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Michael Riedel “CV” at Kunsthalle Zürich

Michael Riedel interviewed by Elvia Wilk

 

Elvia Wilk: In preparation for this conversation I looked over your CV, which says your show at Kunsthalle Zürich is in fact titled CV. An artist’s CV is one of those pieces of art-world “metadata”—content about content—that your work so often revolves around. How will the exhibition deal with this particular metadata?

Michael Riedel: Whenever I do a show, I get an automatic reply: a new note in my CV. This creates new text material for me to work with that will end up in the paintings or installations I’m making. This kind of irritation, this performative paradox, interests me.

EW: So the artwork generates a kind of feedback loop, where each exhibition in your CV forms material for the next exhibition?

MR: Yes. This kind of process has been my practice for the last twenty years, but with this show I think it comes to a point where it gets really clear.

EW: Where do you locate meaning in that kind of feedback cycle in which metadata becomes the content?

MR: The meaning is not related to the content. It’s more about the process and about how I produce work. I’m interested in the possibility of always continuing, of never coming to a point where the work is finished—even though there are defined finished works along the way, and also defined starting points.

EW: Does the CV exhibition have a defined starting point, or is it more a retrospective?

MR: It’s not a retrospective, even though there are some early works from the 1990s in addition to the new production. The starting point for the show was this idea of adding the letter “S” to my signature—Michael S. Riedel—a kind of artificial figure, so that I could be someone who creates the artist and not be the artist myself.

EW: That idea of dislocating authorship relates to some of your projects that could or could not be called art, like the event space, Oskar-von-Miller Strasse 16, and the restaurant, Freitagsküche, that you run in Frankfurt. Is it important to you that all the activities you do are called art?

MR: I have success in the art context, so I don’t know what else I could be. For me it’s

not important to call it art, but that’s where it fits.

EW: Right, I think it’s more about what being an artist makes possible and allows you to do. How much of the process or the story behind each of your works does the viewer need to know?

MR: I don’t think it’s necessary to know the story behind the work. The story is like the bonus track. If you like the band, you’re also curious to listen to the bonus track. I would define myself as a visual artist, so the work should create some kind of moment of attraction with the audience. If you want to go deeper, it’s up to you. Working with text material as I do offers a different moment to go deeper. Making a painting with text is not the same thing as painting only with color. The text also appears as something to read.

EW: But some pieces, like the piece you’ve made for the Art Cologne—L (2017), which uses only the letter L in repetition—requires a different kind of reading than sensible text does.

MR: I’m also using text as a pattern. Reading a text means you need time, just like you need time to read a painting, and most people have no time. That’s okay for me, because the pattern is the picture I’d like to deliver, but going deeper into it would mean also reading the text used to create the pattern. Some writers have said the text I use is nonsense text, but it’s not. The text I use is copied and pasted, or transcribed recordings—all these techniques of reducing text in such a way that I’m not involved or stressed as an author.

EW: That reminds me of Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing school. He believes archiving, sorting, and selecting existing text has replaced the creative act of authorship in the digital age. Is this how you see your work with text, too?

MR: Authorship is not so important. The text creates a kind of context for itself. If I’m doing a painting with text, it’s important where it came from—it’s not lorem ipsum. In the case of the Art Cologne piece, if you know that the text (from which all the letter Ls were taken) came from a recording of the selection committee meeting where they decided what works were going to be shown at the fair, I think that makes a good story related to the work.

EW: Along the lines of storytelling, in an interview you once said that your work is not as “dry” as it seems, because it’s a lot of fun to make. Is the fun in the story?

MR: “Fun” sounds a little too light; the work also has a kind of tension. To do a recording of the commission at Art Cologne is not only for fun. I’m also to trying to find and intervene in situations where you don’t usually have access.

EW: Fun isn’t necessarily frivolous. You have to invest something in a situation for it to be really fun. I wouldn’t separate fun and criticality.

MR: In that case, it’s definitely fun for me.

EW: What fun is next?

MR: Two new projects that are more architectural. I designed the ceiling of a new building at Cornell University in upstate New York, and the facade of the new Saarland Museum in Saarbrücken, Germany. They’ll both involve text, too. In Saarbrücken I used the Landtagsdebatte, the politicians’ debate about whether to build the building, as raw material.

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at Kunsthalle Zürich
until 13 August 2017

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