Kunsthalle Düsseldorf

A Void. Henri Chopin, Guy De Cointet, Channa Horwitz

16 May - 30 Jun 2013

Curated by Elodie Evers and Magdalena Holzhey
16 May – 30 June 2013

In 1969, the French aut­hor Ge­or­ge Pe­rec wro­te the ex­tra­or­di­na­ry no­vel La Dis­pa­ri­ti­on (pu­blis­hed in English un­der the tit­le A Vo­id, and in Ger­man as An­ton Voyls Fort­gang)
in which the vo­wel E does not ap­pe­ar. The no­vel shows how lan­gua­ge can as­su­me the ro­le of the nar­ra­tor even when it is bound in the cor­set of a strict ru­le. Pe­rec’s work was a ma­jor sour­ce of in­spi­ra­ti­on and point of re­fe­rence for nu­me­rous con­tem­pora­ry con­cept ar­tists. In ac­cor­dance wi­th the aims of the Ou­Li­Po group (“Work­shop of Po­ten­ti­al Li­te­ra­tu­re”) Pe­rec sought to ex­pand
the po­ten­ti­als of lan­gua­ge by me­ans of self-im­po­sed for­mal cons­traints—a me­thod that is si­mi­lar­ly bin­ding for the oeu­vre of the three ar­tists who­se works are being shown to­ge­ther for the first ti­me in this ex­hi­bi­ti­on. Hen­ri Chopin (1922–2008), Guy de Co­in­tet (1934–1983) and Ch­an­na Hor­witz (1932–2013) be­gan de­ve­lo­ping their works in the ni­n­e­teen six­ties, a ti­me that was de­fined by the ap­proach of post-struc­tu­ra­lism: In 1968, Ro­land Barthes pos­tu­la­ted the de­ath of the aut­hor who now no lon­ger held so­le power over le­gi­bi­li­ty. Se­mio­tic sys­tems we­re de­bun­ked as ar­bi­tra­ry and the pro­blem of the re­la­ti­ons­hip bet­ween sign and mea­ning as well as the chan­ge­abi­li­ty of con­struc­tions of mea­ning we­re ex­plo­red. In art, the fo­cus was pla­ced in par­ti­cu­lar on the con­cep­tu­al sys­te­ma­tic dea­ling wi­th the ba­sic pa­ra­me­ters of our ex­pe­ri­ence: ti­me, space, lan­gua­ge and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on. Each in their own way, Chopin, de Co­in­tet and Hor­witz de­di­ca­ted them­sel­ves to ana­ly­zing sys­tems of mea­ning and wor­king out their ru­les-ba­sed con­nec­tions, trans­for­ming or re­inven­ting them in the pro­cess. Ch­an­na Hor­witz’s drawings are in­deb­ted to the aest­he­tics of no­ta­ti­on, the clo­se link bet­ween idea, pro­cess and work. Wi­th the help of a set of ru­les she crea­tes com­plex struc­tu­res who­se vi­b­ra­ting pic­to­ri­al struc­tu­re masks their un­der­ly­ing lo­gic. Chopin sli­des the ima­ge­ry of the ty­ped cha­rac­ters over their se­man­tic con­texts whi­le Guy de Co­in­tet con­ce­als mea­ning in coded signs and li­nes.
For all three ar­tists, this is the first in­sti­tu­tio­nal ex­hi­bi­ti­on of their drawings in the Rhi­ne­land or Ger­ma­ny, re­spec­tive­ly. Wi­th a selec­tion of works each da­ting from the ni­n­e­teen six­ties to the ni­n­e­teen eigh­ties, the show fo­cu­ses on works on pa­per, thus em­pha­si­zing an as­pect of their work that has first attrac­ted re­ne­wed and in­crea­sing at­ten­ti­on in re­cent ye­ars. Drawing
ap­pears in the pro­cess as a ge­nui­ne me­di­um along­side the per­for­ma­ti­ve and mul­ti­me­dia forms of ex­pres­si­on wi­th which Chopin, de Co­in­tet and Hor­witz ha­ve lar­ge­ly be­co­me known.

Hen­ri Chopin was a key fi­gu­re in vi­su­al and sound poe­try. Par­ti­cu­lar­ly in his ty­pewri­ter po­ems he ex­plo­res the re­la­ti­ons­hip bet­ween cha­os and or­der. Chopin breaks down
words in­to their in­di­vi­du­al let­ters, ta­kes up their or­na­men­ta­ti­ons and di­stils them down in­to gra­phic ima­ges. In do­ing so, he con­fronts the mea­ning of lan­gua­ge wi­th the pos­si­bi­li­ty of an in­fi­ni­te trans­for­ma­ti­on of its signs. Pa­per and ty­pewri­ter en­ter in­to an unusu­al re­la­ti­ons­hip, which leads to over­lap­pings, cros­sings, re­ver­sals and ex­pan­si­ons of wri­ting’s ele­ments. Pre­cise, subt­le and hu­mo­rous writ­ten ima­ges wi­th a spa­ti­al depth struc­tu­re are crea­ted through ac­cen­tua­ti­ons of co­lor and the me­thod of over­typ­ing. Hen­ri Chopin not on­ly had a de­cisi­ve in­flu­ence on con­tem­pora­ry poe­try as an ar­tist and sound poet but al­so as a jour­na­list. Along­side his own works he al­so pu­blis­hed pie­ces by other ar­tists such as Raoul Haus­mann, Wil­liam Bur­roughs and François Dufrêne in his ex­pe­ri­men­tal jour­nals Cin­quie­me Sai­son (1959–1963) and Re­vue OU (1964–1974).

The French-born con­cep­tu­al ar­tist Guy de Co­in­tet, na­med “Los An­ge­les’s Duch­amp” by so­me,
was an in­flu­en­ti­al mem­ber of the Ca­li­for­ni­an art sce­ne from the la­te ni­n­e­teen six­ties un­til his un­ti­me­ly de­ath. His gra­phic oeu­vre en­com­pas­sing over 300 drawings pro­du­ced in the ni­n­e­teen seven­ties and eigh­ties can be read from a pre­sent-day per­spec­tive li­ke a pre­cur­sor of the im­pen­ding di­gi­ta­liza­t­i­on age be­cau­se of the em­ploy­ed codes. De Co­in­tet’s in­te­rest was fo­cu­sed on pop cul­tu­re, but al­so on ever­y­day si­tua­ti­ons and ad­ven­ture sto­ries that he trans­la­ted in­to mir­ror wri­ting, mi­li­ta­ry codes and fic­titious ciph­ers. In other drawings he ma­de use of cal­li­gra­phy or Na­va­jo co­lor codes. In the pro­cess, he was not con­cer­ned wi­th the le­gi­bi­li­ty of the works, which can by all me­ans be de­coded. He was in­s­tead in­te­rested in the trans­la­ti­on of mea­ning in­to vi­su­al signs that be­co­me an image, ge­ne­ra­ting in turn mul­ti­ple, in­fi­ni­te mea­nings. In for­mal
terms, the works fa­sci­na­te us be­cau­se of their re­duc­tion, the flowing dy­na­mism of their signs and their ne­ar­ly spi­ri­tu­al ab­strac­tion. Ever­y­thing ap­pears per­fect­ly ba­lan­ced, har­mo­nious. The ar­tist loved play­ing wi­th iden­ti­ties and wor­ked un­der va­rious he­te­ro­nyms. In do­ing so he ap­p­lied his fa­sci­na­ti­on for codes and puz­zles to his own ar­tis­tic per­so­na and pu­blis­hed works
un­der dif­fe­rent na­mes.

The re­cent­ly de­cea­sed Ca­li­for­ni­an ar­tist Ch­an­na Hor­witz wor­ked at the thres­hold bet­ween signs and phy­si­cal ac­tion, oc­cu­p­y­ing hers­elf wi­th a ma­the­ma­ti­cal­ly-ba­sed sys­tem of drawing sin­ce the ear­ly ni­n­e­teen six­ties, one that enables her to vi­sua­li­ze mo­ti­on and ti­me. Al­most all of her black and whi­te as well as co­lo­red works are ba­sed on a grid of ho­ri­zon­tal as well as ver­ti­cal li­nes, on ba­sic geo­me­tric shapes as well as the se­quence of num­bers from one to eight that Hor­witz de­clined li­ke verbs in ever new va­ria­ti­ons: it is an al­go­rithm that can con­den­se in­to struc­tu­res of ne­ar­ly un­de­co­da­ble com­ple­xi­ty. Alt­hough the strict­ness of her ru­les makes an al­most her­me­tic im­pres­si­on, her fi­ne drawings dis­play a pe­cu­li­ar vi­su­al ap­peal. This de­ri­ves in equal me­a­su­re from the spa­ti­al vor­tex vi­si­ble in ma­ny of the drawings, the li­nes of which ap­p­lied to tra­cing pa­per al­most seem as if they we­re ho­ver­ing in thin air, as well as from the vi­si­ble ten­si­on bet­ween the pro­gram­med pro­ce­du­re and the drawn li­ne, bet­ween sets of ru­les and free­dom wi­t­hin a com­plex ar­tis­tic sys­tem that Hor­witz hers­elf cha­rac­te­ri­zed as a “vi­su­al phi­lo­so­phy.”

Tags: Henri Chopin, Guy de Cointet, François Dufrêne, Li Gang, Channa Horwitz, Li Ming