollywood actors with their own double images and naturally flowing abstractions. Due to these organic forms, the artist himself speaks of the pictures as landscape paintings, and he juxtaposes them as a different sort of landscape with a set of sculptures across the gallery floor: small figures interacting with found elements such as potatoes or a bent spoon. These witty inventions in painted bronze are grouped around a mirror pond framed by potted plants, whose slow dripping fills the spaces like another form of siren call. Work images and installation shots from both venues of these twin exhibitions at Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin are accompanied by an essay from Gregor Jansen, who discusses the issues of physical reality, perception, and quasi-filmic projection reflected in these works.
SIRENS. LIVED PERSPECTIVE, ABSTRACTION, AND MYTHOLOGY
From the perspective of the mythological doctrines, in which nature naively asserts itself, the process of abstraction—as employed, for example, by the natural sciences—is a gain in rationality which detracts from the resplendence of the things of nature. From the perspective of reason, the same process of abstraction appears to be determined by nature; it gets lost in an empty formalism under whose guise the natural is accorded free rein because it does not let through the insights of reason which could strike at the natural. The prevailing abstractness reveals that the process of demythologization has not come to an end. (Siegfried Kracauer)
The Sirens, those omniscient, mythical demons who are dead in the water and no longer sing, have disappeared. Or so it seems. The audience empathizes with them as disembodied actors, as it empathizes with a technical apparatus (in the present case, the exhibition space). It follows their approach, testing it, finding that, in Benjamin’s words, this is not an approach compatible with cult value. Finally, the demand on the viewers as actors—with their complete living body and personality—again is a reflection of the aura: by way of the flesh that is present in two very different exhibition spaces and the exhibited works of widely diverging dimensions.
Today we mostly search in vain for the corporeality of the Sirens in art; instead, a song of praise is leveled at plurality and redefinition. The deadly lure of seduction can rather be found in the networks and relationships of political life, in the public space. With the development of a postmodern virtuality and a new experience of reality that comes along with it, our challenge for roughly half a century has been to redefine our own selves from a vastly complex, pluralistic social context and the mythologies of everyday life. This does not lead us into arbitrariness and mere tolerance, but into respecting and honoring different ways of life and different orientations. The works of Urs Fischer let us look, think, work on mythologies in marvelous ways, because we still need Sirens.