(Corrupting the Absolute)
Deposit of the Centre national des arts plastiques
Born in 1960, Berlin-based Austrian artist Peter Friedl is a major presence on the international art scene. He started out as a theatre critic in the early 1980s, before devoting himself to the visual arts, and he retains a strong connection to the theatre. This is reflected in his exhibitions, which are made like actual sets, with and without set changes, according to the complexity of the project.
In a quest for new narrative forms, his projects explore, in specifically organized contexts, the construction of history and concepts, always informed by revisiting major themes, including childhood, history, sociology and the animal world. With wit and irony, the artist points out the dead ends of modernity, between the utopias of yesterday and today’s compromises.
The many references in his works, and the various methods he uses to express them (drawing, video, photography, installation, etc.) constitute a dense corpus, blending the suggestion of personal history with that of the collective. Friedl’s work is difficult to grasp in an instant; rather, it demands to be considered dynamically. The artist explains that he is looking for ambiguity and confusion, never the precision of an immediate reading. In 1998 he claimed “that misunderstanding is part of understanding”.
Untitled (Corrupting the Absolute) is composed of handwritten letters in red neon.
It transcribes a reference, jotted down in one of the many notebooks that the artist – an attentive observer – carries with him during the course of his daily life, borrowed from the American essayist and rock critic Greil Marcus*.
An underground cult figure, Marcus likes to underscore the oppositions and contrary forces that construct an artist’s genius, just as Peter Friedl emphasizes the analogies as much as the ruptures and gaps that provoke vertigo.
“Corrupting the Absolute” asserts itself as an abstract injunction to remind us that art, if it exists, does not deliver answers, that it first and foremost pushes us to question ourselves. Installed in the lobby, this piece can be seen as an introduction to the philosophy of the Frac Bretagne.
*Corrupting the Absolute is the title of a chapter of the untranslated book: In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-1992, published by Greil Marcus in 1993.
Image : Peter Friedl Untitled (Corrupting the Absolute), 2000 FNAC 02-773 Centre national des arts plastiques © Peter Friedl – Photo credit : Galerie Erna Hécey (Luxembourg)