Buch Peter Weibel. (Post-)Europa?

Lovis-Corinth-Preis 2020

Peter Weibel. (Post-)Europa? Lovis-Corinth-Preis 2020. Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2020.
Peter Weibel. (Post-)Europa? Lovis-Corinth-Preis 2020. Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2020.


Agnes Tieze, Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie Regensburg

Hatje Cantz

Berlin, Deutschland


128 S.


Seite 102-104 im Original

Peter Weibel, the Master Artificer

We can presumably all safely start out from the fundamental observation that only someone who knows how to honor deserves honor. I am indebted to Peter Weibel for much of my sense of honor, since I have already honored him frequently before state and church, before universities and company, before the public, and in printed matter! Now, today, I am honoring for the umpteenth time the master artificer as a central figure of the now possible synthesis of creation and work, writing and thinking, cheerfulness and depth, freedom and necessity.

An appropriate account of this larger-than-life person would require more space and time than I can claim just now. Anyone who wants to take on something in that respect may read my truly grand text "ex opere operato" in the exhibition catalogue Peter Weibel: The Open Work, 1964-1979 of 2006.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel introduced the term Werkmeister (master artificer) in his Phänomenologie des Geistes (Phenomenology of the Mind) of 1806-7 in order to distinguish himself with his analysis of the modern variant of creation as work from the fuss about genius of the rhymers and rhetoricians of early Romanticism. The master artificer is characterized, on the one hand, by a connection to the creative activists of all earlier cultures who did not yet know the role of the autonomous artist and scientist, but relied on techne, that is, knowledge of how something is accomplished. In the ancient world, therefore, the patroness of artisans and builders, of writers and sculptors, of preservers of regional heritage and civil diplomats was known in Greece as Pallas Athena and in Rome as Minerva. She lent strength to finish a task. That is difficult to understand today, when every jack-of-all-trades believes he knows how to rise above Aristotelian dramaturgy. In truth, these pseudo-modernists have merely lost the energy and ability to inevitably bring every beginning to a conclusion that results from it; indeed, it is wonderfully convenient to pass every inability off as disinclination and to attribute haphazard sloppiness to a program of openness and equality. To thunderous applause, the open work of art becomes the postulate, like cosmopolitanism today, for which, revealingly, there is no single, intelligible definition of the term. The master artificer knows what will happen, for example, if the auto mechanic gets a whim to tinker with an electric motor or a mathematician or physician justifies his work with explanations based on private mythology.

The master artificer is characterized, on the other hand, by legitimization through procedure while at the same time accepting violations of the procedure as an extension of the previously usual process—to the extent they are successful. In Heinrich von Kleist's Prinz von Homburg, which was written around the same time as the Phänomenologie, the aristocratic convention of sheer positivity initially seems to be victorious, before, finally, bourgeois morality as an end that justifies the means is praised from the depths of a woman's heart.

The master artificer exposes such escapades as a form of intellectual kitsch in which ideologues indulge (Napoleon had dismissed intellectuals—that is, Hegelian conceptual workers—as ideologues because they did not bend to his will to power).

The master artificer Weibel is oriented in equal measure around technical ability and around the replacement of the theologically based concept of creation with organized work. Where is there still room for the new, for the development or progress beyond fate and necessity? The master artificer Weibel knows, not only from his own experience, that one cannot step into the same river twice. At least every thirty years—that is, with every new generation—there is a new look at the old Albrecht Dürer and the old Rembrandt, at Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Gottlob Frege, at Hermann von Helmholtz and Henri Bergson. The work of these gentlemen has not changed one iota in its material composition and yet from time to time it seems completely new. On the other hand, every master artificer knows that, logically, the newest new as something completely unknown only works by changing our view of the old. The invention of photography did not make painting obsolete, but it did change our awareness of the specific capability of painting. The invention of film—even of the "talking picture"—forced us to reevaluate the aesthetic of the still image, that is, of photography. Our understanding of electromagnetism increases our respect for the pre-Socratic claim that "The whole world is full of Gods." And computer-generated artificial intelligence will clarify the old question of how the physically existing brain can produce ideas (that is, metaphysics) that can in turn determine how the form and hence the achievement of the materially existing world change.

And master artificer Weibel agrees with other master artificers on how this continual feedback of ideas on physics can be understood as a source of theoretical objects. For the sphere of artistic work, this results in the field of theoretical art. On the one hand, the master artificer assembles therein everything that has previously been grasped as a medium in its own autonomous, ontological determination with regard to form and shape, that is, as the nutrient fluid of "autopoiesis," so to speak. On the other hand, the theoretical objects are characterized by "allopoiesis," that is, the creation of reciprocal connections of meaning that are alien to each other. In the art world, "allopoiesis" has been defined at least since 1957 by Marcel Duchamp's lecture in Houston. Duchamp was aiming for the participation of the recipients, the observers, the viewers, the listeners in the creation of works. The "alto," the Greek word for "other," refers to these other participants.

Theoretical art thus defines the efficacies called the "work" that are not owed to the creative artist's central will, but result rather from participation, assistance, cooperation, helping, partaking, and involvement, and for that reason are constantly changing. Behind the word "theory" conceals the ancient Greek understanding that the theater viewers were called "theoreticians" and indeed had to play that role, since only their perception and intellectual processing produced a meaningful coherence of the events onstage. We are all necessarily theoreticians when we grasp in thought a materially, physically existing occasion for perception, whether on a stage or a gallery wall. The work of art does not hang on the wall as a painting by Rembrandt, but rather is created in the first place as an intellectual achievement of the viewer. Even when the author of a painting is as perceivable, in the form of a signature on the painting, as all the other configurations of color and form, he or she is not yet identified as an artist. One aspect of the latter is acquiring and imparting diverse knowledge, which in turn leads to the unit of meaning "artistic authorship."

Weibel covers both positions by seeing himself, on the one hand, as a media artist, and, on the other, as a participation artist. The medium can, of course, become the thing itself—not as a work but as reified meaning. For example, when Weibel holds up the sign "lügt" (are lying) under the sign for a police station, that is not a work of art in the traditional sense, but it reveals the artist as a medium of connection between two units of meaning: "police" and "lie." Nor are banners from a protest march, however attractively lettered, works of art.

In connection with what can actually be accomplished and achieved in politics, the economy, or society, however, they can be seen as theoretical objects that sometimes, as in the case of protest signs by Joseph Beuys, end up in collections of theoretical art (Beuys: "I will personally guide Baader and Meinhof through documenta!").

Or: in a large exhibition at MAK (Museum for Applied Arts) in Vienna, Weibel presents a "great painter who has, however, received hardly any attention thus far, because the overpoweringly great and new always receives little attention at first." With institutional and curatorial authority, Weibel compels the public to follow his guideline. After he succeeds in directing attention to this new painter, Weibel confesses without any scorn or mockery that the works presented were his own, but they were not shown as recognition of himself as a great painter; rather, he wanted to draw attention to the institutional, curatorial, and publicity methods that the audience traditionally trusts.

Weibel destroys this trust, not as a bad-boy prank, but in order to raise for all interested parties a new, much more important question, namely: Why should the exhibited paintings suddenly no longer have any significance as great paintings because a non-painter simply simulated it? How can the knowledge of the deliberate forgery change the significance of a thing if it did not change between the presentation and the discovery of the simulation?

Working on these questions with the audience—that is, the theoreticians—thus creates a work of theoretical art. In that sense, such forgeries are among the most important works of theoretical art today, but they are not recognized by "experts" as forgeries but, on the contrary, acknowledged as originals, and they were only presented as fakes because the forgers revealed themselves as their makers. Forgers marketed their Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Rene Magritte, or Salvador Dalí so brilliantly that no expert could recognize the forgeries because they were in fact brilliant paintings in the spirit of Braque, Picasso, and so on.

For decades, so-called appropriation artists around Elaine Sturtevant have worked on such issues as painters. Unfortunately, thus far without any influence on the market-driven terminological teeter-tottering and phrasemongering in the traditional art business. Theoretical physicists and theoretical mathematicians are acknowledged as having taken this much further; the experimenting practitioners have admitted that they evaluate the conclusions drawn from experiments as sensible or tenable at all or mere evidence-based terminological sorcery that at best stimulate criticism of the contradiction between that which one knows and that which one sees as cognitive dissonance. In that respect, it is certainly understandable and acceptable that master artificer Weibel is interested in mathematics as well as in physics and electronics, in genetics and research into artificial intelligence. In those fields, nothing is considered great simply because it reclaims the designation "scientific": a large number of the scandals of scientific fraud and cheating today were and are launched by the scientists themselves. In the field of the arts, something can no more assert a claim to validity simple because it bears the propaganda label "art."

Master artificer Weibel demonstrates that he is at the peak of his claim when he is able to portray the supposed seals of quality "science" and "art" as just as meaningless or deceptive as in the meanwhile many shoppers in supermarkets perceive the "organic" or "regional" seals. Master artificer Weibel works as a proponent of theoretical art at his central institution, the Zentrum für Kunst and Medien (Center for Art and Media) in Karlsruhe with the goal of, on the one hand, guiding product liability out of the realm of goods and establishing it in the realms of culture, on the other hand, and those of art and science, on yet another. For this highly commendable effort, he deserves prizes and awards of the kinds that consumer protection and product testing now enjoy. Artists tinkering with labels, galleries and museums committing prospectus fraud, and the ambition of curators promoted as civil service should no longer be tolerated. Thinkers at your service, master artificers at work, with Weibel first in line.

(Übersetzung: Steven Lindberg)