Excerpt from Press Release
A conversation between Laura Langer, Christina Lehnert and Person Three
Christina Lehnert: This exhibition consists of two separate situations: one painting displayed in the usual exhibition space, and six paintings in the attic. The large painting in the main exhibition space is the bell of a trumpet, a deep, almost abstract opening, which appears to be made of highly reflective brass. The material, as it is rendered in paint, creates the illusion of a reflection. But the white cube we are standing in, bears no resemblance to the space reflected in the trumpet, so the illusion of the trumpet fights with what we know to be true. It contains the potential for both taking in and giving out, through imagery and the suggestion of sound.
Person Three: The trumpet is an analogical object... the trumpet exists to be listened to. It's loud. It's an instrument that can very easily be identified in an orchestra. When played, it has expressivity, modulation and tenderness, and sometimes the capacity to laugh and scream and even cause harm. It imposes respect, it is strict, and it makes clear that there is something that must be heard. This open mouth is not like that of Munch’s Scream. It is less deteriorated, less desperate and disorganised. This scream is a more discursive one, clean and articulate. Seems easier to be transferred into words. The trumpet has authority. It is from a military order and it gives an order: a type of order makes everybody impotent.
CL: The paintings in the attic all bear the words Und Ihr? (And you?). Where did this come from?
Laura Langer: I found the phrase on an Austrian propaganda poster from the First World War. I don’t know what I was looking for, but when I saw it, it attracted me. I liked the colors, and I liked the position of the soldier, the poster in general. There’s something funny about it. The soldier takes up basically most of the image, he’s laying in the trenches, and we see him almost from behind but his face is turning towards us. It’s as if he were in front of a TV camera: he’s looking at the camera, he knows there is an audience, and he wants to be pitied. “Oh I’m here at war alone but I know you’re watching me, look at me, I am suffering for you.” It’s a kind of perverse glance we get from him, like the cat in Shrek attitude. Then this phrase in one corner Und Ihr?, is as if the face of the soldier wasn’t enough. It is so mean. It works with the psychology of people (like all propaganda or advertisement), and that’s why it becomes mean. Because it uses our sense of duty to make us feel guilt in order to get us to do something, to join the war game. The idea is so simple and so direct, almost rude, patronizing. It touches us at our very low points. And it’s a question we don’t need anyone to ask us because it is anyways inside us as members of society. And you? What about you? What are you doing for this or that? I’ve found it often in my head and I believe that other people do too. I want to believe that I am not alone in this.
CL: So it is a question of the individual and society? Inside and outside?
LL: Or that the voices from the outside actually become yours. It is hard to differentiate. That’s the work one has to do all the time, I believe, just to understand how to go on. Figure out: What is from my parents, what is from society, what is from my friends… you know? What do I want to keep from my family or my culture, to incorporate into myself, and what do I want to throw away? It is this cleaning up of voices that one is doing all the time. And when you don’t do it, you find yourself confused.
Courtesy of the artist and Weiss Falk, Basel.