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."