On the 10-th of November in the “Art von Frei” gallery was opened the solo exhibition of Jos Diegel “Unfinished Adventure With Happy End”. The title signifies combinations of different art strategies, mediums and ideas. The distinctive feature of Diegel’s art is a variety of approaches, representations and disciplines which he uses. “Every artwork is an adventure itself” – says the artist. This word combination reflects the dichotomy of stating the question but not giving a final answer.
As you first walk into the gallery space you get a strong visual impression: paintings with saturated colors and graffiti-style writings, unusual sculptural objects and almost monumental installation of video cassettes with a yellow ribbon which says “CAUTION”.
Let’s first concentrate on the paintings. Diegel frequently works with used objects and gives them new meaning and context. For example, the painting which represents flowers in a vase. This traditional still life motive which usually asserts bourgeois esthetics was reconceptualized into a polemic discourse when the painting reflects about itself. This approach connects Diegel with dadaistic tradition and the concept of ready-made. He breaks the illusion of the artwork as such by destroying the initial purpose and adding word/meaning play. The phrase “flowers on the wall” is a kind of joke as they both on the wall of the gallery and on the wall inside the painting which marks the connotation between signified/signifier. Another interesting example is a series of square paintings which were made of artist’s old t-shirts. As avant-garde discourse eliminates the commonness of an artwork we can say that Diegel does the same except before he excluded this commonness he first purposely included it. In other words it stands in opposition to classical ready-made concept when the object does not have any changes or additions but accepted as art because of the context. In Diegels work objects are fragments of reality incorporated into the personal story of the artist which would make them almost sentimental if there would be no humor included in them.
Besides the elements of self-reflexivity, dada and surrealism influence there is also a political subtext in Diegel’s works. However, he does not shout the political slogans to the viewer’s face but rather reacting, illustrating and triggering political issues of contemporary world. Diegel’s interest in situationism as a movement which prioritizes life over pure aesthetics is expressed through his works such as “Ich Mag Kunstwerke Die Als Barrikaden Dienen Koennen”. What happens when art meets politics? In this work there are many layers of the meaning at once. The connection between art as a manifestation of the human thought and politics as a basis of our subjectivity. Diegel in this regard is speaking with us on the same language – the language which we all understand and his artworks in this sense are topical. The messages are not direct but more thought-provoking: “I like concepts that are able to disturb the idea, that says, everything is in its right place and behaves, perceives, senses and thinks accordingly to this place”. And his playful experimental style perfectly transfers these social-political questions.
One of the most striking piece on the exhibition is human-size sculpture “She has nice legs but she cannot paint”. The idea came from the citation of Georg Baselitz but at the same time it covers the whole long story of the woman’s role in art and the difficulties they were facing. Diegel once again questions the art system as such, the social roles and definitions and gives us an opportunity to react. In addition to this, there is a photograph which brilliantly imitates the famous Jan Vermeer “Die Malkunst”. In this photograph the artist is represented as a model while the woman as a painter. This work perfectly plays with male/woman role and enters into the feminist discourse. The woman’s body is often manipulated by male sight and represented as an object. With both playfulness and seriousness Diegel tries to make the shift between the roles by placing himself in the position of passive object and by putting woman as a subject.
“DER KÜNSTLER UND SEIN MODELL (DIE KUNST) / THE ARTIST AND HIS MODEL (THE ART)”
the following credits apply:
Image: Courtesy of Art von Frei, the artist and authors
Artwork & Concept: Jos Diegel
Photography: Volker Muth
Performance: Jos Diegel & Claudia Huber
Reference: “Die Malkunst”, Jan Vermeer, 1664/68
On the second floor of the gallery the three short films of artist were demonstrated. Each of them is made in different style and has its detached topic. For example, “Bebi Art Cinema Movie” is made in experimental, provocative style with almost Eisensteinian aggressive montage where incongruous images are combined. The unique “effects” of the film was made by scratching and painting on 35mm film material. Another one – “An Die Lebenden War Dieser Film Bisher Gerichtet” is continuing Diegel’s political and social engagement, covering the topic of protest, social transformations and resistance. And, last but not least, “Boredom is Counterrevolutionary” made as fiction dialogue which never existed but projected on the conversation of the real people. The dialogue even has a neo-marxist discourse on work and freedom (“We don’t want full employment. We want full lives”); a position of human unfreedom in capitalistic world and revolutionary role of art. The common tone of the film is kind of deep philosophical atmosphere of searching the truth and finding the meaning; the two characters answering each other in short, even poetic phrases. And all this story is going on in spectacular nature of Bosnia.
I must admit that the collaboration between Jos Diegel and “Art von Frei” was a true success. The gallery is not only commercially orientated but has its small and proud mission – to engage people with art, to provoke a conversation and to find new meanings. Jos Diegel is a right artist for these purposes as he questions, plays, experiments with relevant social situations as well as with art system itself. Even though he uses very different kinds of artistic mediums his works are unified by using and playing with language, images, situations, fragment and expressions with more or less political or abstract reference towards social processes.
“Unfinished Adventures With Happy End” is a set of different art approaches which together make a full coherence concept. And even though the artist not always answers all the questions in his works but at least gives ‘why” to his viewer. As Jos Diegel said “If at the end of the day, there is “why”, that might have been a good day”.
Images: Installation views of the Jos Diegel exhibition. Courtesy of Art von Frei and Jos Diegel, Photography: Stephanie Wächter, (c) Berlin 2016