On Michael Endlicher's "Photographic Type Faces"

From canvases imprinted with photographs single letters are cut out meticulously and are put together again with string to form different sentence constructions and something entirely new. Central to this activity are repetitive, self-descriptive sentences, which are repeated like a ritual prayer wheel and which are at the same time text modules for the photographic type faces.

I AM A TRANSNATIONAL ARTIST, I AM A GENDER-NEUTRAL ARTIST, I AM A COMMITTED ARTIST: In each sentence the personal pronoun “I” keeps referring with meditative gesture to the artistic subject, who is both, transmitter and receiver, as well as a subject that shouts out and is called. The consequent repetition of visually presented sentences forms the framework for the work’s elaboration in form and content.

The instance of the sentences that are presented is formed by landscape photographs without subjects that are evocative of stilted motives of landscape painting like those from the period of Romanticism. In an ironic way they reflect contemporary ideals of the artist forged by society like popularity, political correctness or commitment, which, among others, are regarded as conditional for success in the framework of strategies concerning art theory and art marketing. Beside the demands from outside Endlicher also deals with personal ones that he makes on himself, like for example to be formalistic, discursive, process-orientated or athletic.

In the photographic type faces it is just the self-referentiality and reflexivity of material, form, arrangement and (type) face that provide for the sought-after syntactic and semantic polyvalences. The rhetoric of the image thus coincides with the visual appearance of the language by harshly intersecting the romanticising and affective images with the gashes and cut-outs performed by the artist in order to add an additional semantic level to the photographs.

Both, the landscape motives and the canvas, refer to the artistic medium of painting which is reduced ad absurdum by the form of linguistic signs. The arrangement of the individual signs by means of the technique of sewing adds an artisanal level to the work and augments the whole with a sensation of fragility. However, the apparent fragility of the photographic type faces is opposed by the black string holding together the individual elements inseparably. On the level of perception Endlicher’s photographic type faces are particularly challenging for the receptive abilities of the observer by initially refusing any possibility of interpretation: in the first moment of perception, the visual motive cannot be grasped as a whole nor can the individual letters be read in form of a text.

Between openness and closeness Michael Endlicher questions the validity of general and personal roles within the context of art.

Birgit Rinagl, 2013. She works as literary scholar, independent curator, artistic photographer and secretary in Vienna.