11 March 2011

    by Katja Schmolka


    This is how the artist delivered an early lecture in 1997. He wrote his name on a paper bag and concluded the talk by putting it over his head while saying, “I am Michael Riedel”. Riedel who is based in Frankfurt presented his third solo show “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” at David Zwirner Gallery in New York, where he presents  silk screened poster paintings.

    Katja Schmolka: You studied with the action artist Hermann Nitsch. What fascinated you most about his approach to art and what did you take for yourself?

    Michael Riedel: I studied at the Städelschule in Frankfurt where Nitsch was teaching. Before that I studied stage design at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf where I left after two years. It was easy for me to understand the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk. And at the end of my studies, Nitsch gave me all his posters that were covering his studio in Frankfurt as a gift.

    K.S: You have had exhibitions in New York, Vienna, London, and Berlin. What constitutes an art city for you? And which is your favourite?

    M.R: My works have also been shown in Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo, and Moscow. I don’t know what’s an art city and don’t like the idea of choosing only one.

    K.S: The artistic expressions in your paintings are achieved through rearranging text. Where does this approach originate and what was the defining moment for you to choose this direction?

    M.R: In 1997, I started writing from audio recordings. These texts, like photographs, were taken with a recorder and became my material to work with. Like écriture automatique, I simply liked the fact that writing a hundred pages a day without being involved too much feels good. The texts weren’t intended to be literature in the conventional sense and were generally perceived as superfluous. I used them as material to overwrite existing literature, to modify it randomly in a way it didn’t matter how. After these works were made and exhibited, they appeared on the Internet in online reviews or interviews – like the one we’re doing now. Overwritten again – descriptions, addresses, comments – I took whole web pages that were mentioning my works to use them as backgrounds in my paintings.

    K.S: Where does your love for language originate and your fascination for its composition?

    M.R: Don’t we live in a big replacement culture in which everything must be made readable? I’m not in love with language – it’s the translation that gives me work to do. And if there’s a fascination, it’s for the fact that setting words turned into pouring text into a text box.

    K.S:  In the 1990s, you started taping texts and poems. How do you view the rapid development of media technology, from tapes to iPod and InDesign, in your work?

    M.R: My first texts were 45 or 90 minutes long. With the MiniDisc, 74 minutes became possible. Its LP2 mode doubled the time and after that, its LP4 mode recorded 320 minutes. The recorder I’m using now can do a 3500-minute text. You have to come up with ideas to keep up with the speed.

    K.S: You mix your colors yourself. How does this feel for an artist who mainly works in the realm of high tech?

    M.R: I’m very low with my ideas in high tech.

    K.S: You’ve positioned significant circles in your poster paintings. Can you explain to us again, in your own words, what they represent?

    M.R: Press release says: ”Riedel affixed a quarter of a circular shape to the corners of each poster, partially obscuring the text. When shown next to one another, the four quarters almost resemble the spinning wheel that appears on a computer screen when the hard-drive is busy processing information. As if signaling that an action is about to be performed—or simply that the computer has stopped functioning properly—the posters thereby acquire an at once dynamic and static appearance.”

    K.S:  Who are your favourite writers?

    M.R: I like the microphone, which doesn’t have to think about perspectives. It’s blind and part of the situation.

    K.S: Contrasts play a significant role in your exhibitions. What fascinates you about black and white?

    M.R: Text. Same as turning a color image into black and white.

    K.S: For you, what’s the appeal of creating something new out of something existing?

    M.R: It’s not about doing something new, which is something existing in the same time, but drawing a distinction between both.

    K.S: Who is your favourite painter?

    M.R: CMYK.

    K.S: Where do you find inspiration for your projects and how long does the process from idea to completion take?

    M.R: Technology is inspiring. Normally, it takes as long as a click.

    K.S: What‘s your favourite book?

    M.R: Shitting and Pissing. It’s the title of a book I wrote in 2000. You can hardly call it a creative act, but there’s an intention that creates a form without control.

    K.S:  What’s your philosophy of life?

    M.R: No answer.

    K.S: Thank you for the interview.

    Installation view of Michael Riedel The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog at David Zwirner, New York
    February 17 to March 19, 2011



    images, Courtesy David Zwirner, New York

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