February 01 - March 09, 2013
Dirt is removed from scans of analog photographs to obtain clear, clean pictures. Dirt is something that is removed: dust is vacuumed away, fluff is picked off a table, hair is brushed off clothing, and dandruff is brushed off a shoulder. But some dirt cannot be gotten rid of. The figure bearing the name Hitler is a form of dirt, and the attempt has vainly been made to remove it from history. Hitler, that overgrown piece of lint that sullies every picture of German history in the twentieth century (and beyond). From Hitler’s desk at Obersalzberg, which today is located at the offices of the German federal art administration (Kunstverwaltung des Bundes) in Berlin, the artist Peter Rösel took bits of dust that had collected in its drawers and brought them home, then scanned the lint and used the digital photographs as models for his sculptures, which will be shown starting February 1 at Galerie Loock in Berlin. They are strangely twisted, black curls placed on pedestals, hanging from the wall, or bent over on the floor. They are unmotivated twists, grotesque entanglements. Like residue that has become dislocated, they stick to the white wall, obstinately clinging and maintaining their claim to visibility. Their origin is just as invisible as the process of transformation to which they owe their existence. But those who know that their analog original form, before being digitalized and then retranslated as physical objects into the three-dimensional world, was in the shape of dust-balls and pieces of lint that had collected in Hitler’s desk may start to feel uncomfortable in their proximity. It is as if they still contained the poison of their origin. Hitler, the piece of lint, managed to infect everything of which we believe has been once in touch with him with the germ of the indelibly sullied. And makes no difference what kind of dirt in his desk was left behind by him personally; the suspicion, the idea alone is enough. His name and the atrocities connected to it stick like toxic particles in all the cracks and gaps of (German) history. The mysterious quality of Rösler’s sculptures is linked to their claim to presence in space, which stands in relation to the insistent presence of what many so sorely long to forget. Twisted and distorted, they appear like revenants from the repressed unconscious of history, which even in its most inconspicuous form infects the present.
Yet Peter Rösler’s dust sculptures, as is the case so often in his work, are also open to a reading that has to do with humor. If when viewing photographs of the gallery space someone were to misunderstand the strange black lines as faults in the picture or bits of dirt and remove them in Photoshop, they would end up with a clean, clear picture of the rooms. Only the art would be gone.
Leonhard Emmerling, Munich