Michael Riedel


Selected Press

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ELVIA WILK: In preparation for this conversation I looked over your CV, which says your upcoming show at Kunsthalle Zürich is in fact titled CV. An artist's CV is one of those pieces of art-world "metadata"–content about content–that your work so often revolves around. How will the exhibition deal with this particular metadata?

MICHAEL RIEDEL: Whenever I do a show, I get an automatic reply: a new note in my CV. This creates new text material for me to work with that will end up in the paintings or installations I'm making. This kind of irritation, this performative paradox, interests me.

EW: So the artwork generates a kind of feedback loop, where each exhibition in your CV forms material for the next exhibition?

MR: Yes. This kind of process has been my practice for the last twenty years, but with this show I think it comes to a point where it gets really clear.

EW: Where do you locate meaning in that kind of feedback cycle in which metadata becomes the content?

MR: The meaning is not related to the content. It's more about the process and about how I produce work. I'm interested in the possibility of always continuing, of never coming to a point where the work is finished–even though there are defined finished works along the way, and also defined starting points.

EW: Does the CV exhibition have a defined starting point, or is it more a retrospective?

MR: It's not a retrospective, even though there are some early works from the 1990s in addition to the new production. The starting point for the show was this idea of adding the letter "S" to my signature–Michael S. Riedel–a kind of artificial figure, so that I could be someone who creates the artist and not be the artist myself.

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Behind the Scenes with Artist Michael Riedel

German artist Michael Riedel softly gestures at his work with his long, spindly fingers. He's on a walk-through of his latest exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery, in New York trying to express the meaning of the repetitious and seemingly arbitrary symbols for which he's best known. The show features a new wallpaper—one of his signature mediums—and silkscreen prints whose patterns derive from HTML codes and plastic bags from the Blick Art Materials store, respectively, each made with an eye towards reproduction.

Your first reaction to the artist's work might be that he's just another appropriation artist. But his work actually goes beyond the individual objects and images which he reproduces. Considering the gallery as a container is Riedel's main concern, which is why we asked him for a look inside at how he uses the white cube space as a frame. 

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Welcome invitation: Michael Riedel at Kunstverein Braunschweig

Wallpaper* has long been a fan of German artist Michael Riedel's work. For instance, his graphic executions were the subject of a fashion shoot in our March 2014 issue, for which Riedel also posed as our limited edition front cover's model.

The artist is now being celebrated with a solo show at the Kunstverein Braunschweig. Focusing on invitation designs he produced between 1997 and 2015, the exhibition is a minimal treat, set within the majestic classicist spaces of the institution's Villa Salve Hospes.

Since his days at the Frankfurt Städelschule (where he graduated as a Meisterschüler in 2000), Riedel has produced a wealth of invitation designs to announce his works, exhibitions and other events. Titled 'Exhibitions Seen and Not Seen', the show is a celebration of the invitation as a central part of Riedel's oeuvre, used as a means to explore his wider production. The invitations on display feature a variety of media, from poster to card design, including a telephone conversation transcript rendered in classic Riedel graphic style.

The artist produced the exhibition himself as an intervention in the spaces of the museum, transforming doors and windows into white panels that he dispersed around the different rooms. The rich interiors of the Kunstverein became a personal playground for Riedel, who refashioned the spaces into a dynamic white cube. 

'Exhibitions Seen and Not Seen' both looks back, over Riedel's vibrant artistic style while at the same time establishing a new chapter in his aesthetic language.

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Making Art from Other Art, Using Microsoft PowerPoint

Michael Riedel copies. He copies the work of others, he copies his own work, and he invites others to do the same. In his hometown of Frankfurt, he is infamous for staging copycat art shows, concerts, and even people. As the New York Times explained last year:

For the next five years, Riedel's crew terrorized Frankfurt's characteristically uptight art scene with what amounted to a schoolyard game of copycat, dirty rat! When the celebrated English art eccentrics Gilbert & George came to town, they were greeted at their opening by "Gert" and "Georg," two actors Riedel hired to walk a few steps behind the art duo and mime their every move. No medium was safe from the Xerox treatment. The ersatz art happenings inspired a series of "Filmed Film" events, featuring bootlegs made by pointing a cheap video camera at the screen from the back rows of Frankfurt's art-house movie theaters, and "Clubbed Clubs," where the crowd would groove to a pocket recording made at a concert or performance the previous night. Often these events would be better attended than the real ones, because in Riedel's version there was always plenty of beer, music and dancing involved.

At David Zwirner Gallery this month, Riedel unveiled a series of screen prints called PowerPoint, which represent the next step in his evolution as an artist. It seems only natural that a great copycat would eventually turn to Microsoft PowerPoint, a program devoted to the rehashing of data into easily digestible info packets.

Riedel talks about PowerPoint as a syntax, a set of rules that "reintroduce the system of art into the art system." These new paintings, which blanket the gallery floor to ceiling, are actually resynthesized versions of works he made in 2011. That series, called Poster Paintings, was made from snippets of code from websites about Riedel–like MoMA's profile page for the artist. For PowerPoint, Riedel has taken two of the Poster Paintings and put them into a blank PowerPoint presentation. Then, he's inserted one of the program's 40 infamously cheesy transitions (waves, clock hands, or maybe the page turn) between the slides, creating screenshots of the presentation as it’s shifting between slides. The result is a "copy of a copy of a copy" effect, where old work begets new in an endless echo chamber.

Riedel's system, theoretically, could be repeated ad infinitum to produce more art. A set of 20 cards laying around the gallery drive the point home: They contain descriptions of different PowerPoint transitions, as if instructing visitors to make their own versions of the work. The invitation to the opening arrived as a CD containing a two-minute synth-pop number describing the transitions, by Woog Riots. Speaking to Life + Times, Riedel says the show "isn't an advertisement for the program." Rather, "it's more a system that's running a system, but I'm more the one watching the creation of art, which is creating a system that is working for me."

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Visual Artist Michael Riedel Speaks on "Powerpoint" Art Exhibit

German conceptual artist Michael Riedel's fourth solo exhibition at David Zwirner mines modern day methods of communication to reflect on the space that exists in the digital divide. Riedel invited the German-Italian electronic duo Woog Riots to interpret the show details (such as the date, time, and location) word-for-word in catchy vocals over a peppy synthesizer and an up tempo backbeat. The song was then sent out in CD format in place of a traditional invitation. This aspect of Riedel's new show is just the kind of textual communication process that fascinates the German artist, making for a body of work that is both heady humorous.

Riedel has a history of looking at the way his artwork is interpreted in text, using bits of copy extracted from printed articles and advertisements as source material. In a prior exhibition Poster Paintings, he made silk-screened paintings from copy-and-pasted text, which he extracted from websites documenting his work. For his new show, Powerpoint, his paintings investigate the action that takes place within Powerpoint, the software program that he has used to present his artwork in the past.

For Powerpoint, Riedel honed in on a feature of the software program that occurs in the transition of slides between two images. He has created a new series of paintings that capture, in essence, the effect that occurs between clicks. He displays the paintings against wallpapered patterns taken from the Poster Paintings series. Riedel lives and works in Frankfurt, where his work was the subject of a major survey last year at the Schirn Kunsthalle. Life + Times spoke to Riedel about Powerpoint, which runs through Mar. 23 in New York City.

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In the introduction to his book Art After Appropriation (2001), John C. Welchman discusses Georges Bataille's essay on the Marquis de Sade–The Use Value of D.A.F. de Sade (An Open Letter to My Current Comrades) from 1930. Here, Welchman notes, Bataille correlates appropriation with bodies; Bataille identifies 'two polarized human impulses: excretion and appropriation', which result from 'the division of social facts into religious facts […] on the one hand and profane facts […] on the other'. Excretion is associated with the heterogeneous expulsion of foreign bodies: with 'sexual activity […] heedless expenditure […] certain fanciful uses of money' and 'religious ecstasy'. Appropriation, by contrast, finds its 'elementary form' in 'oral consumption'; its process 'is thus characterised by a homogeneity (static equilibrium) of the author of the appropriation, and of objects as a final result'. Appropriative experience may begin with the ordering of foreign bodies through digestive incorporation, but it extends to analogous forms of additive material: 'clothes, furniture, dwellings, and instruments of production […]'. 'Such appropriations', Bataille continues, 'take place by means of a more or less conventional homogeneity (identity) established between the possessor and the object possessed'. But in Bataille's opinion, there is no binary separation, because 'production can be seen as the excretory phase of a process of appropriation'. Appropriation is not sepa­rated from production but rather one of its possible manifestations.

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