Herr Meneutik, a plurifactual artist

“The development of Fine Arts in the last decades has resulted in a pluralism that shows everything to be relative. It makes everything possible at any moment, and does not allow for critical, well-founded judgment”,

informs us Herr Meneutik in slightly Austrian English from within the visible and audible traffic in a Viennese underground station.

Thus begins Michael Endlicher’s video Herr Meneutik #2 (2011) in which the protagonist makes similar statements in a total of 12 stations in Vienna’s public spaces, revolving above all around the dilemma of the post-modern (artist or art critic) subject in search of his perception or rather of binding values and objectively verifiable criteria for positioning his work (and hence his identity). Without any lament Herr Meneutik shrewdly and realistically observes that the situation is serious for art and the artists and this gravity of the situation also seems to manifest itself in his isolation as an (English) speaker within (Viennese) urban cultural and social surroundings.

Is there still a happy ending for this monodrama? In his last scene Herr Meneutik does not speak to us and does not look at us directly as before, but he shows himself from a side perspective in the position of an observer, together with a sound engineer who is recording him from the front. After all someone else is recording him, the critic-artist, thus someone notices him, which finally seems to ensure his objectification. However, in this last video shot, albeit covered in a monk’s cowl, Herr Meneutik primarily exposes himself as a self-promoter (armed with the text of his script), who is neither listened to nor watched by anybody in spite of the publicity of his stage with the sole exception of his videographer who obviously does so only for the purpose of the shoot. In this way the speech of the soliloquizing protagonist from the city’s public spaces is relegated to the artistic space as the only station of its possible reception; outside this space the perception of art is subject to what Herr Meneutik has already stated on the way – or more precisely on the Heldenplatz, “The actual social context, the beholder and the audience, are either permanently vanishing or simply missing.”

Thus the artistic space alone promises the “principle of hope” that the way in which our protagonist speaks within its framework may be taken note of since it is only there that such a speech performance is regarded as art and therefore as worth seeing and hearing – all the more so if the diction of the speech fits the linguistic habits of the artistic space. For this reason Herr Meneutik takes no chances right away: nothing that he says has been penned by him (a fact that he is careful not to mention), each of his sentences is a quote from texts published on the art of other artists who have been authorised by the artistic space. Accordingly, Herr Meneutik’s twelve-part speech is not more and not less than a sample of reflections on art from within the artistic space. In form of the video it echoes back from the walls of the art space where it is being shown, back to itself, or rather to its visitors – however, the passengers of the underground, even though they are (as walk-ons) part of the art work, will stay behind, like in front of the doors of the departing trains in the underground shafts they will also stay behind in front of the doors of the art space even if they are open.


Lucas Gehrmann, Vienna, 2011. He is curator for the Kunsthalle Wien, art publicist and independent curator.