TALK. Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s

EXHIBITION 08.10.99 – 09.01.00

The title "TALK.Show" refers to the conversation format from the kind of entertainment programmes we know from television. The literal meaning includes the aspects that are key to the exhibition: "Speaking.showing". Twenty-four contemporary artists take on the topic of communication, the success and failure of understanding between people. The exhibition shows a range of paintings, sculptures, media art and room installations from the 1990s. One focus is on artworks that use the acoustic dimension of language; one-third of the exhibits were created purposely for the show.

The visualisation of language played a significant role in the art of the 20th century. Words and texts were introduced into the collages and montages of the Cubists (Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso), the Dadaists (Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters) and the Surrealists (René Magritte, Max Ernst). They served as metaphors for the noisiness of everyday life in big cities and as a vociferous protest against the political situation. After the Second World War, it was the pop artists mainly, and the concept artists, who grappled with the process of speaking in a society that was influenced by mass communications.

While earlier artistic movements considered logical communications generally as self-evident, today, spoken statements or forms of communication are greeted with scepticism. The artists are not really concerned with a closed iconographic system. The exhibition re-examines the diversity of expressive possibilities of language in the reflection of a variety of media. 

What if paintings in a museum would suddenly start speaking with the visitors? The paintings of Rémy Zaugg are not just mute witnesses, rather, they demand immediate contact. Specific formulations and the impact of colour form, in part, contradictory relationships. The spoken word is unpredictable. 

The "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" hung on the wall and connected with the installation "Round Table" by Thomas Locher, also breaks with the convention of the panel painting and calls for a personal point of view from the observer. 

Adib Fricke conceived a navigation system especially for "TALK.Show" that combines the room descriptions and the inscriptions of the exhibited works. Fricke imitates the practices of the advertising industry and reveals the problems in designing the communication of an exhibition. What is a work without a label?

The dramatic world of filmed phone calls is the point of departure for the video work by Christian Marclay. He is less concerned with the film content than with the prerequisites of a medium, its mechanisms, rituals and the things it makes a fetish of. 

Christian Jankowski looks at the omnipotence of the high priests of television. In his staged TV communication with Italian psychics, entitled "Telemistica", clairvoyance intersects with an absence of understanding. The authenticity of the media world is being questioned. 

Heimo Zobernig also focused on the places of public communication. The artist has de-contextualised, broken up and dissected the dictatorial pretensions of various media announcement strategies and their failures.

Yana Miley also works with the borderline area of communication processes, but in a completely different manner. The fading in and out of their perplexing messages illustrates the ambivalence of unequivocal and at the same time open communication.

Tony Oursler's video sculpture creates a kind of skin upon which communication breaks open and makes itself available. The individuality of the two bizarre creatures of "We Have No Free Will" vanishes behind a language that is not their own.

The artists duo, Clegg & Guttmann, investigate communication using the methods of visual sociology. Their installation, "Verité", can be used like an archive and serves as a portrait of mediatic society.         

Pietro Sanguineti works with the symbolic values of the entertainment industry. For the exhibition in Munich, which is known as a hub of cinema and television, he created a stage sculpture that represents in itself a communication structure: colours, forms, materials and furnishings express moods and layers of feeling. The promise of authenticity and sensuous presence remains a scintillating sham. Many parallel events take place on this stage during the exhibition. Christine Hill is presenting her project "Tourguide?", which has her acting as a tour guide through the multilingual city of New York. The panel events of Hinrich Sachs are also understood as social sculptures. They are different from the normal talk shows, because of their though-put handling of the public self-staging and the formalisation of the talking. 

The creative raw material of the video works by Daniel Pflumm comes from news broadcasts from "CNN – Questions and Answers". The rigid dogmas are dissolved and are given new life with a new rhythm.

The artist duo M + M put together an exclusive panel of experts. "12 Marias" from cultural history, including Maria Magdalena, Marie Curie and Maria Callas, answer the question: "How should we avoid the Flood?" The known historical answers can be received by using the public phone system.

Mike Kelley's grotesque "Dialogue" between two cuddly toy animals revives memories from childhood; he brings together that which is worthy of mercy and that which is wretched in our communication.  

In the "Joke Paintings" by Richard Prince, one sees the questionable image of normalcy, as it is conveyed by jokes as a fundamental element of our understanding of everyday life. 

The framework for the shrill and gaudy self-staging of Pipilotti Rist is put together out of thirty years of experience with television. The female protagonist screams and begs in vain for help from the video "Selbstlos im Lavabad" ("Selfless in the lava Bath") that is embedded in the floor, and attempts to escape from the prison of emotions and fantasy. 

Rirkrit Tiravanija's idea is to kindle communication within the framework of exhibition events. He installed telephones in the exhibition to connect visitors who do not know each other. The exchange is dependent on the readiness of each individual to communicate.

Eran Schaerf is interested in the common structures of text and textiles. In his work, he examines the communication signals of clothing, so-called "Dresscodes" as the decisive parameters of the message.

The installation "To Touch", by Janet Cardiff, consists of a wooden table with invisible sensors. It begins to whisper secrets to the visitors who touch the surface. Hirsch Perlman is concerned with the multiple ways to read linguistic expression. He raises questions about the concordance of what is shown and what is described. 

Finally, in his "Atlantic", Sam Taylor-Wood analyses the success and failure of direct understanding. The spoken word and non-verbal communication prove to be equal partners, even if the presence of both interlocutors implies new difficulties.

M + M, 12 Marias, 1999 © M + M
M + M, 12 Marias, 1999 © M + M
Sam Taylor-Wood, Atlantic, 1997, Goetz Collection, Munich, photo Wolfgang Neeb
Sam Taylor-Wood, Atlantic, 1997, Goetz Collection, Munich, photo Wolfgang Neeb
Pietro Sanguineti, Schmidt, 1997 © Pietro Sanguineti
Pietro Sanguineti, Schmidt, 1997 © Pietro Sanguineti
Mike Kelley, Dialogue #1, 1991 © Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Dialogue #1, 1991 © Mike Kelley
Christine Hill, Volksboutique, 1997 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 1991
Christine Hill, Volksboutique, 1997 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 1991
Daniel Pflumm, CNN Questions & Answers, 1997 © Galerie Neu
Daniel Pflumm, CNN Questions & Answers, 1997 © Galerie Neu
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi
TALK.Show — The Art of Communication in the 1990s, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1999, photo Wilfried Petzi

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